By Najeebullah Lawan
It becomes a new normal that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embark on a strike to press demand on one issue or another almost every year in Nigeria. This menace has been here since 2009, with each year’s strike becoming worse than the previous one. The feud between ASUU and the Federal Government (FG) has badly, as it is clear, affected the education system in Nigeria.
The battle corners include revitalisation of the universities, providing infrastructure, enhancing research conducts, and reviewing lecturers’ salaries and allowances, among others, as contained in the MoU signed by the Nigerian government and ASUU.
It is essential to note that ASUU is a union of Academic Staff of Universities consisting of [except a few] lecturers from the Nigerian public universities.
These lecturers have wives, children and relatives in the schools they teach nationwide who are under their sponsorship from their hard earnings.
I believe these people will never do anything that could temper with the system because their close relatives and children benefit from it.
Moreover, our lecturers spent decades without substantial review of their salaries despite all the hikes in the price of foodstuffs and other necessities in Nigeria. It is heartbreaking that a university professor earns less than the salary of some government appointees – SAs and PAs.
It is unbecoming to leave these people alone fighting the government that leaves them without the good welfare their counterparts enjoy, even in many African countries. This fight is for all of us.!
In 2020, ASUU stood up to fight for their rights and the students in general, which led to the total closure of all universities in Nigeria. However, the coronavirus pandemic also contributed immensely to the longevity of this strike, making it one of the worst and longest strikes ever in the history of Nigerian universities.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian government did nothing to stop the strike. It betrayed the university lecturers, leaving them and their students stranded amidst a dilemma.
Again, in 2021, there was another strike by the university lecturers who demanded FG to fulfil its promises made in 2012 and 2020. This strike lasted eight months, and the lecturers were not paid a single kobo. As I write this, FG still owes lecturers months’ salaries and areas.
For all the struggle by ASUU, they were doing this for the betterment and standardisation of higher institutions nationwide. However, they got nothing from most of the students and parents in return except insults and mocks.
As of that time, ASUU warned students and parents that if FG defeated them in that fight, there would be a serious problem for students and parents that not everyone could bear.
Defeating ASUU, the Federal Government deliberately refused to fund its universities with enough funds.
As a result, in 2023, there was an increment in registration fees by many universities, such as the University of Maiduguri, University of Benin, University of Lagos, ATBU, ABU and a host of others. However, the one by Bayero University, Kano (BUK), brought a loud noise in the entire north, probably due to its status. Here are some clarifications:
1:- We heard that the university Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Adamu Abbas, made an explanation concerning the situation of the universities in Nigeria, saying that everything related to running the administration of the university is costly.
2:- Recently, ABU extended the resumption date for students due to an outage by the Kaduna Electric Distribution Company (KAEDCO) over alleged millions of Naira debt, which ABU owes KAEDCO.
3:- The monthly budget for running Bayero University is close to N100m. This money is spent on KEDCO for power, diesel, water and security.
4:- The FG is giving only N11m, which represents only 1% out of 10% BUK is spending every month, and the management of the university manages to utilise the system with the little they are getting from the government.
5:- The current economic situation of Nigeria and the Federal Government’s manner towards universities has left the management of Bayero University, Kano, with no option but to increase the central registration fee for students.
Despite these, BUK remains the cheapest Federal University in the entire north except for a few varsities currently in the second semester, and a review of their registration fees could be seen as something inevitable.
Regarding the just concluded points, we can say that ASUU does not hate education, and its fight is for the system’s revival. Also, the increment of university registration comes from negligence by the Federal Government. Meanwhile, without this kind of increment, the system will undoubtedly collapse.
Najibullah writes from Kano, Nassarawa Local Government. He can be reached via email@example.com