By Biodun Ogunyemi
The leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (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 (NEC) 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 (1st December, 2020); working on the actualisation of the release of the withheld salaries of ASUU members (Wednesday, 9th December, 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 9th December, 2020 and there is nothing in the government offer of 27th November, 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.
Professor Biodun Ogunyemi is the ASUU National President