The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked on a two-week warning strike, starting today. That is typical and I have written about these strikes! Nigeria is a nation of strikes; it rotates around university teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. But ASUU has taken this to a new dimension with no apparent sensitivity of the situations on grounds. I have to be careful here because most of my professors are here, and many are ASUU members.
Yet, this new strike is thoughtless. They are striking “following the decision of the federal government to stop salaries of lecturers who have not enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).” Can you believe that? Nigerian professors think it is better to use Three Stars exercise books to record payrolls over modern IT technologies. I mean ASUU should be the vehicle to push for digitization of every aspect of government in order to bring transparency, productivity and cost saving.
More so, ASUU should note that Nigeria cannot help it now. With oil trading below $40 today, the 2020 national budget is already off by more than 30% before it begins! So, there is nothing in that budget that can stand completely. It is important ASUU shows understanding and stops this radical approach of going on thoughtless strikes.
The strike action is also to compel federal government to implement the agreements and resolutions of Memorandum of Action discussed in the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoU), all of which have not been implemented, officials of the lecturers’ union said.
Yet, this does not mean that ASUU does not have some points against IPPIS as this brilliant article has argued. The problem is that the opportunity cost has not moved the government to change its mind. There is no way in this world where you can seek autonomy from a man or woman that pays your salary! Nigerian public universities can NEVER be “autonomous” if their salaries continue to come from governments.
1. Loss of Autonomy: Every Nigerian federal university is an independent community of its own, with its own instituted governing council and senate. It has independent control over its affairs and programme. It answers to itself alone, even if it is funded by the government. This is an act, ASUU didn’t create it. It will, therefore, be odd if an independent community that runs its things loses control over its affairs because the piper started dictating the tune.
As an autonomous community, a university has the right to hire and to fire. In fact, that time ASUU was vying for this autonomy (in the early 2000’s, I think), many university staff were uncomfortable because they knew that once FG grants ASUU its demand, Abuja will no longer protect their (the staff’s) jobs. This is to say that in Nigerian universities today, once you misbehave, you will be sanctioned immediately. This is why it is easy to disengage university lecturers, unlike what you witness in federal ministries and parastatals.
But then, FG has not addressed the issues of universities losing their autonomous completely if they enroll their staff under IPPIS.
You do not start a strike on the day the world is falling apart. ASUU has business professors who should be aware of what coronavirus is doing to global economies. To think that arguing that a man or a woman wants his salaries recorded in a paper over a computer should bother the government now is unfortunate. With oil below $40, the budget is nearly out that the government may have to cut severely. I do not think today is the right day to begin strike with this virus still active!