The 2017/2018 academic session started on a shaky note for universities, with a strike by three unions paralysing administrative and non-academic activities, report Abdulsalam Mahmud, Uwoghiren Eddy (400 Level Medicine and Surgery, UNIBEN), Miftaudeen Raji (300-Level Mass Communication, UNILAG), and Temitope Yakubu (Akure).
IN pursuit of their demands, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technicians (NAAT) joined forces to start a strike early last month. Their grouse was alleged biased payment of earned allowances in favour of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Last November, the Federal Government released N23 billion for the payment of earned allowances for workers in its universities.
ASUU got N18.3billion, others, N4.6 billion. In protest, the unions went on an indefinite strike last December 4.
The effect of the strike is being felt now after the Yuletide. Schools have resumed form holidays, but the SSANU, NASU and NAAT members are on strike. Though lectures are ongoing, the campuses are not running smoothly.
CAMPUSLIFE was at the Bosso and Gidan Kwano campuses of the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMINNA), where lectures have commenced in some faculties. A few non-academic staff who hid their identities, were reported to have rendered skeletal services in some key offices.
The strike, it was gathered, hampered timely computation of last semester’s examination results, so, many departments are yet to release the results.
A 300-Level Agricultural Engineering student, who gave his name as Abimbola, said he had not completed his departmental registration because of the strike.
He flayed Federal Government’s attitude of perennially reneging on agreements reached with the unions.
Abimbola said: “There is no guarantee when most of us will complete our departmental registration. I just hope the new session will spell success for students, having commenced with an avoidable industrial action. But meanwhile, I appeal to NASU to call off the strike in the interest of hapless students.”
Umar Nafisa, a fresher, said that her efforts to do some signing and screening to complete her registration as a new student had been hampered by the absence of some units’ staff workers.
“Honesty, my patience will soon reach its elastic limit, as it has given way for frustration and utter disgust, already. The agony of fresh students unable to complete their registrations is better imagined than experienced. It is high time both NASU and the Federal Government sheathe their swords. Posterity will never be kind to them, if they in cahoot, decide to mortgage our bright futures”, he said.
A final year student, Gift Samson, told CAMPUSLIFE that most of her peers had vowed not to resume for the new session, till they are able to pay their school fee, despite the commencement of lectures.
Another student, Desmond, expressed fear that most of the graduating students risked not being mobilised early for their NYSC.
A non-academic staff who preferred anonymity said some students had refused to resume out of fear of not to being able to complete their registration.
He however appealed to students and parents to show some understanding with the striking workers, noting that they are on a rescue mission that will restore sanity to university education in the country.
“This particular strike has done more havoc, than achieving its sacred objectives. So far, majority of the students are yet to pay their school fees, as staff of the ITE department are on strike, just as their colleagues. Though, I sympathize with the students, we SSANU members, cannot afford to trade-off or compromise our rights”, the anonymous staff said.
It has been a tale of despair for many fresh and returning students of the Ibrahim Badamosi University Lapai (IBBUL) -n Niger State, as manual screening and registration have become challenging.
Our correspondent learnt that few students have resumed for academic activities, but many offices were scanty as administrative duties, had been grounded.
Rukkaiya Idris Kandi, a 100-Level History and International Relations student said that she had travelled to IBBUL’s Main Campus twice and returned to Minna dejected as her credentials were not screened.
“I was disappointed when I got to Lapai for screening, and learnt that those saddled with the responsibility are on strike. NASU and government should expedite action in resolving the contending issues forthwith. Self-serving interests should not subjugate common interests.”
A recent graduate of English department, who simply called herself Zainab, queried: “If we laboured to graduate, should we likewise labour to do our clearance, as a result of NASU strike?”
She appealed to the school management to look into the issue, for them to be mobilised for service.
At the University of Benin (UNIBEN administrative activities are almost at a standstill. The University health centre is currently grounded- with dust have taken over some of the facilities there.
CAMPUSLIFE learnt that the Anatomy gate, which connects the University and Teaching Hospital, has been under lock and key since the strike started. Only the pedestrian gate is open. Also, only one side of the main gate leading to the university was left open for vehicular movement – forcing motorists coming use it.
A staff Agbontaen Idowu who bore his mind on the issue, said they have been exposed to much hardship since the strike started.
Few weeks ago, my neighbour’s son was sick and we rushed him to him to health centre only to discover that they have been grounded by the strike. We drove to Anatomy gate and discovered that it was locked. We had to come down from the car and rushed him on our shoulders through the pedestrian gate and then carried him still on our shoulders to Children Emergency room. We abandoned our car at the Anatomy gate,” he said.
CAMPUSLIFE learnt that final students that finished in July were yet to be mobilized for NYSC and complete their clearance.
Mike Osaigbova is one of such students from Engineering Faculty.
He bemoaned the government for what he called reckless abandon. “As far as I am concerned, we don’t have a government in this country. I wonder how they sleep well at night when things are not working well. I finished exams since July and I am yet to go for NYSC. I have been at home for over six months wasting useful time. My colleagues from private universities have even been posted to their Place of Primary Assignment. The government is unconcerned because their children are not in this country. I can’t wait for 2019 to get them kicked out”.
Medical students have not found the strike funny. Although classes and postings have been regular, water and power supply to the hostels have been epileptic.
It was learnt that 400-Level medical students scheduled to write Pharmacology test in December had it postponed because of the strike.
One of the students who pleaded anonymity said: “Our classes and postings hold as scheduled, but we sometimes go to the clinic without taking out bath because there is no water in medical hostel. Light supply is erratic. There was a time in December when the light supply to the hostel was cut off for days.”
He added that the students visit Nursing Hostel located within the University teaching hospital with buckets to fetch water every evening.
“I must commend the porters at the Nursing hostel. They allow us to fetch water whenever they see us with buckets. Had it not been them, I wonder where we would be getting water. Our porters in medical hostel are on strike and there is no one to pump water for us.”
CAMPUSLIFE learnt that medical students now go for clinical postings with chargers, laptops and lamp because their aren’t sure when next electricity will be supplied to their hostels.
Those who own cars have been forced to abandon their cars because the Anatomy gate is locked.
One of them said ‘ I have left my car at Medical hostel car park since December when the strike started. I have been forced to trek to clinic daily or use the main gate and drive through Ugbowo, which is a long journey. Sometimes I even go late to clinic. The government should urgently look into the issues surrounding the strike and settle them as soon as possible”.
Students and lecturers at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) are expressing grief over the strike.
“Freshers” seem to be more at the receiving end because most of their registration processes are handled by the administrative staff.
Jeremiah, a newly admitted student at the Faculty of Arts, lamented his inability to make payment for his tuition.
This is because the students’ online portal that generates the payment advice which students use to make payment at banks is down because of the strike.
He said, “We are trapped now because the CITS of the university is being run by members of NASU and they have not done anything for us to generate fees, and without fees no hostel for us.”
Bolu Awoye, a final year student of Mass Communication, said she has not really felt the effect much except that she could not apply as an intern at UNILAG TV because it affected them as well.
She added, “For instance, this time last year when there was no strike they’d already kick started lectures fully and preparations for convocations were on. I do hope they find a lasting solution as soon as possible.”
Mercy Ivinagbor believes the SSANU/NASU/NAAT strike has not affected her the way ASUU strike did.
“The only thing was that it took me like forever before I could finish my hostel registration.”
She said the Federal Government was not really paying attention to the demands of striking unions unlike ASUU.
She urged government to have proper negotiations with the unions so they can resume work.
A female student, who simply identified herself as Yetunde, said the strike had not really affected her.
“I am not really affected though, while others had issues with their hostel registration, I started and completed mine in one day. The only stress would be the department which they locked. Trekking from Moremi Hall to the department back and forth at some point was tiresome.
A final year undergraduate of Mass Communication, Ore Aderinkomi, said the strike had slowed down the registration process of the newly admitted students and therefore rendered them unavailable for lectures.
However, despite affecting the day-to-day administration of the university, he too said the strike was ineffective.
“In the coursse of fighting for the so called rights and benefits they have decided to slow down the education process and the smooth running of the academic calendar which will affect the final year students,” Aderinkomi said.
Meanwhile, a senior lecturer in Faculty of Social Sciences of the University who does not want to be named faulted the way the SSANU/NASU/NAAT issues were being handled, saying the members did not approach the issue with enough wisdom.
He said, “This is government. You cannot win government. You’ve got to apply some wisdom to this matter. Peaceful protest is legitimate in any democracy but, there’s a way to go about it.
“The Vice President used to be a member of the academia in this university. He was at a time a lecturer, HOD and dean at the Faculty of Law. I expect the UNILAG chapter to send a delegation to him in Abuja. He knows how to press the government on their demands, rather than disturbing the peace of people on campus.
“More so, they could take peaceful demonstration to the National Assembly, the Senate and House committees would listen them and address their issues,” he said.
The workers of the three unions, under the Joint Action Committee (JAC) staged a protest on campus last week to further press for their demands.
At FUTA, the withdrawal of the services of SSANU/NASU/NAAT members, in addition to the absence of administrative functions, has paralysed activities in the various laboratories and workshops.
Lamenting his negative effect, Adeyinka Phillip, 300 level, Computer Science, called for government intervention.
“The NASU nationwide strike is not a good one for us (students), the members are the ones in-charge of our laboratories, workshops, health centres, what have you?, they help put into practice topics that are being taught in our various classrooms, treatment of students etc.
Major Ajisafe, a 500-Level, Quantity Surveying student, urged government to address the strike though lectures have been ongoing.
“It is no news that the major stakeholders every learning environment cannot do without are the teachers (Lecturers) and students, which means it is possible for universities to run their various academic calendars even without NASU being available on campus. But the effect of the strike will tell on us.
At the Federal University Oye Ekiti, Boliwatife Omodara, a 300-Level Theatre Arts student, complained about the absence of social amenities.
“The major implications are of the strike on campus are no certificate or statement of result will be issued, no transcript will be processed, no security is assured on campus, electricity failure and no water supply, registration/ screening of candidates, cosure of Library,” she said.
Another student, Dare Bejide, a 500-Level of Electrical Electronic department, ýcalled for government intervention
“We are eager to graduate, our younger ones are also coming into the system, and we want to see them prosper.
“Therefore, we want the federal government to please come in a special way to intervene, to see how this matter will be resolved.
“Poor education funding and negligence on the part of the government have left the university system with myriads of problems with negative impact on quality and standard of education in the country,” he said.