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14 August 2017
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has once again embarked on a total and indefinite nationwide strike. The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) fully backs this indefinite strike action and calls on government to immediately meet the demands in order to avoid a situation where students waste away at home for months.
We also call on ASUU not to make this strike a sit-at-home action. Rather activities like public rallies, leafleting, mass meetings and demonstrations should be organized regularly in and outside of campuses to ensure that the issues which have necessitated another strike are clearly explained to members of the public whose support and active involvement is vital if ASUU's crusade to salvage the education sector is to succeed.
This indefinite strike has been called over issues that the general public have now become very familiar with. They are: government refusal to fully implement the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement, 2013 MOU particularly its provision for a Public Universities Revitalization (Needs Assessment) fund totaling One Trillion, three Hundred Billion naira out of which only N200 billion has been paid so far, Payment of fractions/Non-payment of salaries especially in state Universities, Non-Payment of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA), Non-release of operational license of NUPEMCO as well as other issues concerning the welfare of academic workers. All of these issues singularly and collectively bothers on government inadequate funding of public education.
For us in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), we find it unacceptable that whilst government finds money to buy exotic cars for lawmakers, finance the outrageously expensive treatment of President Buhari in London and guarantees insanely luxurious lifestyle for political office holders, it is unable to find money to fund public education and meet the needs of academic staff.
As far as we are concerned, Nigeria has enough wealth which if judiciously managed can fund education adequately and even ensure the provision of free and democratically-managed public education at all levels. What is responsible for this absurdity whereby a country with stupendous resources finds it hard to fund public education and ensure a stable academic calendar not punctuated by incessant strikes is the anti-poor neo-liberal agenda which feeds the greed of the capitalist ruling elite who corner over 80 percent of the country's wealth thus leaving little or nothing to fund social services. The Buhari/Osinbajo government despite its campaign rhetoric of change have left this unjust arrangement unaltered which is why nothing has changed for the better since the government came to power over two years ago.
Rather than deal with the crises afflicting the education sector, the Buhari/Osinbajo government has plunged it into more. For the over two years since the government came to power, funding to public education has remained abysmally low, fees and cost of education have been on the ascendance, poor welfare conditions and inadequate teaching facilities are still the order of the day while the government is unable to implement agreement not just with ASUU but also other staff unions.
This means that the ASUU strike may just be a foretaste of what is yet to come. In this sense, the present strike is one that typifies the abysmal failure of the Buhari/Osinbajo government and the futility of its campaign promises all of which have turned out to be nothing but empty words. Therefore for us in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), it is the Buhari/Osinbajo government that should be held responsible for the pain and anguish that this strike will bring to students and their parents/guardians.
Just like previous strike actions, the government had a forewarning but did absolutely nothing. The lecturers' union had embarked on a one-week warning strike in November 2016 to give ample signal that its members would no more tolerate government refusal to implement agreement it freely entered with the union amidst other demands. But since members of the capitalist ruling elite no more depend on public Universities and tertiary institutions for the education of their children just as they have abandoned public hospitals to the poor, they did nothing thus leaving the union with no choice but to embark on a total and indefinite strike.
To avoid the horrible scenario whereby the strike drags on endlessly, students, parents and members of the public need to rally round ASUU to collectively call on the government to fulfill its responsibility towards public education. This is no time for students and parents to take a position of neutrality in the ongoing conflict between ASUU and the government. What is at stake is the fate of public education and the future of the country so for that reason, this struggle is also the struggle of all students, parents and working people in general.
What we need at this moment is a movement comprising education workers, students, labour unions and concerned members of the public to begin to actively organize to demand that government commits adequate resources to the funding of education. Ultimately, only the coming to power of a worker and poor people's government armed with socialist policies can begin to ensure that Nigeria's wealth is committed to funding education and meeting people's needs.