On Sunday 1st December 2013, the strike called by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria entered its sixth month with no end in sight. As neither the government nor the trade unionists seem willing to change their positions, it is the students and parents who are bearing the brunt of the standoff. Since the first day of the ASUU strike, the union has failed to make their demands public, we have lifted the lid on their barefaced demands to bring you some facts about the strike that will shock you.
Facts Nigerians Must Know About ASUU Strike
1. ASUU is pressing for duty-free importation of teaching materials through their own company
One of the demands being fronted by ASUU is that the Nigerian Customs Service should lift import duty imposed on those importing materials meant for higher education in Nigeria. On the face of it, this would sound like a pretty reasonable demand. After all, teaching materials imported by universities are for the common good of all Nigerians.
What ASUU has conveniently kept under wraps is the fact that they are pushing for the Federal Government to give ASUU Holdings, a company registered and wholly owned by ASUU to be the sole importer of such materials in the country. It is a barefaced demand driven by nothing but greed, caprice, an unwarranted sense of entitlement and impunity.
2. Exorbitant postgraduate supervision allowances
One of the key demands ASUU is pushing hard to get from the Federal government is an increase in allowances paid to lecturers and professors who supervise research being done by postgraduate students. The staff union is demanding that for each student supervised, the federal government should pay N157,000. This would apply to all types of postgraduate research projects from postgraduate diploma to masters and doctorate degrees.
To put this demand in proper perspective, a professor in charge of just five postgraduate students would be taking home N800,000 per session. If this is not the face of unbridled greed, we do not know what else is. We have heard from knowledgeable sources that such high fees are unknown in any other higher education system in the world.
3. ASUU is asking for N50,000 as an allowance for assessing students on teaching practice and industrial attachment
When trainee teachers are out in schools learning how to apply the knowledge they have learnt in class, it is customary for their lecturers to assess them on competence. The same applies to students training in other professional disciplines such as business management or social work. This as you may guess, is part of the lecturer’s job description. While it is understandable that these lecturers should be given a token in the way of transport allowance, the kind of demands being made by the staff union borders on the incredible.
ASUU is demanding that for each student assessed during their teaching practice or industrial attachment, the lecturer should receive fifty thousand Naira (N50,000). You only need to imagine that a lecturer has only 40 students to assess to take home 1 million Naira. Some lecturers assess up to fifty students in a matter of a few days. At this time they are still getting paid their statutory salaries and allowances too.
4. The strike is all about the lecturers, ASUU has shown zero-sympathy fo the welfare of students and parents
To gain favour with the public and earn a sympathetic ear from Nigerian media, ASUU leadership tried to create the impression that their strike action was about the deplorable state of the universities and that if their demands were met, it was the students and parents who would benefit the most. This sort of narrative thrived in the early days of the ASUU strike. However, it soon became apparent that the staff union was only interested in advancing the greedy interest of its members at everybody’s else expense.
A case in point is an incident which took place at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko. Sympathetic about the demands of his teaching staff but nonetheless determined to have students who had completed their studies graduate; the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olufemi Mimiko called together an Ad Hoc committee of the Senate made of Senior Professors on contract who are not members of ASUU to process graduating students results. Prof. Mimiko was careful not to rub ASUU wrong by having the committee meet off campus and relied on officers and administrators at the departmental level for data.
When the leadership of the local ASUU branch caught wind of these developments, they went on the offensive, firing off a letter which insulted those who served on the committee. The union went as far as to try to prevent information being passed on to the committee. This certainly smacks off intransigence and unwillingness to be sympathetic to the plight of others.