Lecturers in public universities on Monday began an indefinite strike over Federal Government’s refusal to implement agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
The ASUU National President, Dr. Isa Fagge, said in Lagos on Monday that the decision to embark on the action was reached during the National Executive Council meeting of the union held at Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State on Monday.
He spoke with newsmen via the telephone after the Chairman, University of Lagos chapter of ASUU, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka, had told journalists that the strike would be total.
According to Fagge, the strike will be “comprehensive, total and indefinite.’’
“The strike starts today (Monday) and it is going to last for as long as the Federal Government wants it,” he said.
He explained that the union embarked on the strike because the government had reneged on the agreement it reached with ASUU before the lecturers suspended a similar action in February 2012.
“The Federal Government has refused to implement some of the issues contained in a 2009 agreement it had with us,” he said.
Fagge added that the government had also reneged on the Memorandum of Understanding it entered into with the union in December 2011.
“Before now, there has been this issue of the implementation of the key issues contained in the 2009 agreement we entered into with the Federal Government.
“We have had several meetings and deliberations to let government understand why these issues must be resolved but it is like the more we meet and deliberate, the messier the issue gets.
“One of the issues that needed to be addressed was basically that of the academic earned allowance.
“This earned allowance, and other issues, had dragged on until government then agreed to write an MOU with the union.
“But as we speak, there has been nothing to show that government was committed to an MOU it willingly wrote to better the university sector.
“It is in this regard that we are embarking on an indefinite strike,” he said.
Fagge said that having waited patiently for the government to honour the agreement, the ASUU decided to meet, deliberate and come up with the action.
Also, Ogbinaka said government’s penchant for reneging on agreements was not acceptable to the union.
He said that government entered into the MOU with ASUU after the union suspended its strike two and a half years ago.
Ogbinaka who admitted that government had implemented the 70 years retirement age for professors and the pension commission for university workers, noted that government had not been forthcoming on the earned allowance demand of the lecturers.
“I want to say that not all lecturers are entitled to this allowance, but as we speak, not a single lecturer under the aforementioned categories has received any such allowance.
“What we are demanding as the earned allowance is not more than N12, 500 per person, yet government is saying it cannot afford such.
“Government was actually thinking of the cost implication of everything but after much deliberation, government agreed to sign the MoU and said it had set aside N100bn to take care of all the burning issues.
“However, government came back to us and pleaded for a reduction and we decided to step the cost down to 80 per cent. That not enough, it also appealed for another reduction to 50 per cent.
“This 50 per cent, government said, will be a one off payment; that it was from that 50 per cent that we shall take care of everything, including the earned allowance.
“This did not go down well with us and so we decided to meet and take the decision we have just taken,” he said.
According to him, the Nigerian tertiary education sector is where it is because of inadequate funding.
He said that one of the reasons why there were no foreign scholars in the system was because of the poor wages.
“When we agitate about earned allowance, we are also using it as a means of attracting foreign scholars so it is not all about our personal interest.
“We are also using it to address the issue of brain drain in the system. As it were, our best brains are all drifting into industries and other sectors that will pay them better, rather than ploughing back into the academic sector.
“To us, it is all about looking at a bigger picture and putting things in the right place,’’ he said.
The union leader said that the decision to embark on the strike was painful but that there was no going back until government took a positive step to address their demands.
Source: Punch News