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ASUU, Call Off This Strike Now

By Farooq A. Kperogi Twitter: @farooqkperogi People who have read me in the past few months know that I am unambiguous in my support for ASU...

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

People who have read me in the past few months know that I am unambiguous in my support for ASUU's 6-months-plus-old strike even though I am personally affected by it because I have siblings and cousins that I support financially in Nigerian universities.

While the strike is justified and deserves the support of all who give a thought to higher education in Nigeria, the leadership of ASUU appears to be squandering the goodwill it has earned from most Nigerians over these past months.

It has now come to light that ASUU and the federal government have achieved a resolution of their differences on most of the issues that propelled the strike but were deadlocked only on the ASUU leadership’s insistence that its members be paid for the six months that they’ve been on strike, which the federal government says violates spirit and letter of the Trade Disputes Act.  

Minister of Education Adamu Adamu told journalists on Thursday that “all contentious issues between the government and ASUU have been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of strike be paid, a demand that Buhari has flatly rejected.”

It would be compassionate if the government would pay ASUU members for the period they have been on strike, but the government has no legal obligation to do so. Section 43 of the Trade Disputes Act is unequivocal in insisting that striking workers are not entitled to their habitual remunerations for the period that they cease to work.

This sort of “no-work-no-pay” law is almost universal, and it’s not unreasonable. While strike is a legitimate and legally protected instrument to protest against unfair practices by an employer and to negotiate better conditions of service, employers are not obligated to compensate workers for the period that they withhold their services in the service of their industrial action.

ASUU president Emmanuel Osodeke’s response to the federal government’s “no-work-no-pay” position was rather petulant. “He is joking,” Osodeke said. “If they fail to pay, we will not teach those students; we won’t make up for that period. We will start a new session. We won’t conduct examinations; we will start a fresh session totally.”

Well, that’s unwarranted, unearned cruelty against innocent students who have, for the most part, supported this strike against their own self-interest. This cruelty becomes even more intolerable and unjustified when you take into account the fact that none of the children of the government officials ASUU is fighting is enrolled in any public university.

In fact, in spite of the propaganda against ASUU members, the children of most ASUU members attend public universities. So, is Osodeke saying ASUU will spite and kill the dreams of even the children of its members because the federal government has chosen to implement a legal but hurtful industrial policy that is observed all over the world?

All over the world, when unions go on strike, they do so with no expectation that they will be paid for work they withhold. They recognize that they may not be paid for the period that they are on strike and therefore make contingency plans for this, often in the form of paying members from union dues or other sources for the duration of the strike.

That’s called having the courage of your conviction. To go on strike, demand to be paid for work you didn’t do while on strike, and then threaten to hurt lowly, susceptible subalterns that did nothing to you because you’re not paid for work you didn’t do is scorn-worthy cowardice, not to mention reprehensible cruelty.

If workers get paid every time they are on strike, as ASUU members used to be, the spirit of self-denial that strikes are supposed to symbolize is defeated. Strikes become no more than a lazy, exploitative, temporarily inconvenient way to save money. It's a temporary inconvenience for a deferred gratification.

In other words, by superciliously insisting on being paid for work that is undone, ASUU strikes are being unwittingly presented as fraudulent money-saving enterprises at the expense of students and their guardians. It renders ASUU vulnerable to the (unfair and incorrect) charge that its members just arbitrarily decide to go on strike to force the government to unintentionally save money for them.

I have heard some ASUU members say that they deserve to be paid because although they don’t teach during strikes, they conduct research and render community service. That’s a mendacious, self-serving argument. Strike means cessation of all work in protest against unacceptable conditions of service. Lecturers who are conducting research and rendering community service but not teaching are not on strike; they are participating in what is called go-slow in British industrial relations.

“Go-slow” is a form of industrial protest where workers deliberately slow down their productivity, come late to work, or only perform small parts of the work they are contractually obligated to do in order to hurt the profits of their employers.

Go-slow doesn’t exist in Nigeria except as a slang term for traffic jams. You are either on strike or you are not, and if you’re on strike you’re not bound to be paid for the period you’re on strike. That’s Nigeria’s law.

But Osodeke told the Punch that the law doesn’t apply to ASUU members because they’re exceptional people. “Lecturers are not doctors that once life is gone, it can’t be brought back,” he said. “For lecturers, we can still resume where we stopped and still teach them and make up for lost time. But for us, if they fail to pay we won’t make up for the lost time. We won’t go back to fill backlogs…. If they want to do ‘no work no pay,’ we will also do ‘no pay no work.’ If they won’t pay the backlog, we won’t teach the backlog. We are not like other workers. He doesn’t know what he is saying.”

Forget, for now, the insufferable conceit in Osodeke’s unsupported and unsupportable claim of ASUU exceptionalism. He underplays how much the strike has maimed the hopes and dreams, and even life, of students and parents.

 I know a number of students who are depressed to the point of being suicidal because of the strike. I know female undergraduates who are now torn between getting married and abandoning their studies and waiting out the strike.

 I have worked with students who, in anticipation of their graduation this year, applied to graduate schools here in the United States, took the GRE and passed, and were accepted to schools and programs of their choice but whose admissions have been rescinded because they haven’t graduated and have no transcripts to present. That’s some type of academic death. There’s nothing ASUU will do to give back to these students what they’ve lost as a consequence of the strike.

It’s cruel to so casually dismiss the untoward consequences that the strike has had and continues to have on students and their families who happen to come from the lower end of the Nigerian social scale. The lack of empathy and self-awareness that the ASUU president betrayed is deeply disturbing.

But it gets even worse. The ASUU president also revealed in a statement that ASUU is the brain behind the federal government’s insensitive decision to tax everyday Nigerians on phone calls, text messages, and Internet data plans.

“One of such recommendations is the tax on cellphone and communication lines,” the statement he signed says. “Ironically, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning recently announced its readiness to implement ASUU's recommendation, as a revenue source, but not for education, without acknowledging the Union!”

A union that takes pride in letting the world know that it opposes tuition fees in federal universities is bragging about suggesting to the government to impose taxes that will make information and communication technology out of the reach of many poor and young people!

Of course, people who pay attention to this issue, like I do, know that ASUU’s claim is accurate. It was former Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu who, in 2016, sponsored a bill in the National Assembly to increase taxes on phone calls, text messages, and internet plans. It was abandoned in the aftermath of mass outcry.

I support ASUU and its mission to salvage the Nigerian university system from total decay. I recognize that were it for the doggedness and often painful sacrifices of its members, there wouldn’t be a university system to speak of today.

But I think ASUU is now stepping outside the bounds of reason and fairness by insisting that it must always be paid for the period it’s on strike. In doing so, it is proclaiming to be above the law.

The continuation of this strike is no longer justified. It’s now cruelty, hostage taking, and emotional blackmail rolled into one. I hope enough ASUU members realize this and prevail on each other to call this strike off in the interest of students—and ASUU’s own reputational capital.


  1. I can't believe that you believe the lies coming fr Adamu Adamu. His claim that all issues with ASUU has been resolved is simply untrue. On the contrary, nothing has been resolved. Are you sure you authored this?

  2. Lol.
    Prof, they have played you.
    Adamu Amadu and FGN have played you.

    You say, you agree with ASUU... You believe in their course; but here you are already turning.

    Or maybe, you were just waiting for the right time to show your true feelings about ASUU and their concerns.

    It is important we get full details before commenting. You clearly didn't bother to.

    Anyways, you're writing from Atlanta, so it is understandable.

  3. If you take a passing look at the 'no work no pay' policy, it looks just and fair, for its incredibly unfair even from the workers side to recieve money they did not work for.
    But on closer look,you will see that the policy is meant to be fair play only in market economy. In public sector, its simply obsecene to the workers no matter its legality. It may be used to keep workers Let compare the two and see.
    'no work no pay policy would be fair, just and effective way of curbing frequent strikes in market economy setting where both the' work' and the 'pay' are means to one end- profit. Its legal for workers to embark on strike but the strike is limiting to them because they would not be paid. Its also legal for the employers to impose 'no work no pay' policy but the strike is also limiting to them because they would lose revenue since workers down tool. So, as time goes on the interplay of the two limiting forces would naturally cause the two parties to converge and sort out things sooner than later.
    Now lets turn to the public sector, where the 'work' and the 'pay' are means to one end- societal welfare. With 'no work no pay policy' strike is limiting to public servants because they would not be paid and therefore will be very reluctant to prolong the strike or embark on it, in the first place. As for the employers (governments) the strike is not limiting to them at least in the short run of time because there is no lost revenue. Or we could say clearly there is no economic incentive to push them towards resolving the strike any time soon. Thus, a bad employer may care less or even cynically make use of it as a potent weapon.
    So, the only two things that will make the strike binding to employers in public setting is their care and duty to the society and societal pressure from students, parents and anybody who cares. While the former is not guaranteed, the later is, timewise not as imminent as economic incentives in making the employer sorts out issues. Workers may languish to the point of giving up before societal pressure works.
    'no work no pay policy' in public sector makes employees underdog, most especially in their quest for pay rise. It gives government unfair advantaage in collective bargaining. And workers may be kept perpetually under a leash and collar, to lick on miserable salary.

    Industrial strikes result from a disagreement between an employer and his employees. The employees demand that the employer modify their condition of employment, usually, but not exclusively related to demand for better pay and conditions of employment. If the employer does not satisfy the employees, the latter may go on strike to financially punish him. For example, a car manufacturer will financially lose when his factory is shut town.
    In the education and health sector, industrial strikes do not have a direct impact on the employer, an innocent intermediate victim is held to ransom. More often than not, the victim is sympathetic to the employees, but the strike by the employees causes him to suffer, including permanent damage and in case of health, even death.
    As you know, civilized societies do not permit strikes in education and health sectors. Employers, both government and private do not allow matters degenerate that far, not by suppressing employees, but by being conscious of the consequences that public anger would cause. In the past when these governments ran education and health services, the public could sack the government for the gross inconvenience strikes could cause the public. Unfortunately in Nigeria, public anger is of no consequence, so governments can let the worst happen with impunity, then even ban the protesting unions!
    I know that the huge majority of university lecturers and doctors detest going on strike, but many believe that “the only language Nigerian governments understand is strike, and even for that they are hard of hearing!” They would point out that most of the improvements in their sectors of the economy were reluctantly achieved only through strikes and the statistics are difficult to dispute. One once said to me,
    “You are a surgeon. Lancing a boil is a brutal and painful action, but if you do not bite your lip and do it, your patient may well die of uncontrolled infection by blood poisoning!”
    True, but these days we would use anaesthesia! The equivalent is to exempt dangerous emergencies in medicine and teach by internet in education, though neither would be satisfactory.
    The real issue at stake is that public anger has no effect on Nigerian Governments, they do not care and strikes have become ineffective in our environment.


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