ASUU embarks on indefinite strike nationwide

University lecturers under the umbrella of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), have embarked on an indefinite strike over the insistence of the Federal Government that its members must be enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

Last year, the Federal Government gave a directive that all its employees should be enrolled in the IPPIS by December 31st or their salaries would be withheld. The directive did not go down well with ASUU members and they never failed to make it known to their employers, Federal or state government.

Few days to the December 31st deadline, over 70 per cent of ASUU members were said to have secretly enrolled in the platform, while some others, especially their leaders, refused to join. All efforts to persuade them failed, rather they embarked on two weeks warning strike.

ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, told journalists in Abuja, on Monday, that the decision to embark on an indefinite strike was a tough one but the National Executive Council (NEC) had to endorse it following the expiration of two weeks warning strike earlier embarked upon by its members.

He maintained that periodic academic disruption in public universities was because of insincerity of government, particularly in honouring agreements signed with the union in years past.

He said: “It was difficult for NEC to take some painful decisions at its last meeting in Abuja, on Monday. Our wish was that government would have satisfactorily addressed issues that gave rise to the warning strike which ended on Monday, but that was unsuccessful.

“Nigerian government has chosen to use hunger as a weapon of war against its academics and we are not going to sit and watch. Action and reaction, as they say, are equal but opposite.

“So based on the review of reports from ASUU leadership’s engagement with government, NEC concluded that government had failed to satisfactorily address the outstanding issues raised in the FGN/ASUU 2019 Memorandum of Action (MoA) and ignored the objections of ASUU against IPPIS.

“We will strongly reject any use of force to enrol our members on the IPPIS platform which was ‘fraudulently’ imposed on Nigerians by the World Bank with a huge amount of loan facility.”

However, available records at Federal Ministry of Education indicated that cumulatively in last 20 years, university lecturers under the umbrella of ASUU have lost four years of academic work to industrial action with their salaries and other entitlements paid in full.

In 2009, ASUU members shut down public universities for three months to compel government to attend to their needs as listed in their request sheet. At the end of the strike, in October 2009, ASUU and other labour unions in the university system signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Federal Government to call off the industrial action, with implementation timeline for the reached agreements.

On 1 July 2013, ASUU embarked on another strike. This time, for five months and 15 days. The strike was called off on 16 December 2013. ASUU said the reason for its actions was lack of sincerity and commitment on the part of government to religiously implement the 2009 agreement.

In 2017, Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, inaugurated a 16-member Federal Government re-negotiation team to interface with all university-based labour unions, notably, ASUU, NASU, SSANU, NAAT, as regards the content of the 2009 agreement it reached with the labour unions.

The team was chaired by Dr Wale Babalakin, whom the government adjudged the most competent to lead its re-negotiation team, having done a similar job in 2009 when the negotiation began.

ASUU President Prof Biodun Ogunyemi led the team of university based-labour unions. Adamu, in his remarks during the inauguration, reminded the team members of the enormous task ahead, expressing confidence and strong conviction on their capacity to deliver.

Adamu said: “This exercise kick-started the re-negotiation process across the three segments of the tertiary education sub-sector. We will commence with university-based labour unions, but shortly, the re-negotiation team for polytechnics and colleges of education would be constituted.

“This renegotiation is a pointer that government was committed to keeping its promise to provide an environment that is conducive for teaching, learning, research and community services by sustaining lasting industrial harmony in the institutions.

“Conducive environment in the tertiary institutions is the bedrock for the development of a nation’s intelligentsia. A nation’s development can be seriously enhanced by the active participation of the intelligence in the pursuit of the country’ developmental goals.”

Meanwhile, three years after, little or no progress has been made in that regard and that had been responsible for renewed academic disruption in public universities. ASUU had repeatedly threatened to pull out of the re-negotiation citing “insincerity” of the Federal Government renegotiation team led by Dr Babalakin.

A few days ago, ASUU embarked on two weeks warning strike which snowballed into an indefinite strike on Monday. It said the warning strike was to raise the consciousness of government to the needs of the University lecturers and open a window for fruitful discussion.

Meanwhile, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, told journalists recently in Abuja, that public universities in Nigeria could best be described as epicentres of academic, financial and administrative fraud, and have been responsible for the poor record of academic excellence and amazing research breakthrough.

He said that government was determined to purge the public universities system of massive fraud which have taken a heavy toll on the system, in spite of perceived “resistance” from the university-based labour unions, particularly the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Echono said that ASUU’s resistance to IPPIS was a pointer that some fraudulent activities have been happening in the system over the years, particularly in the payroll system.

He regretted the fact that ASUU has been feeding the public with false claim and information about IPPIS that has eliminated payroll fraud in the public service in the country.

He disclosed that about 70 per cent of the workforce in the 37 Federal Universities have fully enrolled in the IPPIS platform, leaving 30 per cent of the workers, mostly the ASUU members who deliberately refused to enrol.

Echono said: “The fraud in the universities is alarming. You will be shocked to know that the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) did a system check recently and the discoveries were shocking. The worst two organizations mentioned were the Teaching Hospitals and public universities.

“As the accounting officer of the Ministry of Education, I can tell you that there is massive fraud going on there. No university is an exception. We may not have the record of state universities, but you can imagine what the case would be there. It’s not peculiar to universities. We had similar problems in the public service before IPPIS was introduced but that has been significantly minimized.”


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