THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has hinted at the possibility of returning to strike this year if the Federal Government fails to meet its demands.
ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke told The ICIR on Thursday, January 19, that the government had yet to address the issues that led to previous industrial actions.
Asked if the nation’s public universities would see a strike-free 2023, Osodeke said, “It is not possible in this country, except we have a set of leaders that will be elected and will be human beings and think about the system.”
He said ASUU members continued working because they wanted the best for the nation.
The union leader, however, pointed out that his group was waiting for the government to fulfil its promises which led to the suspension of the union’s eight-month strike in 2022.
ASUU downed tools on February 14 following the government’s failure to honour the agreement it reached with the lecturers in 2009 and meet other demands by the union.
Following an Appeal Court ruling in favour of the government on September 21, directing ASUU to resume work while upholding a similar injunction earlier given by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, the union called off its strike on October 14.
Unlike in the past, where striking workers were paid for the period they downed tools, the government vowed it would not pay ASUU.
At the end of October – two weeks after they resumed work – ASUU members received a half-month salary, which the government described as ‘pro-rata.’
The union has since demanded that the government pay its members’ backlog.
The ICIR reported in 2022 how ASUU had gone on strike for over 600 days under President Muhammadu Buhari, the longest under any leader in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the government is processing the payment of salaries backlog for the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) members, The ICIR learnt on Thursday.
A Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment official who spoke with The ICIR said CONUA members would get their eight months backlog, covering the period ASUU suspended work in 2022. But ASUU will not receive the backlog.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had given the assurance while certifying CONUA as a union.
The official who pleaded anonymity said relevant ministries were working on the payment.
According to the official, “What the government is saying is that CONUA is not affected (by the non-payment of the backlog of salaries to ASUU members.)
“There is a difference between when workers are willing to work and when employers lock the gate. When ASUU was on strike, the university authorities closed the schools after some time. CONUA members said they wanted to teach. The universities shut them out.
“So, they are entitled to their money. They have their list, register and names in each university. They have their IPPIS number and other records. ASUU had expelled them two years before the last strike.”
CONUA is a break-away group from ASUU. It claims its members did not participate in the last strike by ASUU.
The government registered the group as a trade union on October 4, 2022, when the ASUU strike was nearing eight months.
Reacting to the planned payment to CONUA, (ASUU President) Osodeke said, “Ministry of Labour doesn’t pay workers salary.”
He said CONUA never existed between March and September when ASUU was on strike. According to him, expelling CONUA two years back does not make it a union.
The ICIR reports that ASUU threatened through its lawyer, Femi Falana, a senior advocate, on Tuesday to sue the government if it pays CONUA the backlog.