The Academic Staff Union of Universities – the umbrella union of Nigeria’s university lecturers recently announced a 12 weeks extension of their ongoing strike.
The university lecturers have been on strike since February 14 2022 when they announced a one month warning strike to ask for better working conditions.
ASUU has been on strike a combined 25 months in the last 10 years between 2010 and 2020.
What exactly does Asuu strike mean?
When Asuu is on strike, it usually paralyzes academic activities in Nigeria’s public universities. The universities would still be open, it’s just that lecturer’s wont be in class for academic activities. Non academic staff will still be offering service as normal, things like processing transcripts and collection of certificate will still be on despite Asuu strike.
In fact, even some universities have been known to conduct exams with nonacademic staff during the Asuu strike. The major effect of the strike is that it slows down academic activities, adding years to the time students are supposed to spend on campus.
Nigerian public universities not part of Asuu
Asuu is the umbrella union of all lecturers in public universities in Nigeria. Despite this, some public universities have avoided joining the union for one reason or the other. The most prominent example of this was the University of Ilorin that was not a member of Asuu between 2003 and 2017. the university had a smooth academic calendar between this period, but has since rejoined Asuu due to internal politics and corruption.
All federal universities in Nigeria observe the Asuu strike. All state universities as well, except Kaduna State University and Kwara state University that was exempted from the current round of strikes based on some technicalities.
The 2009 Asuu FGN memorandum of agreement
During every round of Asuu strike action in Nigeria, the union is always blaming the government for not implementing the 2009 memorandum of agreement both parties signed. what exactly is in that agreement?
The major bone of contention from the 2009 agreement is money and a lot of it. About N1.1 trillion for the revitalization of public universities across the country. The money is supposed to be used to build or renovate lecture rooms, and research laboratories and pay for general infrastructure upgrades. In the agreement is also money for the lecturers, earned arrears, promotion allowances, and stuff like that. The federal government says it does not have the money the lecturers are asking for.
Another is the issue of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
The academics have proposed an alternative payroll system, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
The lecturers say that they want to control how they get paid, instead of how it is now – directly from the accountant general’s office.
So far, the government seems uninterested in solving the Asuu strike, party primaries will happen at the end of the month in preparations for the general elections next year.
for now, Asuu might need to look for a smarter way of solving its problems.
An alternative source of funding Nigeria’s public universities
To understand a possible solution to the incessant strikes by ASUU, it is important to understand the root causes of the problem.
Nigeria is a poor country! And that means the government does not have enough money to properly fund education, health, build roads, and at the same time fight off an Islamist insurgency that is ravaging the country’s North-East.
The GDP of Nigeria was worth 448.10 billion US dollars in 2019, according to official data from the World Bank. A single American company – Apple is worth more than two trillion dollars!
The government heavily subsidizes public education in Nigeria, making essentially free.
A four-year degree costs on average less than one hundred dollars in tuition fees and accommodation per year.
These subsidies have allowed millions of poor Nigerians to get an education, and now alternative sources of funding are needed to keep the universities going.
In 2010, the University of Ilorin (Unilorin) started a jatropha plantation with the aim of one-day producing biofuel. Around the same time, the university also started other investment projects like building an event center, a zoological garden, and a water treatment plant.
All these investments were started with the vision of someday augmenting the revenue that the university gets from the federal government.
Another source of revenue and perhaps the most popular source of revenue for universities around the world is endowment funds.
University endowments are comprised of money or other financial assets that are donated to academic institutions. Charitable donations are the primary source of funds for endowments.
But for Nigerian universities to benefit from endowment funds, there needs to be accountability and transparency – two of the biggest issues every aspect of the Nigerian society has struggled with.