Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at Nnamdi Azikiwe University (ASUU-UNIZIK), Awka branch, have urged students to hold the Federal Government of Nigeria accountable if the union initiates another nationwide strike.

This message was conveyed during a protest that joined counterparts nationwide in response to the government’s failure to sign an agreement with the union over the past two years.

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The union leaders emphasized their readiness to embark on another strike if the federal government continues to neglect their agreement.

Speaking at a press conference at the ASUU-UNIZIK Secretariat in Awka on Tuesday, prior to the protest, ASUU-UNIZIK Chairman, Professor Kingsley Ubaorji, lamented that two years after the union was persuaded to return to the classrooms, the government has yet to address their demands.

“In 2022, ASUU went on strike for eight months. Public universities were closed, and students were sent home because the government failed to meet our demands as outlined in the renegotiated 2009 agreement with ASUU,” Prof. Ubaorji said. “Despite suspending the strike out of respect for the rule of law, two years later, the government still hasn’t signed the agreement.”

He added, “Our union held an emergency National Executive Council meeting on June 8, 2024, and noted that President Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s administration has not fully engaged with us to address these outstanding issues decisively.”

The unresolved issues include:

  • Renegotiation and implementation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement and the Prof. Nimi Briggs Report.
  • Funding for the revitalization of public universities as per the 2012, 2013 MoUs, and the 2017 MoA.
  • Payment of withheld salaries and Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
  • Addressing the incompatibility of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) with the university system.
  • Implementation of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) instead of IPPIS.
  • Resolution of the illegal dissolution of governing councils and the unchecked proliferation of public universities.

Prof. Ubaorji emphasized that the issues with successive governments and their failure to honor commitments have continually led to strikes. He pointed out the tangible benefits achieved through ASUU’s struggles, including subsidized tuition, establishment of TETFund, and infrastructure development in universities.

“Our salaries haven’t been reviewed since 2009, despite rising inflation. This discourages bright students from joining the teaching profession, leading to a future shortage of lecturers,” he said.

The union insists on the government’s immediate action to address these critical issues, including the release of withheld salaries and EAA, remittance of third-party deductions, and proper funding for universities.

Prof. Ubaorji warned that if the government does not act within two weeks, ASUU will embark on another long strike, and students should blame the Federal Government for the disruption.

During the protest, the Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Owerri Zone, Prof. Dennis Aribodor, criticized the excessive taxation on lecturers’ salaries and urged the government to prevent a total shutdown of Nigerian universities.

Protesters carried placards with messages such as “FG stop deceiving Nigerians,” “FG pay us 3-years of arrears and salaries,” “lecturers’ dignity matters,” “blame FG for another long strike,” “pay us fairly,” “stop suffocating university lecturers,” “support quality education,” and “FG allow lecturers to breathe.”