The strike action embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may not abate as soon as expected if the conditions given to the Federal Government by aggrieved ASUU are not met.
ASUU has denied entering into any agreement to end its strike action by December 9, 2020, as suggested by the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige.
ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi in a statement on the lingering strike action explained that “the strike would only be suspended when the union’s organs affirm that the welfare and wellbeing of ASUU members, as well as the survival of our public universities, are sufficiently guaranteed.”
Ogunyemi further explained that the ASUU principal officers who have been representing the union in negotiations with the government only promised to take the government position back to the branches through the various organs after the November 27, 2020 meeting between the two parties.
The statement titled: ‘Why the strike has not been suspended,’ added that while the concern of all other stakeholders are duly noted regarding the lingering strike action, the consistent insincerity of government in fulfilling its previous agreements with the union is responsible for the extension.
He noted that while the union is also concerned and willing to end the strike action which Naija News reports started since March 2020, ASUU will not do so at the detriment of its members and the well-being of public universities in Nigeria.
Below is the ASUU statement which comes in response to the position of Minister Ngige who claimed in an earlier statement that the union failed to uphold its end of the bargain to end the 9-month-old strike by December 9.
“The leadership of ASUU has been inundated with enquiries on why the ongoing strike action has not been suspended. This was sequel to the widely reported claims by some government agents that all the demands of ASUU have been met and that the union agreed to suspend the strike action today, 9th December, 2020. Nothing can be farther from the truth!
“To put the records straight, the Principal Officers and Trustees who constitute the core of representatives of ASUU at negotiation meetings with government are not constitutionally empowered to suspend any strike action.
“Whatever comes out of an engagement with agents of the government is an offer which must be taken back to the branches through the various organs of the union.
“Views and perspectives on offers by governments are aggregated and presented to government agents as counter-offers. This trade union strategy of offer and counter-offer is continually deployed until the National Executive Council of ASUU – consisting of all recognised chairpersons – finally approves what it considers an acceptable offer from the government. It is only then that any strike action by ASUU can be suspended.
“At our last meeting in the office of the Minister of Labour and Employment on 27th November, 2020, the ASUU leadership promised to faithfully present the latest government offer to its members through the established tradition. The latest offer by government makes proposals on nearly all items of demand by the union with timelines.
“Among others, the document which was signed by the Hon. Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, contains proposals on inauguration of the reconstituted FGN-ASUU Renegotiation Committee (1st December, 2020); release of details about Visitation Panels (December 1 2020); working on the actualisation of the release of the withheld salaries of ASUU members (Wednesday December 9 2020). Clause 9 on the document reads: “Based on these conclusions reached on items 1-8, ASUU’s leadership will consult its organs with a view to suspending the on-going strike” (Italics, for emphasis).
“Therefore, the ASUU leadership did not reach any understanding with government to suspend the strike on December 9 2020 and there is nothing in the government offer of November 27 2020 to suggest that conclusion as allegedly claimed by the Minister of Labour and Employment.
“The leadership of ASUU has consistently stated at every meeting with high ranking government officials that the union’s representatives have no mandate to take final decision on any strike action by the union. All the leadership does is to present government offers through its organs, and that we have done faithfully in the current situation.
“ASUU recognises and appreciates the concerns of all Nigerians who have been calling for an early resolution of the ongoing crisis. It was a needless crisis in the first place. It happened because government has consistently failed to faithfully implement the Agreements it freely signed with the union.
“ASUU members, as stakeholders in the Nigerian University System, are equally worried and embarrassed that those in position of authority, over the years, displayed seeming indifference to the rot and decay in Nigeria’s public universities. We think it is not too late to do a rethink. We believe if there is the will, there will be a way.
“ASUU acknowledges some more recent interventions aimed at resolving the crisis. While the union is willing to cooperate with concerned authorities on the matter, this would not be done to its own detriment. So, the strike would only be suspended when the union’s organs affirm that the welfare and wellbeing of ASUU members, as well as the survival of our public universities, are sufficiently guaranteed.”