Reading the impression and expression written on the faces of Students across Nigerian Universities, studying different courses, especially in Bayero University, Kano on Friday 4th February, 2022, it was an obvious disposition of uncertainty. Apprehension littered the humid air. In small groups, Students conversed among themselves on a similar topic. "Are we really embarking on another ASUU strike?" was the the most frequently asked questions on campus as the first week of the second month in the new year gradually winds down.

All across most Universities in Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union Of University popularly referred to as ASUU in the labour industry, met at an emergency Congress meeting on Thursday 3rd February, 2022 at the various branch levels. The discussion and deliberation centered on the report of Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed between the Federal government of Nigeria and the Union (FNG/ASUU) and the level of implementation thus far. 

The major issues in the agreement over the years has been; revitalisation of public universities, restructuring of salary structure of lecturers and the novel row over the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS) which the university dons vehemently opposed and seek to be replaced with the University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS).

As it was the general outcome across the country, the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria branch of ASUU in a communique signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the Union, addressed to all Head of Departments, the Union resolved to:

"Declare Monday 7th February, 2022 as lecture free day to mobilise it's members, stakeholders (Students and general public) in protests to the action of government towards the implementation of the Memorandum of Action since the suspension of our last strike as directed by the National Executive Council of ASUU".

What does this imply for the vulnerable Students and the general public? This has further exposed the insincerity of government towards the education system which stands as the backbone of human capital development with Health at the other end of the indicator. It is obvious that the previous agreements entered between the Federal government and the Union, where the Minister of labour and employment, Senator Chris Ngige served as the lead negotiator amounts only to a fruitless exercise. The only aim it achieved was to pacify the University lecturers back to the lecture rooms without addressing the germane issues of the agreements signed as far back as 2009 in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Union.

The current reality reads that, the government has been redundant without taking any proactive steps towards the revitalisation of our Universities.

For the Students, the whole drama means that after the prolonged ASUU strike of 2020 and the excruciating effects of Covid-19 which has distabilised  the academic calendar, making a 4 years programme to experience elasticity of up to 6 years, another round of strike looms with loads of uncertainties.

Despite the nagging demand of the lecturers accompanied by the cry of the Students who are at the detriment, the topic which interest those at the corridor of power in Aso Rock and the Ministry of Education is centered around a king, a kingmaker and who will succeed the President come 2023. This is in devious neglect of the rot incubently experienced in our Universities due to underfunding.

As at the last check, the annual budgetary allocation of the Ministry of Education has remained perpetually below 10 percent despite UNESCO recommendation for a minimum of 25 percent allocation. The fact that Professors who are peaking as intellectuals in the country receives a monthly paycheck below 500,000.00 is a national embarrassment. A comparison with other less intellectually demanding Ministries with keep you sober. This has relegated our Education system to the background. Our lecturers are inundated with lack of enthusiasm due to unavailability of teaching aids cum hands-on teaching devices with laboratory equipments not readily available. At the receiving end is the students who are perplexed with an unaccomodating learning environment.

As the 2023 general elections draws closer, I will reiterate that; this is not the best of times to embark on strike. The resulting consequences might spiral into widespread insecurity and heightened political thuggery.

I call on the federal government to jettison any unwarranted policy and with the urgency that it deserves, kick start an immediate and aggressive implementation of all agreements reached with ASUU without exception. This is the only practical doctrine of rescuing our institutions of higher learning from impending total collapse and international marginalisation.

Tijani Hassan Abdulkarim
Kano, Nigeria

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