It’s been nearly 3 months since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) commenced its strike following a fallout in the agreement it had with the Federal Government in 2021.
Nigerian students, forced to sit at home during the academic year have begun voicing their concerns over the prolonged strike, with offline and online protests.
Student protests at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, both in Edo State on Wednesday, have snowballed into an online movement called #EndASUUStrike.
What started the strike?
- ASUU, had on February 14, embarked on a 4-week total and comprehensive strike to press home their unresolved demands on the federal government.
- The Union’s demands include funding for the revitalisation of public universities, payment of earned academic allowances, and adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a preferred payment option instead of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and payment of promotion arrears.
- The union on March 14, extended the industrial action by another 2 months, hinging it on the lack of seriousness on the part of the federal government to address the issues as several attempts at negotiations between the union and the federal government have proven futile with both sides accusing each other of insincerity and unseriousness.
But what about the students?
Following the breakdown of talks between the Union and FG, students caught in the middle of the impasse and forced to watch their academic years delay started voicing their grievances over the strike.
On Wednesday, students from the University of Benin (UNIBEN) and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma on Wednesday staged a protest in Benin over the strike.
Foster Amadin, President of the Students Union Government, UNIBEN, said, “We just want to express our grievances as regards the ongoing ASUU strike because we have stayed at home for over 79 days.
“The truth is, we are not for ASUU neither are we fighting for or against anybody, all we know, and all we want is to go back to our classes.
“We don’t want to stay at home any longer. We are stagnated academically.
“All we want and all we are asking for is that we want to go back to our classes, we want to learn and graduate”
He warned that most students are already approaching 30 years of age, adding that when they are already 30, they cannot get a good job, and they can’t even serve in the compulsory youth service scheme.
Students who could not join the protest at the campus took their grievances online with the #EndASUUStrike hashtag, as @BabyHondy tweeted: “If you are a Nigerian student and you can’t protest, at least kindly rt. The more voices raised, the more the awareness, the quicker the issue will be settled. It is time for youths to show them our strength. Kindly join the movement. #EndASUUStrike”
@Ezeanichiomaa said “After struggling to enter school, denied admission even when you meet up with the requirements, sitting for jamb up to 4 times. Wondering why your mates are ahead and you are stagnant, nobody taking about the mental and emotional pains you go through!. End IT!!!!!!
Meanwhile, other student chapters have used the trend to organize protests of theirs, as @sakaokikiola hinted that “UNIBEN students had their protest yesterday. UNILORIN is organising theirs very soon. As a student using Twitter and affected by ASUU strike, the least you should is RT any #EndASUUStrike tweet. We are all at the receiving end of the ASUU endemic.”
What NANS is saying
Speaking during a breakfast programme on the Channels Television, the President, National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Comrade Sunday Asefon, accused Nigerian leaders of ignoring the plights of students who are at the receiving end of the ongoing strike action
He accused the Federal Government of a lack of commitment and sincerity in resolving the impasse between it and the striking university workers. He equally threatened that the University of the Streets protest which kicked off at the University of Benin on Wednesday would spread nationwide.
“Education is the bedrock of our lives and our leaders who we elected into various political offices are no more discussing that, rather, their focus now is on the 2023 elections. They are only interested in their parochial and selfish interests. This month of May is very significant, after this, the next thing they would be talking about is February and March next year, which is the general election. There is a tendency that they would forget us if we keep quiet,” Ashefon said.
The current situation right now between ASUU and FG
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige claimed the union is making things difficult for both parties.
The minister dismissed insinuations that he was responsible for the ongoing strike by the union, insisting that he has done what many could not do in efforts to forestall the strike.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) responded, urging President Muhammadu Buhari to direct Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to take over its negotiations with the Federal Government as the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, have been unable to make it work.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had earlier urged the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to embrace dialogue, stating that the FG is not unmindful of the fact the young Nigerians who should be in school are at home.