Most Federal government-owned universities were, yesterday, shut as the Academic Staff Union (ASUU) embarked on what it tagged, “total, comprehensive and indefinite” strike.
The national body of ASUU had last week Thursday directed all its chapters in public universities to conduct a referendum on whether to resume its suspended strike or not.
Daily Sun gathered that the results of the referendum conducted in all the public universities were collated and sent to the headquarters of the union in Abuja for a final decision. The outcome of the referendum is the ongoing strike.
Academic activities in university campuses across the nation were grounded, with exams suspended in some cases, as the strike got underway.
At the University of Ibadan, the strike halted examinations for postgraduate students in some faculties.
The ASUU branch chairman in UI, Dr. Deji Omole, explained that the industrial action was a fallout of the abysmal level of implementation of the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement, 2013 MoU and the shortfall in salaries, leading to part-payment of staff salaries, kidnap of two lecturers of the University of Maiduguri by Boko Haram sect among others.
Omole warned that the full enforcement of the strike would begin today (Tuesday) in compliance with the directives of the national body of the union.
Daily Sun gathered that students in the Department of Psychology, who were to begin their examinations yesterday could not because of the strike. Also, examinations could not begin at the Faculty of the Social Sciences.
A mail sent by Omole to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, to officially notify him of the strike, read in part:
“We write to inform you that the observance of the strike will include: no teaching, no examination, no supervision, no attendance of the statutory meetings of any kind and other academic matters. In line with the national directive of the union, our members will henceforth withdraw their services till the end of the strike.”
At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), administrative activities were paralysed following the indefinite strike declared on Monday by Joint Action Committee of Non-Teaching Staff Trade Unions (JAC) of University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN).
Members of the executive present when the resolution to embark on the indefinite strike was taken include: SSANU Chairman, Paul Erua, NAAT Chairman Emma Mbaoji and NASU Chairman, Clifford Amoke.
Addressing members, Erua said they are embarking on the strike because of the failure of the university to pay their deserved allowances such as hazard allowance, overtime, shift allowance, union check-off dues as well as 15 percent deducted from the June salary, etc.
To ensure full compliance of the indefinite strike, the union set up a 10-man monitoring committee to enforce the strike on erring members.
About 500 members of the union were present during the congress where the decision to embark on the strike was taken.
In a swift reaction, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Benjamin Ozumba, described the decision of leaders of JAC to call the non-academic staff of the university to strike as misleading, noting that it was not the responsibility of management to pay allowances but of Federal Government’s.
To substantiate his claim, Ozumba tendered a circular from the office of the accountant general dated 4th July, 2017 directing ministries, departments and agencies to submit detailed schedules of the shortfalls and allowances owed civil servants for the payment of eligible officers and beneficiaries.
The VC urged workers to go about their normal duties warning that failure to come to work would attract strict application of no-work-no-pay civil service rule.
Efforts to speak with ASUU-UNN Chairman, Dr. Ifeanyichukwu Abada, failed, as calls put across to his mobile phones went unanswered.
But, the Ebonyi State University’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), yesterday, backed out of the strike.
At the College of Agriculture Science campus, some lecturers were seen carrying out normal academic activities, while many students were seen in their classes receiving lectures. Others gathered in groups discussing the industrial action.
At the School of Medicine, a senior staff who did not want to be named, said the leadership of the union was yet to communicate to them on the resolution of the national body, adding that until that is done, they would continue to discharge their duties.
At the permanent site of the institution, students, lecturers and other staff were also seen teaching and receiving lectures.
ASUU-EBSU Chairman, Dr. Uche Onwe, however, said the branch would meet tomorrow to decide whether to join the strike or not.
Nigerians from across the divides and from all walks of life have not only expressed fears and concerns about the effects of the current strike, but also urged the Federal Government to do everything within its power to reach an honest and trust-worthy agreement with the academic body.
Taraba State Governor, Darius Ishaku, described yesterday’s declaration of a nationwide indefinite strike action as unfortunate.
Ishaku who spoke through his Senior Special Assistant on Public Matters, Emmanuel Bello said the incessant strikes was taking a great toll on the quality of graduates that universities turn out annually.
But Senator representing Kaduna Central district, Sani Shehu backed the strike.
Sani who said this is the time for the Federal Government to declare emergency on the state of public universities, polytechnic and colleges of education, called on executive to dialogue and meet up the demands of the union.
This is even as the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Saliu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso I, who spoke through his Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Adeola Oloko, urged the government to look into the issues raised by ASUU to ensure the academic calendars of the various institutions are not distrupted.
“I am not blaming any party. But the Federal Government should invite the leadership of ASUU and table the facts and figures before them. The acting president, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, is an academic. I am sure the two parties will reach a decisive compromise,” he said.
A parent, Mr. Yomi Abraham, who has an undergraduate child at the University of Ilorin is also of the same view.
The Commissioner for Social Protection, Sports and Special Needs, Biyi Odunlade, said this is not the time to go on strike because of the poor, but rather a time for consultation while Oye Adediran, a lawyer said the strike was unfair on the student.
“It is the students that will be at the receiving end because the lecturers can get their salaries later, but the students can never recover the lost grounds.”
Head of Department, Mass Communication, Rivers State University, Dr. Fred Amadi, also condemned the strike, saying that, as an individual, he did not believe in the philosophy of ASUU. To him, university education should be run free for the benefit of the poor.
Mr. Samuel Nwanosike, politician and spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in Rivers State, said the strike has shown that Nigerians made a grave mistake voting the All Progressives Congress (APC), in 2015, pointing out that PDP warned the APC not to hurriedly enter into an agreement with ASUU.
Anselm Osadebe, another PDP member also knocked the APC, arguing that implementation of the 2009 agreement was long overdue.
Mrs. Oroma E, a Ph.D student of the Rivers State University, said the strike would worsen the already deteriorated educational system in the country.
Mr. Lekia Christian, social and rights activist, called on the Federal Government to engage ASUU in a dialogue, pointing out that there was no need to compound the existing crisis in the country.
A parent and retired civil servant, Adeyanju Adeyemo, who has two children at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho condemned what he described as “government’s insensitivity to the plight of the lecturers.”
Another parent, Theophilus Hwagyo from Lafia, Nasarawa State, called on the government to look into the demands of the union.
Dr. Uwem Akpan, a senior lecturer in the Department of Mass Communications, University of Uyo, said the strike was long overdue noting that no other set of workers in Nigeria could pass through what lecturers are passing through.
While Miss Idoroenyin Oboh, a 300 level student of French, from the same university supported the strike if it can help to end the incessant strikes of ASUU once and for all, Collins Egbe, a student of the Ebonyi State University, appealed to the Federal Government and ASUU to return to the negotiation table to avoid disrupting academic calendar.
Another student of the university, Mr. Victor Nso decried the timing of the strike, which he said was commencing at a time they were looking forward to sitting for their second semester exam. However, Mr. Chinonyerem Ibe blamed the problem between the Federal Government and lecturers on lack of trust.
In Kaduna, a parent, Mallam Inuwa Muhammed, pleaded with the two warring parties to find a meeting ground in the interest of the students, adding that it did not make any sense to still come to roundtable for discussion after wasting the precious time of young Nigerians seeking knowledge to make the country better.
Amina Mustapha, lawyer and postgraduate student at the Kaduna State University (KASU) pleaded with the Federal Government to act to prevent creation of another vacuum in learning process in Nigerian universities as witnessed in 2013 from which many students have not recovered up till now.
A student of Delta State University (DELSU), Anwai campus, Michael Onwuka who said the industrial action has disrupted his academic plans noted that their demands may be legitimate but they also know that implementing the 2009 agreement will take time because there were needs also begging for attention, while Another student of the same university, Julia Nzemeke laid the whole blame on the Federal Government, saying the lecturers were not fighting a selfish battle.
A human right activist in Lokoja, Idris Miliki called on ASUU leadership to always consider the plights of students and parents before embarking on any strike, adding that this current one should be reconsidered.
A lawyer, Bisi Atolagbe said ASUU has lost its credibility and suggested that it was high time a legislation making membership of ASUU optional was put in place.
In Gombe, Alhaji Zakari Mamman described the strike as needless and unnecessary. When asked if the lecturers did not have their financial obligations, Alhaji Mammam, a businessman, said he was not totally against the lecturers seeking their rights but that the timing for the strike was wrong.
“Even if they have genuine reasons, they should have waited for the economy to improve before making their demands,” the man who has two children in the university, said.