Government should enter into dialogue with ASUU to prevent another strike

The Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) has served notice of a warning strike on October 2. The lecturers listed their grievances to include lackluster implementation of the 2009 ASUU/Federal Government agreements as well as the non-remittance of earned academic allowances and some N605 billion outstanding Needs Assessment Intervention to the universities. Other contentious areas include non-functioning of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO), shortfalls in personnel emoluments, funding of state universities.

As we have repeatedly argued on this page on this recurring problem, whatever the issues are, it is important for the federal government and ASUU to find common grounds before the nation’s tertiary institutions are grounded again as a result of another industrial action. Another strike could further damage the credibility of tertiary education in the country. Students in our universities have suffered enough in recent years and this administration should work with ASUU so that our campuses are not again shut down.

The federal government and ASUU has for several years locked in running battles over the implementation of agreements on the funding of the country’s public universities. The consequences have been lengthy industrial strikes by the lecturers with the attendant debilitating effects on educational development in particular and academic pursuits in general.

We believe an early intervention, especially by the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, is important here. Nigeria and Nigerians will be the losers should any untoward action, like another industrial action, is embarked upon by university teachers to force the implementation of whatever payments or agreements are still outstanding. Strikes have contributed significantly to the decline in the quality of graduates of our public universities. The hurried academic calendars, following the end of industrial actions, often allowed little room for serious studies or research. That is why our public universities have continued to go down the ladder of academic ranking, even among their peers in Africa.

Again, we cannot shy away from the fact that the under-funding of the education sector, over the years, has had collateral damaging effects on the country, such that our universities have now become grotesque carcasses of their former selves. But dealing with the challenge requires more than seasonal strikes by the lecturers while the federal government also needs to understand the primacy of constant dialogue, especially given the current realities.

However, going forward requires other critical stakeholders in the education sector joining in the efforts to find a lasting solution to what has become a perplexing national challenge. In doing this, the federal government should take the initiative, so that we can collectively come up with ways to reposition tertiary education in our country. It is unfortunate that disputes are always occasioned by the broken promises and unfulfilled agreements by the federal government. Yet there is no way we can develop our country until efforts are made to revitalise key sectors like education.

Commercialisation of academic grades and poorly written handouts, delayed dissertation, award of questionable degrees and all manner of unwholesome practices have combined to ruin university education in Nigeria. Unfortunately, these are issues which seem to be of little or no concern to ASUU and that perhaps explain why the once-vibrant organisation that set the agenda for national discourse in its heyday has degenerated into a strike-obsessed trade union.

Notwithstanding, another strike by ASUU would not be in the interest of the nation. While we call on the lecturers to temper their expectations with realism, we also hope the Minister of Education and his team will do everything within their powers to avert another strike.