Three months after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its nine-month strike, the union may decide to shut down universities again.
The union recently issued a notice saying another industrial action was imminent because the Federal Government has failed to fulfil its agreement with the union.
In December 2020, the union suspended its nine-month strike after the Federal Government agreed to address lecturers’ demands on revitalisation of public universities, salary shortfall, neglect and poor funding of state universities among others.
But in an interview with Punch the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba criticised the union’s plan to embark on another industrial action, saying it is a disservice to the students.
Nwajiuba said the FG can’t fulfil some of ASUU’s demands now because it’s been difficult for the government to run the lives of over 200 million people with less than $70m a day in earnings.
The minister said, “Whoever is conceiving a strike after being on a strike for close to one year is damaging the studentship because government is a continuum. Even if we are not in power today, another government, as the case may be, will be there.
“Whoever is in power will continue to engage with any union. But that shouldn’t stop the country from functioning because the rest of the country are the ones you put at risk.
“I have never supported strikes. However, I believe people should press for their demands as responsibly as possible. It is the responsibility of the government to continue to engage them.”
When asked if the union should be patient with the government, the minister said it depended on the union’s style of demand.
He said, “It depends on the style of the demands; some of them are what the government can do now, some can be what the government can do later.
“I’m sure you’re aware of the revenue base of the country — 1.5 million barrels are sold. It is difficult to run the lives of over 200 million people with less than $70m a day in earnings. It is amazing that the President has managed to keep the country afloat.”
This, however, may prompt lecturers to shut down universities again as ASUU chairman, University of Ibadan branch, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, recently asked Nigerians to blame the Federal Government if universities are shut down again.