by Tony Iribor
If you live in Nigeria, the name ASUU wouldn’t be strange to you. ASUU, for those who do not know, is the Academic Staff Union of Universities which is a union of academic staff of universities in Nigeria. The body ASUU, which is a trade union was formed in 1978 as a successor to the Nigerian Association of University Teachers formed in 1965. Let me not bore you with the history of ASUU.
Now, if there is one thing synonymous with the name ASUU, it has got to be “strike”. The very moment ASUU is mentioned, the word that comes to mind is the word “strike”. Over the years ASUU has gone on a number of strikes to address issues affecting tertiary education in the country. These results in students having to go back home as academic activities are brought to a halt. Do I blame them for going on strike? No, I don’t. What other language does our government understand if not strike actions? That seems to be the only way a trade union can get the government to pay attention to them. Unfortunately too, I haven’t been able to come up with alternatives to strike actions.
When you follow these strike actions sometimes, what you will notice is the fact that agreements that are signed are most times not implemented once the strike actions have been called off. It is always from one unimplemented agreement to the other. Let us not go into how bad education in Nigeria has become. We all know this. We see it every day. It is right before our eyes and government has hardly shown any desire to change the state of things. Forget the recent WAEC Miracle or signs and wonders as I would like to call it. We still have issues.
What does it take to honour agreements? Let me digress a bit. In 2010, if we all remember, doctors in Lagos state embarked on an indefinite strike which lasted from August to November. If you will be kind to look back at the issue that brought about that strike, you will realize that it was because the state government refused to honour an agreement they had with the state doctors.
In 2009, the medical guild tried to get the state government to implement CONMESS. Now, CONMESS, Consolidated Medical Salary Scale was approved and introduced by the federal government in 2009 to address the wage disparity in doctor’s salaries compared to other professions. An agreement was reached between the state government and the state doctors on the implementation which, according to the doctors, the Lagos state government did not honour after agreeing to pay it in full. After trying and failing to get the attention of the state government, they had no option but to go on strike. Many lives were lost in the process. I lost my dad and I know a friend whose parents and sister passed within that period. At the end of the day from what I still gather, the full implementation of CONMESS in Lagos state still remains an issue.
An agreement according to businessdictionary.com is “a negotiated and usually legally enforceable understanding between two or more legally competent parties. An agreement typically documents the give-and-take of a negotiated settlement”.
Once again, the reason for this ASUU strike is an agreement that was signed in 2009. And according to ASUU, this agreement was arrived at after three years of negotiation. So from 2006 to 2009, they had discussions and arrived at an agreement which was signed and promises made to fulfill. Four years after, we are still talking about this same agreement. Does this not say a lot about the integrity of those we have in government? Can they keep to their own end of an agreement? Can they be trusted such that when they say “yes”, it doesn’t mean either “No” or “Maybe?” Do we have men and women of integrity in government? The Minister of Finance was quoted saying that government cannot afford to meet with the financial needs of ASUU. If they had started implementing this agreement since 2009, at least we would have gotten somewhere by now.
The president of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Fagge said: “Government will just single out what affects the staff directly to implement and then expect them to go back and continue the deception in the system.” He went on further to state that they are tired of negotiations. They want implementation of the agreement. After which a review can be carried out to assess the effect of it and if possible review the situation through rounds of fresh negotiations. I agree with him totally.
We have been on this negotiation table for too long. How about we move from there to implementation for once? So if renegotiation is done, a new agreement is reached, lecturers go back to the classes and government, in their usual character, renege on the agreement, the lecturers wait patiently, go on warning strikes and if they are not attended to, they declare an indefinite strike and the cycle continues. Unfortunately, our students will be the grass under the two elephants that choose to remain fighting.
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