A meeting of the National Executive Council of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities started in Abuja on Sunday.
The union is expected to take a final decision on whether to continue its industrial action that entered the 196th day on Monday (today) at the meeting holding at its national headquarters at the University of Abuja.
As of the time of filing this report on Sunday evening, the meeting was still ongoing amidst anxiety that the union may extend the strike based on the outcomes of the meetings of most of its branches held last week.
ASUU had declared the commencement of a strike on Monday, February 14, 2022, at the University of Lagos.
A member of the NEC, who did not want his name in print because he is not the union’s spokesman, told our correspondent in Abuja noted that most local congresses voted for strike extension.
“We expect nothing less. Most of the congresses voted for an indefinite strike. The NEC takes decisions based on the reports from branches,” he said.
Another member said, “I can confidently tell you that the majority of ASUU branches across the country voted for an indefinite strike. Over 90% voted for an indefinite strike. “’
Education ministry kicks
The spokesperson of the Federal Ministry of Education, Ben Goong, in an interview with The PUNCH, explained that the government had taken all possible steps to end the strike.
He said, “As regards the next steps, the government has already inaugurated a committee to harmonise the IPPIS, UTAS, and UP3. This will ensure that the government will pay with only one payment platform that will harmonise all the technical peculiarities.
“If you bring some demands and almost 80% have been attended to, there is no need to drag the strike anymore.
“It is unreasonable for the strike to be lingering seeing as the government has worked towards fulfilling most of the demands.”
The Public Relations Officer, National Parent-Teacher Association of Nigeria, Dr. Ademola Ekundayo, in an interview with one of our correspondents, alleged that the university teachers were adamant about the strike because most of them work elsewhere.
Ekundayo said, “We have found ourselves in an unfortunate situation and, under normal circumstances, parents should not offer such incentives and help that they rejected, but we discovered that we are at the receiving end and bearing the effect of the problem between FG and ASUU.
“And at the end of the day, ASUU will still collect their salary for the work they didn’t even do. Likewise, the Federal Government has nothing to lose. Their children are in private universities.
“Many of the ASUU professors are part-time lecturers at private universities; they are behaving like this because they don’t have anything to lose. I am telling you that they will push parents and students to a level they won’t be able to tolerate.”
Meanwhile, the National Coordinator of the Congress of University Academics, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, called for broader discussions that include more stakeholders in the tertiary education sector in an interview with one of our correspondents.
Sunmonu said, “The only solution is for the government to provide an immediate measure and then short-term and long-term steps. From what we read in the papers, it appears there has been a breakdown of trust between the two parties involved. The stakeholders involved in university education are more than two; the union on one side and the government on the other side.
“We have parents and alumni who are very concerned about the existence of their universities; we also have corporate bodies who are interested in the outputs of the universities. That is the best short-term solution the government should apply to resolve this issue.”
Seadogs backs ASUU
Meanwhile, the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) on Sunday blamed the Federal Government’s disdain for education as the reason for the lingering industrial action by ASUU.
In a statement titled, “FG’s hollow hubris prolonging ASUU strike,” the NAS leader, Abiola Owoaje, described the stand of the Federal Government as “ill-conceived, reckless, and insensitive to the plight of students, parents, the university system, and Nigeria as a country.”
Owoaje said, “President Muhammadu Buhari’s aloofness on critical issues such as the ASUU strike is disappointing. His ministers, taking a cue from him, have treated the issues raised by ASUU with levity and utmost contempt.