The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked upon another "indefinite and total" strike, which has shut down no less than 40 Federal and 44 state universities.
The union called the strike after its recent National Executive Council, NEC, meeting in Abuja. President of the Union, Dr Biodun Ogunyemi, justified the strike on the grounds of alleged breach of the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, it signed with the Federal Government on funding of universities and refusal to honour the conditions of service and the Earned Academic Allowances, EAA.
ASUU is unhappy that governments have been unenthusiastic in implementing the conditions of service, university autonomy and academic freedom demands of the Union which have been long-standing causes of strikes down the ages. The government is also accused of failure to release a balance of N880 billion required for implementation of the needs assessment report for rejuvenation of facilities in the universities.
Failure of government to implement agreed terms has always put it at loggerheads with not only ASUU but other various unions within the public service. The Muhammadu Buhari regime had raised hope that it could end this vicious cycle when in January this year, it set up the 16-member Dr B. O. Babalakin panel to re-negotiate the 2009 agreement with ASUU as a strategy of close engagement to foreclose further strikes. Unfortunately, that hope was dashed with this fresh work stoppage.
We see the assurance of the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu that the strike will end "next week" as a metaphor for its early resolution as a result of what the Minister calls the government's "policy of engaging the unions". We believe that continuous constructive engagement with ASUU and the demonstration of goodwill in implementing agreed terms of settlement is a panacea for uninterrupted flow of the academic calendar.
The two sides should set a template for the implementation of agreements and abide by it. Government has a duty to give the Union a sense of commitment to the implementation of pacts once agreed. A lot will be achieved if efforts are made to release a sizeable sum of money to carry out the capital needs of the universities and attend to the welfare of their workers.
We urge ASUU to be mindful of the economic recession we are struggling with, and demonstrate good faith and patriotism once government demonstrate willingness to improve on its past record of abandoning pacts.
We hope the strike will be resolved before the beginning of the next academic calendar. We can no longer afford the situation whereby our children waste many years waiting to graduate from universities. It is the children of the middle and lower classes that suffer the most.