Why varsity students must endure strike –UNILAG ASUU chair

The Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, University of Lagos chapter, Dr Dele Ashiru, shares his views with DANIEL AYANTOYE on the ongoing strike by the union and other related issues

Why varsity students must endure strike –UNILAG ASUU chair (NaijaGoal)

Some have argued that the Academic Staff Union of Universities is always going on strike following any slight disagreement with the Federal Government. What do you think should be done to change this narrative?

You called the refusal of the government to renegotiate the ASUU/FG agreement since 2009 a slight disagreement? You called the payment of a meagre N416,000 to a professor at the Bar mere disagreement? You called the forceful deployment of IPPIS, which is abdicating our salary and the man who said he cannot afford N30bn for the Nigeria universities, but only him stole N109bn for which is today in Kuje prison a slight disagreement? You called the failure to revitalise public universities a slight disagreement? You called a useless government that will set up teams upon teams to negotiate with ASUU, and after the series of negotiation, the government will jettison what they sent people to do on their behalf a slight disagreement? When will there be a major disagreement to make our union take on a government, which is not only insensitive but irresponsible? Its major desire is to destroy public universities like they have destroyed public primary and secondary schools so that their private universities that they are using people’s money to establish can now begin to have people.

The Federal Government said there is no adequate fund to meet ASUU’s demand. What should the government do to bring the current strike to an end considering the limited funds at its disposal?

They should cut wastage in government and block corruption in government. Has President Muhammadu Buhari stopped frivolous travels across the world? Where they need him, he goes there; where they don’t need him, he goes there. The same government donated vehicles worth N1.4bn to Niger Republic, and Nigeria is building a railway from Nigeria to Niger Republic, or are you not aware that Nigeria donated $1m to Afghanistan? You did not know that the Minister of Education, who is supposed to sit down in Nigeria and confront the problem, is always on medical tourism outside the country? Who is paying the bills? Is it not Nigeria? So, our union is convinced that there are enough resources in this country for the government to fund education appropriately.

It also behoves the Nigeria people to hold the government accountable on what they are doing with the resources of this country. No amount is too much to invest in the education of a country and it’s a constitutional matter that education in Nigeria will be free up to the university level. So, rather than lamenting, Nigerians should organise to hold this government accountable. Citizens are not subjects in a country where they have a stake. In Nigeria, we over indulge those we put in power and we allow them to ride luxuriously on us and that’s the major problem. There is enough money in Nigeria to run education appropriately. The government should conclude the renegotiation of our agreement and implement it.

The Federal Government seems bent on the ‘No work, no pay’ policy. Are you not concerned about the effect of this on members of your union?

Which useless policy? Our union will say, ‘No pay, no work’, because it was the government that forced us to go on this strike, and it was the same government that has prolonged the strike till now, putting our members in untold hardship; it is therefore insensitive and wicked for the government to say it’s going to apply the ‘No work, no pay’. Who is going to punish Adamu Adamu and the Miniter of Labour, Chris Ngige and other relevant agencies of government who prolonged the strike till now? They can say whatever they like, but our union is resolved that if the government says ‘no work, no pay’, we also will tell them that ‘no pay, no work’. If the government likes, they should close all the public universities in Nigeria until eternity.

The strike has had its toll on lecturers in Nigeria, with many facing financial hardship. What is the union doing to reduce the effect of the strike on itsmembers?

The union is doing a lot and we don’t have to tell you. The union is taking care of its members, the only thing is that if you expect N250,000 in a month and you get something less, you will feel bad, you will feel pained and that’s the situation, but none of our members is on bare feet, and our union has the mechanism to take care of our members when we are on a strike like this.

The students are also the worst hit due to the ongoing strike and they are lamenting the situation. What message do you have for them?

It’s not only the students that are affected; lecturers who have not received their salaries are also affected. People, who trade on campuses, whose livelihood are dependent on activities of academic work, are affected. This strike is also in the interest of the students so that they will have public universities to return to. If we allow the government to destroy the university system, 80 per cent of them cannot go back to their universities. Students should understand that this is a sacrifice they must endure so that the public university system in Nigeria will not collapse.

Some critics have argued that with the high increasing number of graduates produced yearly with no jobs to offer them, ASUU is supposed to clamour for restructuring in this area. What is your view on this?

ASUU is a trade union; the government should provide an enabling environment for business and productive activities to run in the country. It is not the business of a trade union to think about how the government will do that. How do you blame the government’s responsibility on ASUU? The government is to rejig the economy so that there will be productivity in the system

The Federal Government recently made a move to consider the registration of a rival group to ASUU, Congress of Universities Academics. What is the implication for all the concerned parties in this move?

ASUU does not have a rival group. If there is a group of disgruntled elements, who are working for the government to scuttle ASUU’s efforts, we will wait to see how they succeed with the government, but as far as I know, ASUU has no rival and there is no problem in our union whatsoever.

The Federal Government is saying it cannot meet ASUU’s demands. Do you see this strike going further than this?

Our union has resolved that if our demands are not met, we are not going back to work, and if the government has any challenge meeting our demands, they should come to the negotiation table and discuss.

You mentioned the issues with the ministers of Education and Labour and Employment, and your union once alleged that the ministers were not capable of handling the situation. What is your advice to the President on this?

In serious societies, when ministers fail to prevent a strike or they enter into agreement with unions and cannot fulfil it, such ministers resign; and if they don’t resign, they remove them. It’s only in Nigeria that you have failures as ministers and they keep celebrating them. Both ministers have failed, they should resign.

Recently, members of the Non-Academic Staff Union and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities protested over the call off of a strike by the leadership of the unions. How will you describe the development in relation to the ongoing ASUU strike?

I don’t have anything to say about that. They have the right to do whatever they like with their unions. What I know is that our union is on a strike and we didn’t start the strike because other unions will either join the strike or call it off. I know that the leadership of NASU/SSANU and members are the ones that are in a better position to explain what is happening among them and why the leadership called off the strike without adequate consultation from its members.

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Lawrence Peace ☑

Lawrence Peace is a freelance blogger who specializes in writing how-to guides, sports news, football content, reviews, tech tips, news headlines, Online Tech Tips etc.

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