Early last week, the cheering news that came about the reported calling off of the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, following their initial fruitful dialogue with the Federal Government was quickly quashed as the ASUU stuck to its guns, insisting on its demands.
This prompted the Federal Government to set up a technical committee with a view to ironing out grey areas in the face off, a development that is expected to bring the long drawn out saga to the end.
The strike by ASUU had commenced on November 4, 2018, when they downed tools owing to the failure of the Federal Government to meet with their demands which included improved funding of the universities, as well as the implementation of their previous agreements with the Government.
A series of meetings were held by both parties to find a common ground but nothing fruitful was recorded and students continued to stay at home with its attendant difficulties and dangers.
However, ASUU was said to have threatened to embark on a six-month strike if the recent agreements reached were not implemented.
No doubt, the latest development in the negotiations, which is the setting up of a technical committee by the FG, is a welcome development and one that will lift the gloom in the academic atmosphere of the country if it ends well.
At this juncture, however, it has become pertinent to draw the attention of the Federal Government to the fact that failing to meet the demands of Labour does not augur well for the country’s education system. Why would government always wait till there is a strike before it agrees to do the needful? Such failure and subsequent strike actions, as in the current case, are not only disadvantageous to the members of staff and students of universities, but especially so, to the final year students who are expected to serve the nation under the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme.
Indeed, the just suspended strike was almost threatening to affect the smooth conduct of this year’s General Elections as 70 % of ad-hoc election officers are usually drawn from members of the NYSC.
It was therefore important that both parties managed to reach an amicable settlement.
This country has had her fair share of Labour unrests and more should not be encouraged if it can be helped.
The Federal Government however needs to permanently and sincerely address the minimum wage injustice. The take home of Government officials is scandalously high, whereas the toiling workers are paid less than living wages. Like the Catholic bishop of Awka, Most Rev Paulinus Ezeokafor recently suggested, government can cut the cost of governance in order to meet up with paying workers living wages, for, as the Bible says, a labourer deserves his wages.
The sad situation in Nigeria is such that while a certain category of people do the work, a privileged few live off the sweat of the workers. This is not acceptable.
Therefore, the earlier the issue is addressed and resolved for good, the better for all concerned. Our children deserve to study without interruptions and too many of such tend to impact negatively on them.
It is our fervent hope that the FG and Labour Agreement would not break down so that the nation can start the New Year on a happy note.