News Analysis By Okee Sydney-Obiukwu
The general elections of 2019 in Nigeria may suffer some operational challenges, if the threat of the Academic Staff Union of Universities ( ASUU) not to participate in the conduct of the elections is carried out, as the union vows to sustain its strike action which began six ago.
The union had earlier in January 4 met with the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu and some officers of the commission. After the meeting, it resolved that it would not participate in the 2019 polls, but said that its members could take part as individuals.
The ongoing six weeks strike has since grounded public universities and will, no doubt, adversely affect the conduct of the 2019 general elections, especially since INEC has traditionally sourced much of its key returning officers from ASSU members.
In view of the vital role which ASSU plays in participating in the conduct of elections in Nigeria, are there hopes that the impasse between the federal government and ASSU will be resolved anytime soon? Let’s look at the issues.
Recall that representatives of ASUU, last week, walked out on a meeting with the Federal Government representatives.
Addressing the press at briefing held at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), ASSU’s National President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi said: “The Federal Government should demonstrate serious commitment to implement the spirit and letters of the 2009 Federal Governmental /ASUU agreement.
“It should also consider the implementation of the 2013 and 2017 Memorandum of Understanding, MoU it had with us.
“All we are asking for is the improved infrastructural development of Nigeria’s public universities to be globally competitive.”
The Academic Staff Union of Universities on Thursday said the ongoing strike would not be called off until the Federal Government fully implemented all the offers it made to the union after their last meeting.
The university lecturers said they were tired of Federal Government’s antics of making unfulfilled promises, insisting that the strike would be called off after they got tangible evidence and concrete actions that the offers made to them by the Federal Government had been implemented.
On Tuesday, ASUU met with the Federal Government officials including the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, as well as his Labour and Employment counterpart, Chris Ngige.
After their discussions, Ngige disclosed that the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance had confirmed with evidence that N15.4bn had been released to public universities.
But ASUU president recalled that last year, the government promised to release funds for the revitalisation of public universities, which was one of the demands of the union, but failed to do so.
He explained that in order to forestall a situation ASUU and the government would restart negotiations on arrears of earned academic allowances, both sides agreed that “it would be mainstreamed into the 2019 budget.”
According to him, such an agreement was reached last year, but he said the government failed to honour it.
Ogunyemi stated, “We are going to have a discussion on when to commence renegotiation because there are still grey areas. If the government can substantially address these issues, we will be more confident to face our members on the way forward. For now, the feeler we are getting is that our members do not actually want to accept this government proposal from us.
“They said they would pay the shortfall of salary arrears of what was removed from workers’ salaries. There are 20 universities identified. The money will be available by January 18. It is around the corner and we will see if it will come.”
The ASUU leadership is expected to return to Ngige with the outcome of its meeting with the National Executive Committee over the offers made by government to the union.
The meeting between the minister and the ASUU leadership may hold today (Friday).
Let us hope that both parties will shift grounds to forestall the likely untoward impact that ASSU’s non-participation in the general elections of 2019 may have on the entire process, if the crises is not resolved.