ASUU Strike: A Compelling Pointer to Nigeria’s restructuring

The arena of industrial relations, with specific reference to University environment, has gone turbulent again. The arena has witnessed all sorts of labour- related crises aside from student unrest and many other forms of challenges that often led to either partial or total closure of the system for several days in a month or year. In this regard, strike as a weapon of last resort in collective bargaining in any process of industrial relations has become very popular due to its frequent use by the Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU. Strike is supposed to be a temporary abandonment of job by workers to press home their demands from their employer. In this regard, the events in the last one decade, in the engagement of ASUU and the Federal government of Nigeria on a number of demands, has almost turned strike to permanent abandonment of job by the university teachers.

The strike profile of ASUU is an indication that something fundamental is wrong in the bargaining process between ASUU and the Federal Government. It is imperative to point out that the same ineffective structure that made governance impossible in Nigeria, is apparently responsible for the failure of successive government irrespective of party affiliation to honour simple agreement signed supposedly by ‘honourable people’ as those in government would want us to believe they are. Were it not so, there should not have been an indefinite strike action in August 2017 after the November 2016 warning strike. One is compelled to note that the character of governments be it military (1992-1998) or civilian (1999-2017) seem to be the same as the frequency of strikes did not abate, instead it escalated under civil governments with the most recent being the one week warning strike of November 16th, 23rd, 2016 and the ongoing indefinite strike action by ASUU. The main argument of ASUU that necessitated the warning strike and the indefinite strike is the contention over honouring the ASUU-FG 2009 agreement and some other demands.

Way Forward:
As identified above, character formation by both parties has contributed to the inability of arriving at consensus on major and critical issues in the agreement. Going forward, would therefore mean a deliberate attempt to examine how the character formed by each party has crippled negotiation process in the past and see how this character can be amended for progress to be made in the interest of Nigerians since both are representing the people at any level they occupy either as academic or government.

In practical terms and without prejudice to how the universities want to run or administer their programmes, it is advised that the Federal government should grant full authority to the universities. This will allow them to source for funds in addition to what the FG will give annually. The full autonomy will also shield the university from avoidable interference in the administration of the universities by the federal government, which more often than not expose the Ivory Towers to ‘politics’. The Federal Government should also put in necessary structure/policy whereby indigent students are not denied education due to their inability to pay. It is vital here to observe that grants offered to universities are often granted on the premise that Nigerian universities are autonomous in all ramifications. In effect, lumping, such monies into TSA will not only deny the donor and the recipient to use the monies within the agreed time frame, it may also become counter-productive in many unforeseen circumstance

The government is hereby advised to be flexible on the issue of TSA as it affects ASUU particularly in the area of research and grants without jeopardising her fight against corruption generally. Finally, an appeal should proceed now from the National Assembly, major stakeholders in the Nigerian project to both the FG and ASUU. The religious bodies and parents are enjoined now to quickly put up an appeal agenda before another major strike that may last several days or months.

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