ASUU Strike Update: Strike Ends This Month -Lecturers and Traders On Campus Rejoice

AFTER almost five months at home, students of public universities may soon return to the classrooms, if words from the Federal Government and striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are anything to go by. For the first time, both sides seem to be giving children of the poor a ray of hope.

The first sign that universities may be reopening soon was given by Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige. Ngige. In a statement on Sunday, June 26, he said the Inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government would turn in their reports to enable President Muhammadu Buhari take a decision on the deployment of UTAS and the condition of service for university lecturers.

According to the statement, by Wednesday of June 29, 2022, the various sub-committees would turn in their reports, to enable  Buhari to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the two contentious issues – UTAS and the renegotiated conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.

According to the President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, the union will call off the ongoing strike when the Federal Government accepts the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

He noted that the acceptance of UTAS and signing of the renegotiated agreement are the two conditions under which the strike which began on February 14 would be called off.

Osodeke noted that the leadership of ASUU appeared four times before the Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee, which renegotiated the 2009 agreement for the university lecturers.

The ASUU chief said since work on the 2009 agreement was concluded on June 16, it was yet to hear from the government whether they have an agreement or not.

It would be recalled that the ASUU strike, which started on February 14, entered 140th day on Monday. ASUU has been at loggerheads with the Federal Government, citing the refusal of the latter to honour the 2009 agreement it entered with the union in May, 2020.

Some of the demands in the agreements included condition of service of university lecturers to be reviewed every five years, issue of salaries and allowances, revitalisation of public universities, among other issues, University Transparency Accountability Solution and the inconsistencies in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) payment platform

Osodeke said: “Let the government tell us they have finished testing the UTAS and sign the agreement, then tomorrow we will call off the strike.  We challenge the government, when would they sign the agreement? When would they accept UTAS? These are the two questions we should ask the government.”

Excitement, optimism at UNIPORT

Reports that the Federal Government and the ASUU may soon sign an agreement to end the ongoing strike have excited students, taxi drivers and traders at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) and other varsity campuses visited by our correspondents.

Students, traders and others, who own business concerns within the campus, said eking out a living had been difficult since the commencement of the strike. A campus shuttle driver, Okandu Arundel, said the absence of students dealt a heavy blow on his business.

“It has not been an easy experience with the absence of the students in school. Most times, I have to run transport outside the campus to at least generate something for my family. Though students come around, not in large numbers. We don’t make our usual turnover,” he said.

Arundel said he would be the happiest person on earth if the Federal Government and ASUU hasten signing of the agreement and end the strike.

“If the Federal Government and ASUU hasten the signing of this agreement to end the strike, I will be the happiest person on earth. This is because if the school bubbles again, my life will bubble again”, he said.

A petty trader at the campus park, Stella McCarthy, who sells snacks and stationery, lamented the effect of the strike on her business. She said: “Sometimes, I sit here from morning  till evening, no sales just one or two persons, who come to buy pen or envelopes. Because  of that, I stopped coming here every day.

“My only saving grace is the puff-puff  and doghnut  that people  in the park and passersby buy from me. It is what has kept me. This strike has made my life miserable. If they end it, I will be happy”, she said.

A mini supermarket owner on campus, Celestine Worukwo, said he could not wait anymore for ASUU to call off the strike.

He said: “The absence of students on campus has made sales slow. Though it has its advantages like in reduction of crime rates, accidents and other incidents, it has affected my business negatively.

“Calling off the strike will be the best thing to happen, because, sadly, students across the country  have lost so much, businesses of all kinds transportation, houses, stationery, eating points, supermarkets, saloons have lost so much. If they return, it will be a win-win situation for all of us.”

The Public Relations Officer of NANS Joint Campus Committee, Lagos Axis, Comrade Akintona Emmanuel Timilehin, said it’s a welcome development going by the statement from the ASUU President that they’re ready to resume immediately the Federal Government signs the agreement.

“Over the months, the position of NANS is that the Federal Government should discuss with ASUU to get our students back on campus. This marks over 140 days of the strike. We commend ASUU for their willingness to resume and urge the government to get this matter settled immediately.

“I’m glad to see that ASUU is ready to resume and only the Federal Government is responsible for the delay. We appeal to the Federal Government to sign the  agreement and pay the lecturers and workers salaries during the industrial action.

Source: The NATION