Sunday, 30 October 2011

ASUU bombshell: It’s going to be a longbattle in 2012 — Comrade MuhammadKabir Aliyu

The warning strike embarked upon
by the Association of Academic
Staff Union of Universities
(ASUU) in September took only
one week, but the reprisal effect
would no doubt impaired the
direction of some students whose
examinations were cancelled or
The members of the academia
though sheath their swords after
the meeting with government in
September, but this is for only two
According to the ASUU chairman
in Ahmadu Bello University
(ABU), Zaria, Comrade (Dr)
Muhammad Kabir Aliyu, the
government should be ready for a serious long
battle if by November 22, the contending
issues on implementation would not have been
As the government may be preparing for the
fuel subsidy battle, he also noted that ASUU
will not spare the government if it fails to
grant good review to the academic staff in
He speaks on the challenges in the education
sector and other labour issues. Excerpts:
In Ahmadu Bello University, our members are
mobilised to struggle for the 2009 ASUU/
Federal Government agreement. This is borne
out of the fact that our members believed that
no nation can develop without its education
sector. The main focus of the agreement
which was by FGN with ASUU National was
meant to stem the brain drain. Many of our
colleagues in the university are leaving
Nigerian universities to other universities in
Africa, Europe and Asia to the detriment of
our own universities and that means to the
detriment of our own children, vis-à-vis our
own development. That informs the signing
of the agreement after the negotiation that
took three years from December 2006.
The agreement was supported seriously by our
branch. We are highly mobilised to support
the National in any way it deems fit to pursue
the implementation of the agreement. The
agreement was in three components,
condition of service, funding of the
universities and the universities autonomy.
Out of the three, government implemented
only about 10 per cent of the agreement. Over
these two years, through the branches, the
National has been negotiating with
government to ensure that the universities
stay open, ensure that there will be no strike.
ASUU is not in anyway interested in strikes.
But for the unions anywhere in the world,
strike is a weapon. Even though a painful
weapon, but unions used it. That is why people
have been asking us as ASUU to find a
solution or alternative to strike. We don’t
really know what is alternative to strike, but
we only hear dialogue, dialogue. ASUU has
been in dialogue with government for over two
years. These two years we have met with the
National Assembly, the Ministry of
Education, the Presidency to implement these
agreements, but they have not. That
necessitated ASUU to declare the warning
However, I want to stress that our branch,
ABU Zaria, is well mobilised to protect that
agreement for the interest of Nigeria. It is
not just for the interest of the academics.
No, the essence is to develop education to a
level that it can be on per with any other
country in the world. We want to develop a
world-class university system, where people
from other countries can come. We want to
nip in the bud the present scenario where
Nigerian students go to universities as close as
Ghana or go to Malaysia with all attendant
promises. They are not even going to Europe
and America, but countries around us that
ordinarily should come here.
Actually, they were here in the sixties,
seventies, even in eighties. They were here.
But now it is the reverse. Our students are now
going there. Millions, even billions of naira
dollars are spent out of Nigeria money to
sponsor Nigerians attending institutions
outside. Instead of this money being kept
here, it’s been used to develop other economy.
This we considered as irresponsibility of
government not to spend even the 26 per cent
minimum of the National Budget on
education. Government is spending just less
than 10 per cent. That is why we as a union
and as a branch in ABU Zaria are in support
of the national body. We will continue to
support them. In case of any national strike,
our branch is 100 per cent mobilised to pursue
the matter to its logical conclusion.
Waiting Game
The Federal Government and ASUU will have
a meeting on November 22. The government
called us for a meeting in the wake of the
warning strike. As usual of government, they
wanted to ensure that the strike did not hold.
At the meeting, government requested for two
months. The two months started counting on
the September 22, which means it would end
on November 22. Then we will meet with the
government to assess what has been done.
Whether government kept to its promise or
ASUU has also fixed a meeting for November
30 at the University of Port Harcourt.
There, we will take report from our
negotiating team, whether government has
fulfilled its promise or not. I can assure you
that if government does not, a national
strike will be declared and we don’t know how
long it would take. ASUU’s strike usually last
longer. Because the moment we declare strike,
it’s difficult to call it off until government
proffer solution to the reason for the
declaration of the strike.
We want to see whether the committee would
be able to meet up with the minimum standard
that ASUU is looking for, if it does, possibly
the strike may be averted. But if they don’t,
we may not escape the national strike.
2009 – 2011
What the government has been able to do
between 2009 till date was the payment of the
salary component. That is the increase made
on salary of academic staff. Aside that, there
was no increase of funding, government is
yet to amend the law on increasing the
retirement age of academics to 70 years.
Nothing has been done in all the other
Falling standard of education
That is the reason for the agreement. ASUU
observed that the standard has falling so low
that it was even shameful sometimes to look
at some graduates from Nigerian universities.
That was why the main pivot of the
agreement is to see how we can raise that
standard. We have discovered that the
universities must be appropriately funded to
research. The laboratories must be equipped,
the lecturers must be well paid, so that
eventually we can have the best brains to
remain in the universities. Students with 2.1,
and first class to remain in the universities to
lecture. Prior to that, our students never
nursed any thought to remain in the
university to lecture.
ASUU is aware of these glaring falling
standards in the education system. The
problem is not exclusive to universities and
other tertiary institutions; it started from the
primary as well as secondary schools. ASUU
has been calling for a general overhauling in
the education system. That is why we are
asking for 26 per cent minimum to be
allocated to education generally, which will
affect primary, secondary and tertiary
Some countries in the world give up to 50 per
cent, but Nigeria is given less than 10 per
cent. Meanwhile, they give a lot of money
which are wasted to security. Hardly can one
see the impact and that is why ASUU is
worried. The way things are going if not
urgently addressed, the system is continuously
going down the drain. That is our worries.
Cash and carry admission
In every system, you have what you call bad
eggs, but the university system is still a place
some forms of regulations are followed. It’s
true that one may find deceptors who want
gratification before helping a student to gain
But I know in some universities, no matter the
money, you will only be deceived without
normal minimum qualifications to be
admitted. Besides, there are guidelines for
However, that does not rule it out that one
may find cases of people engaging in certain
activities that are not in line with the tenets
of the university system. No matter what, I
believe that the universities are still trying to
see that standards are followed, rules and
regulations are followed in terms of
admission, examinations and other areas of
managing the universities.
Jonathan’s coming in new
This agitation did not start now, it started
when he was the vice president. The
agreement is not something new. It started in
2007, then Jonathan was the vice president.
All through he was involved in the agreement
because he was briefed as president was being
briefed. At a stage he involved himself in
mediating. Hence, there is nothing new. He
may be new as president, but agreement is not
new to him and we are negotiating with
Nigerian government, not a new president.
Nigerian government is continuous, we only
change individuals, the system must
Some of our demand cannot be immediate,
like funding, it’s supposed to be a gradual
increase. We are not saying it should be
accomplished within one year or two, we even
gave four years projection.
But the sad thing is that they have not
commenced at all. There has been no
difference from what we have in 2011, rather
it is now on the decrease. That shows we are
not moving anywhere. I don’t tink Jonathan
need any more time than he has.
Blanket agreement
In terms of universities whether federal, states
or private university, university is a
university. A graduate from university will
only tell you his specialty and not the name
of the university. It does not matter which
university he attends he is a graduate. That is
why the standard is supposed to be the same.
Any state that establishes a university should
know the implication of establishing a
university. A university is not like a market
commodity where one can give different
prices. Education is supposed to be the same
standard in whether federal, state or private.
That is why our negotiation is for the
university system. We did not negotiate for
federal or state. In any case, the states
universities were represented. The pro-
chancellor of state university was a member.
There were about two vice chancellors that
were members. Even the governorship forum
was involved along the line of negotiation.
Throughout the negotiation, the states were
involved and knew about everything.
Fuel subsidy
It is something that no labour man will accept
because it is going to have serious negative
effects on the Nigerian masses. ASUU as a
union is against withdrawal of fuel subsidy.
Even though ASUU is an affiliate of NLC,
and the congress may have signed the
agreement as alleged, but ASUU as a union is
against it. This is because it is going to have
negative effects on the lives of Nigerian
people. We have seen a lot of removal of
subsidy in this country, but up till this
moment we have not seen the positive effect.
Those in government always make case that
they will use the money to do this and that,
for the development of the country. But
eventually hardly can we see any change. In a
country where there is no welfare in place, the
only thing Nigerians benefit from
government is the subsidy. Removal of
subsidy will bring a ripple effect on many
other things.
Perhaps, the condition given to the
government by labour was to make Nigeria
state provide a basic social services that people
required. But government is harping on
removing the subsidy first before providing
the services. That means the agreement
purported to have been signed with labour will
not work.
Minimum wage
If there is anything that we gained, we gained
N900. Only N900 was added to our current
salary. We are equally a civil servants, and
the minimum wage was a general increase.
Hence, whatever one is earning, N900 was
added. It is highly insignificant. In fact,
many people did not notice it. The N900 was
paid with arrears from March. Everybody in
the system get about N5,000 plus. It is
entirely insignificant, it did not make any
difference to the lives of our members.
However, the agreement we are fighting for
the implementation is due for renegotiation
next year, 2012. Part of the agreement is
that it would be reviewed in two years. As such
we have already put government on notice
even on the review apart from the issue of
implementation and possible strike that may
It is at the meeting that We look at our
condition of service and review it as a union,
not as NLC.
Long battle in 2012
It is going to be a long battle, because the
battle will continue on the implementation of
2009 agreement. Then, there is going to be a
new renegotiation in 2012, so its going to be a
long struggle which the union is ready for.
We do not have any set time for strike and
since we signed the agreement in 2009, we
have not gone on strike, but for the warning
strike declared last month.

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