Top officials of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have warned that lecturers might be forced to resume its recently suspended strike if the federal government fails to honour its agreement.
ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike last March over the non-implementation of agreements the government reached with it in 2009. It also raised concerns about earned academic allowances (EAA) and funding for public universities.
The union had also opposed the adoption of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) while presenting its University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as alternative payroll software.
The strike was later suspended “conditionally” following a series of negotiations with the federal government.
Attahiru Ndanitsa, the ASUU chairman at the Federal University of Technology (FUT), Minna, said the government has failed to meet the December 31 deadline it had set for itself towards addressing the issues that prompted the industrial action.
He warned that the next line of action as stated by Biodun Ogunyemi, the union’s president, might be to resume the suspended strike without any notice to the government.
“It might happen. In the suspension, we made it clear that if FG reneges on the agreements, we might resume. We didn’t call off the strike. We only suspended it, hoping things would be done based on the timeline given,” Ndanitsa said on Tuesday.
“The timeline expired on December 31 and the government has done none of these things it agreed to.
“The payment of our withheld salaries has not been completed, apart from the initial two months they paid out of the six months. They had agreed to pay the balance on or before the 31st. Our members are still hungry.
“And they expect us to go back to class. They promised they were going to settle all the arrears of EAA and they’ve not until now. They also promised to release the revitalisation fund to public universities, which is N30 billion.
“The step forward is clearly stated in the president’s press release. We don’t need to notify anyone to resume the strike and we’re likely to resume it. We will advise the parents not to send their children to school yet.
“This is because we will not resume classes if FG ends up reneging on any of the agreements. It’s that simple.”
On his part, Moyosore Ajao, ASUU chairman at the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), said another strike might be imminent if the government does not show enough commitment to its agreements with lecturers.
He, however, disclosed that the union’s national executive council (NEC) is yet to meet to delibrate on what to do next.
“For now, ASUU’s NEC has not deliberated on what to do. It’s still premature for any chairperson to say ASUU will go back on strike. But you’re aware the suspension of the strike was conditional,” the ASUU chairman explained.
“If FG does not show enough faith, it might result in another strike. It is the belief of ASUU that FG will live up to the agreement that they signed. The government gave that deadline you heard of. It wasn’t ASUU forcing them.
“It’s something they willing said they would do. Journalists should ask FG why they’ve not been able to meet up?
“Why are salaries not paid? How about the EAA? Chris Ngige is in the best position to answer these questions. We have done our part and we shall be waiting so that Nigerians will know that ASUU is not the problem here.”
Efforts to reach Ogunyemi to comment on the latest development did not materialise as his phone number was not reachable.
But when contacted to speak on the federal government’s December 31 deadline, Ben Goong, the ministry of education’s spokesperson, expressed concerns about the union’s demands.
He also wondered why lecturers would be at home for nearly a year yet demand for salary arrears.
“What fears are we talking about when ASUU has been on strike for one year? Have they even resumed? What is the definition of salary? Salary is payment for work done. Has anyone done any job anywhere?” Goong asked.
“We say these things because we’re in Nigeria. Elsewhere, nobody sits at home and comes back to claim salary.
“How can anybody be at home one year, yet, say ‘pay me salary arrears’? It can never be a salary. You might be paid some money but it can not be a salary. I expect journalists to be the ones asking ASUU these questions.
“There should be an in-depth analysis where journalists are the ones asking the government not to pay salaries for work not done. ASUU has been on strike for one year and hasn’t even returned to work.
“On what to expect, you have to find out from ASUU’s leadership. The federal government didn’t declare any strike. If they’re continuing or if they will call off as promised, that is what you should be asking, not about salary arrears.”