Nigerian universities have lost four years, seven months of their academic session in two decades as a result of incessant strikes, according to Nigerian Pilot investigation. Revealing the economic and monetary implications of the industrial actions of the universities, a data from the investigation uncovered that federal, state governments and proprietors of public universities in the country may have lost a whooping N1.65 trillion to strikes embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, since the nation return to democracy in 1999.
It was uncovered that besides counting the losses in monetary term, the nation has also lost a generation of graduates. It recorded that as a result of ASUU strike, there has been a massive migration of students to foreign institution. The amount, according to data compiled from various sources in the cause of the investigation, represents the salaries paid to staff in the university system for a cumulative period of four years, seven months, during which ASUU went on strikes in the last two decades. The data showed that ASUU, which is currently on strike since March 9, had gone on strike in each year in the last 21 years with rare exception of 2014 and 2015. The academic staff in all of the nation’s public universities went on a strike for a total of 19 times with a cumulative period of over 1, 437 days. An analysis of the timelines of strikes by Universities in Nigeria showed that the on-going strike, which started on March 9, with a two-week warning and the indefinite strike, which commenced on March 29 is the longest in the history of ASUU strikes as it has lasted for about 186 days as at September 16 and still counting. Before then, the strike in 2003, which snowballed into 2004, was the longest as it lasted 180 days, the analysis showed. It was also observed that some of the strikes dovetailed into a new year like in 2003, which ended in 2004 and 2011, which also ended in 2012. The investigation showed that about N1.65 trillion lost by the Federal and state governments represented total emoluments paid to the staff during the period the strikes lasted, obviously for work not done, as the federal government never invoked the provisions of the extant Act on “No work, No pay.” It also revealed that the amount covered the payment of staff in 43 federal and 47 state universities, where the workers are unionised. However, the staff of the nation’s 78 private universities are mostly not unionised and have not been part of the numerous ASUU strikes, the data showed. However, the latest available data on payment of salaries in Nigerian Universities provided by the National Universities Commission, NUC, Statistical Digest 2018 released in April 2019 showed that the federal and state governments committed a total of N308.5bilion(N308, 526,701, 478.39) to payment of salaries. The figure did not include Rivers State University, University of Ilorin, University of Jos and Yobe State University, which for undisclosed reasons were not covered in the Statistical computation released by NUC. The amount lost to the strikes was arrived at after our reporter used the annual payment of N308.5billion as an average and multiplied by about four years and seven months of strikes by the university lecturers. Data obtained from NUC and office of the Accountant General of the Federation showed that the least paid university lecturer earns N1,979,640 per annum, while a Senior Lecturer earns about N3,091,505. Similarly, a Reader or Associate Professor earns at least N3,768,221 per annum while a full Professor earns N5,004,750 per annum. It was found out that the Federal and state universities had a total of about 51,000 academic staff in 2017 but the figure may have risen to at least 61,000 in 2020 even though NUC statistical data is yet to formally report on the number of staff in the universities in the years after 2017. Meanwhile, the president of ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi was quoted in an online media as justifying the numerous strikes by university lecturers, saying the action had helped the educational sector. “You need to look so far over the years what the strike has achieved for the Nigerian education sector and compare it to what is happening in other sub-sectors of the educational system. If not for ASUU, the public universities, in fact, public tertiary education would have collapsed totally beyond recovery. “So you can best appreciate that when you compare and contrast what is happening as a result of ASUU struggle and what is not happening as a result of lack of struggle at the level of primary and secondary education of the country,” he said, adding that Nigerians should appreciate the lecturers for the strikes. “They are not concerned with the plight of the poor. All you see now is how to fix their children into positions of advantage to the disadvantage of the children of the poor,” he said. “The best way to do it is to ensure that their children receive the best of education while the children of the poor are subjected to substandard and low-quality education.
“NUT cannot do what ASUU is doing now because the government will seize their salary; they have underpaid them; they have not given them the right to ventilate their anger. And because of that, they have become disillusioned in places where they are working. “So Nigerians should actually be thanking ASUU, for the wake-up calls we always give the Nigerian government. “And let me tell you as far back as 1992, each time we went for an action we refer government to inject funds so that public universities will not go on the same place with primary and secondary schools. In 1992, it’s as a result of ASUU struggle that government introduced TETFUND. “TETFUND today is the only source of providing infrastructural amenities in Nigerian Universities. So people who are ignorant are the ones saying we are destroying calendar,” he said.