The strike embarked upon by the  Academic Staff Union of Universities, which has paralysed almost all public universities in the country, has entered its 200th day.

Students and parents, who lamented the effects of the industrial action in separate interviews with The PUNCH on Thursday, condemned the failure of the Federal Government and the union to resolve the crisis and reopen the universities.

ASUU had in February declared a month-strike following the failure of the government to meet its demands, including the payment of earned allowances, payment of revitalisation funds to universities, the release of the white paper reports of visitation panels, implementation of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) instead of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) for the payment of workers in the ivory towers and the renegotiation of the ASUU-FGN 2009 allowance.

Prior to the current strike, the university lecturers had in 2020 embarked on a nine-month industrial action, which they suspended on December 24 of that year.

Although ASUU declared a month strike on February 14 and had been rolling it over after the expiration of each declaration, its National Executive Council after its meeting in Abuja on August 29, said its industrial action would henceforth be “comprehensive, total and indefinite,”  effective from 12am on Monday.

Various talks between the union and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, yielded no result. Also, ASUU leaders walked out of a meeting with the government on August 16, alleging that no offer was made to them.

But the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, in an interview with journalists, said university lecturers insisted that they should be paid for the period they did not work, a request he said the government was not ready to grant.

The Public Relations Officer of the National Parent-Teachers Association, Ademola Ekundayo, in an interview with one of our correspondents on Thursday, lamented that both the government and ASUU allowed the strike to enter its 200th day.

He lamented that parents and their children in the universities were the ones suffering. Ekundayo stated, “ASUU members will still collect their salaries for the work they didn’t even do likewise the Federal Government has nothing to lose as their (government officials) children are in private universities.”

A student at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Faith Alofe, disclosed that the strike had affected his programmes.

He stated, “The ASUU strike action is one that is very depressing and time-wasting. As a campus journalist, I have applied to international organisations but my application was turned down because I don’t have a Bachelor’s Degree.

“I should be writing my final exams and preparing to leave undergraduate studies but here we are with the strike action drawing us back. I do not like to think about the ASUU strike at all because it is very depressing just thinking about the strike and I hope that both the Federal Government and ASUU will find a common ground and stop leaving students to suffer the end result of the strike.”

On his part, the South-West Coordinator of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Zone Dr, Adegboye Olatunji, said it was sad that the meetings between ASUU and the government did not produce any positive results.

According to him, the government does not believe that education is the future of the country.

Another student at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Olaniyan Oluwatomisin, said, “In four years, this is the third time I’m experiencing ASUU strike and I know for a fact it has disrupted my life plans. Education isn’t free and I need to get the value of what I paid for. It’s my right.”

A student at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Halidu Adamu, said, “The inconsistency in Nigerian universities’ calendar is consistent. It has caused a lot of deterioration in terms of standard in education.”

But the National President of NANS, Sunday Asefon took a swipe at ASUU.

In a statement on Thursday titled, ‘ASUU declaration of indefinite strike: Time for government at all levels to act and save Nigeria universities from ASUU,’ Asefon described ASUU’s declaration of an indefinite strike as unpatriotic, unnecessary and wicked.

He stated, “Such a decision was easy for ASUU members because many of their leaders do not have their wards in public universities and still keep employment at various private universities around the country and as such not affected by their attempt to collapse the sector for their selfish and inconsiderate gains.’’

Asefon also condemned the insistence of ASUU on payment of six months of arrears for the entire period of the strike before the strike is called off.

He added, “This demand is not only insensitive; it is selfish, inconsiderate, and uncharitable. The six months were periods of no work. We, therefore, encourage the government to use every available legal window available to it and ensure that ASUU does not kill our tertiary education system.

“We call on the state government to forthwith liaise with vice-chancellors of state institutions to announce the resumption of academic activities and grant the vice-chancellors authority to enforce the resumption as state universities should never have joined the strike in the first place.”

Defending ASUU, a professor of Structural Engineering at the University of Uyo, Ini Uko, said the strike came as a result of inconsistency of the government.

The lecturer stated, “The government cannot fund education properly but it keeps on saying tuition is free and because of that the system is not running fine instead of asking parents to pay.”

He said despite the paucity of funds, the government was still subsidising the Federal Government colleges, colleges of education, federal technical colleges and federal polytechnics.

Uko added, “The National Assembly has approved 67 new higher institutions and yet the present ones are not being properly funded.  Why can’t we just sit and think and do what is consistent?”

The National President, ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, told The PUNCH that since the August 16 meeting ended in a deadlock, the government had not met the union.

He stated,‘‘Nothing has changed since that time. They have not reached out to us; nobody has called us for any meeting since the two weeks we had a meeting with the minister of education.

‘‘No official letter from the governors’ forum. The government wants to blackmail us; the minister said they wanted to use it to punish us. This thing shouldn’t go beyond 10 days. We are ready to talk, we reached an agreement and they changed it.”

‘‘Since it (the strike) does not affect them, their children are not in the schools here, it is a way of saving money. This issue would have been resolved in just two days. If they (political office holders) have their children in our schools, they will not allow it to last this long.’’

The Head of Department, Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Prof. Poju Tejumaiye, explained that the prolonged strike had adverse effects on lecturers all over the country.

He added that failure on the part of ASUU and the FG had led to the loss of interest in learning by students and lackadaisical attitudes to teaching and learning

But the spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Ben Goong,explained to one of our correspondents that there was nothing left on the negotiation table for the governors to discuss.

The All Progressives Congress governors during a meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on Tuesday promised to negotiate with ASUU.

Goong on Thursday stated, “ASUU itself has agreed that the government has agreed to 85 per cent of what they brought to the table. What ASUU is fighting for is the payment of salary arrears. There is nothing like salary arrears when someone has not worked.

“The government has informed them of the no-work-no-pay decision because there is nowhere you get paid for a work that you did not do. That is where we are. So, if the governors are coming in or other parties are coming in, I really don’t know because negotiations have been concluded. There is nothing on the table.

“There is nothing like free money in the government account so we cannot pay free money.  We call it something in Marxist literature, when you do not work for money, it is called primitive accumulation. That is what ASUU is asking for and the government will not pay.”

He said despite the paucity of funds, the government was still subsidising the Federal Government colleges, colleges of education, federal technical colleges and federal polytechnics.

Uko added, “The National Assembly has approved 67 new higher institutions and yet the present ones are not being properly funded.  Why can’t we just sit and think and do what is consistent?”

The National President, ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, told The PUNCH that since the August 16 meeting ended in a deadlock, the government had not met the union.

He stated,‘‘Nothing has changed since that time. They have not reached out to us; nobody has called us for any meeting since the two weeks we had a meeting with the minister of education.

‘‘No official letter from the governors’ forum. The government wants to blackmail us; the minister said they wanted to use it to punish us. This thing shouldn’t go beyond 10 days. We are ready to talk, we reached an agreement and they changed it.”

‘‘Since it (the strike) does not affect them, their children are not in the schools here, it is a way of saving money. This issue would have been resolved in just two days. If they (political office holders) have their children in our schools, they will not allow it to last this long.’’

The Head of Department, Mass Communication, University of Lagos, Prof. Poju Tejumaiye, explained that the prolonged strike had adverse effects on lecturers all over the country.

He added that failure on the part of ASUU and the FG had led to the loss of interest in learning by students and lackadaisical attitudes to teaching and learning

But the spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Ben Goong,explained to one of our correspondents that there was nothing left on the negotiation table for the governors to discuss.

The All Progressives Congress governors during a meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), on Tuesday promised to negotiate with ASUU.

Goong on Thursday stated, “ASUU itself has agreed that the government has agreed to 85 per cent of what they brought to the table. What ASUU is fighting for is the payment of salary arrears. There is nothing like salary arrears when someone has not worked.

“The government has informed them of the no-work-no-pay decision because there is nowhere you get paid for a work that you did not do. That is where we are. So, if the governors are coming in or other parties are coming in, I really don’t know because negotiations have been concluded. There is nothing on the table.

“There is nothing like free money in the government account so we cannot pay free money.  We call it something in Marxist literature, when you do not work for money, it is called primitive accumulation. That is what ASUU is asking for and the government will not pay.”