Exactly eight months after going on strike, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called it off on October 14th, 2022. As usual, the strike revolved around age-old issues of salary structure and payment, earned academic allowances, university funding, autonomy and academic freedom.
Now that the strike is over, what did it cost everyone involved?
On previous occasions, ASUU usually holds all the cards until it beats the government into an agreement. And this time, the government’s questionable handling of the strike in the initial days contributed to escalating for eight months. But the government managed to come out on top by dragging the union to court to force the suspension of the strike.
CONUA and NAMDA
CONUA and the government made an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” agreement
Before ASUU started strike action in February 2022, it was the only recognised university union in Nigeria. But as the strike dragged on, the government certified two new bodies, the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA) and the National Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) as additional university unions. Critics believe that the certification of these unions is an attempt by the government to weaken the influence of ASUU in Nigerian universities — CONUA, especially, as it’s led by former ASUU members who broke away from the union in 2018 and had been battling for legal status since then. The 2022 strike provided the perfect opportunity for the union to finally get its day in the sun.
The ASUU strike disrupted the economic activities of universities and put businesses around them in a financial bind. But landlords don’t have such a headache and can lick their lips in anticipation of students returning to pay more rent despite not being around for the past eight months.
ASUU went on strike to force the government to fulfil promises that have been hanging since 2009. But the union failed to get its way eight months later. Suspending the strike wasn’t exactly ASUU’s decision. Rather, it’s in unavoidable obedience to a court judgement. They can’t be considered winners when the key issues they’ve been fighting for remain unresolved.
Even worse, it’s still unclear if the government will pay their salaries for the eight-month period of the strike.
Dr Taiwo Ojapinwa, a lecturer in the Department of Economics of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), told Zikoko, “On resumption, lecturers will have to go the extra mile to cover a lot of lost ground. Some lecturers that are supposed to have been promoted will be delayed by almost a year and some retired in the course of the strike.”
By default, students are always the biggest casualties every time ASUU strikes. They lose time in the classrooms, lose academic momentum, stay home and worry about how long the strike will last, lose the money paid on rent and ultimately have their future stalled. These are the kinds of issues impacting the quality of education in Nigeria.
Prospective students also can’t get into universities because admission processes are stalled and academic calendars turn into a mess.
Is this the end of ASUU strikes?
The only meaningful victory of an ASUU strike is if the result is that another one will never happen. But there are so many unresolved issues from the 2022 strike that the next one is an issue of when not if.
Both ASUU and the Federal Government need to get their acts together and stop sacrificing the future of young Nigerians.