UNILAG ASUU, Students Protest Government’s Neglect of Key Demands

Funmi Ogundare

Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the University of Lagos, along with students, recently staged a protest against the federal government’s failure to address its key demands.

Students supported their lecturers by displaying placards with inscriptions such as ‘Education is Life’, ‘Proper funding of university education is non-negotiable’, ‘Lecturers deserve earthly rewards for teaching all professions’, and ‘Stop establishing universities you cannot fund’.

The protesters marched from Julius Berger Hall to the UNILAG Gate and back to the ASUU-UNILAG Secretariat, singing solidarity songs and distributing handbills which contain their demands.
The demands include the conclusion of the renegotiation of the FGN/ASUU agreement based on the Nimi Briggs Committee’s 2021 draft agreement; the release of withheld salaries from the 2022 strike, unpaid salaries for staff on sabbatical, part-time, and adjunct appointments due to the IPPIS; and the release of outstanding third-party deductions such as check-off dues and cooperative contributions.

They also called for funding for the revitalisation of public universities, payment of earned academic allowances, regulation of university proliferation by federal and state gpovernments, implementation of the reports of visitation panels to universities, and the adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) in place of IPPIS.
Chairman of ASUU-UNILAG, Prof. Kayode Adebayo, explained that the protest was to raise public awareness about the government’s insensitivity and silence regarding the union’s demands.
Adebayo stated, “we are sensitising the public to prevail on the government so that we don’t go on strike. If nothing significant comes out after all these protests, we will decide to go on strike at our next NEC meeting. They should not force our union to take that route. We have wicked politicians who want to force ASUU to go on strike. We love our classrooms. We love our students. It is the Nigerian government that is striking against you, not ASUU.”

He described education as the right of Nigerian citizens, saying that the government should stop passing hardship to the citizens while they roll and cruise in affluence, and the Nigerian people live miserably, trying to survive.

“We are demanding that the Nimi-Briggs report before the government be revisited immediately. Let us cross the t’s, dot the i’s, and sign that document into action. We are saying that the money, the third-party deductions they have made from people’s salaries and cooperatives that were not paid, should be paid immediately. It is illegal and fraudulent to have deducted money from members and then keep it without sending it where it is supposed to go. It is a fraudulent act. We are demanding that it be released.”

Former chairman of ASUU-UNILAG, Dr. Dele Ashiru, stated that lecturers in Nigeria are the least paid and there is a plan to hand over Nigerian public universities to foreign investors.

“If they succeed with this, it means education will be out of reach of the common man. It behooves us to form an alliance and fight this government’s obnoxious plan.

“We are gathered here to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to rethink its insensitivity, lackluster, and bankrupt policies in the Nigerian education system. No nation can rise above its level of education. Successive governments in Nigeria have continued to pay lip service to the development of education.
“For the past 15 years, the agreement we signed with the government, which is supposed to be renewed every year, has never been revisited. We have been receiving the same salary since 2009. Despite several appeals and consultations to get the government to renegotiate, the government has turned a deaf ear.”

He complained that most Nigerian students are not interested in becoming lecturers because of the indiscriminate manner in which the government treats lecturers.

“Students and lecturers are partners in the business of education. Today, we are lecturers, and tomorrow, we may not be here. How many of our students are ready to take up lecturing jobs if we train them to take over from us and make the government do the needful?”

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