The industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has reached its third week, and hitherto there seems to be no green light that the strike will end soon as the union and the federal government are yet to reach a consensus.

The incessant strike action grappling with Nigerian universities as a result of  underfunding of the educational sector  by the federal government, poses a great set back to the academic stability and standard of Nigerian universities and thus calls for sober and final consensus by the university lecturers and federal Government.

For the past two weeks, students of Nigerian universities have been out of classes as the lecturers have once again embarked on another total, indefinite and comprehensive strike which has kicked most of the students back to their parents at home.

Setting the record straight, the first recorded national strike by university workers was in 1988 to agitate for fair wages and university autonomy, which led to the ban of ASUU on August 7 of that year and finally the ban was lifted after two years.

Followed by, 1994, 1996 of the military regime which eventually transgressed to the era of democracy: 2007, 2009.
By October 2009, a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) was signed by both parties which appeared to end the strike action at the time. Until 2013, when another strike loomed and lasted for 3 months, the administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan lured the lectures to resume again and the strike action ended in December of 2016.

The story remains unchanged despite the arrival of the advocate of change, President Buhari as another strike loomed in 2016, 2017 and hitherto 2018.

The above is just a trip down memory lane, to assert that the industrial action taken by ASUU is not a day thing but has been existing since the 1990s. It has remained the “chop and leave” for the several regimes of government.

However, the questions that are puzzling the minds of innocent Nigerians are:
Why is the Government yet to meet the demands of ASUU?
Why is it that ASUU cannot find another means of protesting to the Government apart from strike action?
Why does it seem that both parties do not consider the future of students or of tertiary institutions? This editorial will aim at analysing the ASUU and FG struggle, and attempt to answer the aforementioned questions.

For several years, the federal government in a bid to end the industrial actions of ASUU, make up demands they never meet. Hence the recurrence of the strike action.

The valid arguments against the Federal Government by ASUU, include underfunding of the educational sector, high level of infrastructural decay, non-payment of arrears, salaries and allowances among other vital issues that even the government admits are valid.

The problem can be traced back to 1987 when government allocation to universities  reduced by 30 percent from what it used to be and since then the problem of funds’ insuficiency became the plague of universities.

In 2018 budget, only 7%  of the entire allocation is alloted to the educational sector which is by far lower, compared to other  countries that seem to understand the value of education as a tool for human capital and national development.
Inference from the above is enough to posit that, government does not give adequate attention to the educational sector.

Assuming that, the government probably deems it fit to meet the demands of lecturers what will be the fate of other unions like NASU, NAAT? In fact, that may also trigger the morale of other unions and thus re-enact another unending strike action.

This press outfit also concurs that ASUU demands are cogent, but the unending back and forth with the academic activities is devastating the educational system and we expected that ASUU think out of the box this time around, in order to preclude the recurrence of this nightmarish event.

Universities like Obafemi Awolowo University(OAU), University of Ibadan(UI) and Ahmadu Bello University Zaria(ABU) which used to the most applied universities in their respective geographical zones, have drastically reduced in the number of applicants as a result of the incessant strike actions leading to delays in graduation and obstruction of academic activities and also, this has shifted the sight of aspirants to University of Ilorin which appears to be the most reliable university in Nigeria that is free from these strikes and maintains a high level of academic stability due to their incompliance with the union.

Our final submission goes thus:

Federal government should intensify the funding of the educational section and should try to meet the demands of the ASUU as agreed by both parties in 2009.
It is also pertinent, for the government to look at a convinient compromise before they reach agreement with the lecturers to avoid another unfulfilled promise.

The government should strategically plan their revenue to suffice the plight of the entire civil servants, because an adage says “No matter how vital the issue may be, it cannot be prioritized over hunger.”

To ASUU, a scholar and researcher, Olawale Albert, posits that:

“Government alone can no longer carry the burden of financing university education.
It is necessary for these institutions to start working towards internal sustainability through rededication, pragmatism, innovativeness, and cutting – edge competence, most especially in terms of cost rationalization and resource optimization.
The revenue base of the institutions can be improved by investing in economic ventures and partnering the private sector. Some universities are already doing this.

Scholars working in the universities must also link up with industries and foreign agencies for grants that could help solve some of the problems.”

On a final note, students and parents should not fold their arms even after the strike is called-off, because parents and students usually forget about ASUU once academic activities resume. They should instead seek to be current and ensure that in one way or the other, their voices are heard in making sure the Federal Government meets up with the demands of ASUU, that is, if it is not met.

#Yahaya Akewushola Nurudeen

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