On Saturday, October 5, 2013, Spaces for Change (S4C) convened an e-conference, “FG-ASUU Face off: The Issues Within” featuring Dr. James Okpiliya, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Calabar chapter. Over 3500 members of S4C forum, comprising mainly of young Nigerians converged online to engage the ASUU representative, with the objective of understanding the demands of the striking Nigerian university lecturers, ascertain the status of FG-ASUU negotiations and proffer recommendations on the way forward.
The ASUU strike action grounded academic activities in Nigerian universities across the country forcing students to remain at home throughout the period. The union has made it clear that it has no plans to call off the ASUU strike until their demands, as captured in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by Government on January 24, 2012 and recommendations in the report of Government’s Committee on Needs Assessment, are met by the Federal Government (FG). By that agreement, the federal government agreed it would inject N100 billion as funding into the universities in the first month; and that before the end of 2012, they would inject another N300 billion.
Prior to the commencement of the strike action, FG had also reneged on another 2009 agreement with representatives of ASUU. The agreement was due for a review on the, June 20, 2012 but the agreement has not been substantially implemented. Due in large part of to the regularity of reneged agreements, ASUU is accusing the Federal Government of willful refusal to honour an agreement into which it (government) voluntarily entered. On the other hand, the Supervising Minister of Education, Chief Nyesom Wike, has also disclosed that the Federal Government has met 80 per cent of ASUU’s demands, except those of earned allowances and the N400 billion annual capital expenditure to universities.
Prior to the conference, hundreds of online users responded to Spaces for Change’s call for submission of questions. A total of 122 questions centered on the ASUU strike and Nigeria’s education sector were received, synchronized and presented to the guest speaker to rejoin and elucidate on. Elnathan John, a young popular writer and lawyer moderated the e-conference. Beyond the group discussions on the Facebook social networking site, the E-conference proceedings were robustly live-streamed on Twitter, another social networking platform. The discussions attracted scores of retweets and followers to the @spaces4change handle on Twitter, while a great number of Twitter audiences used the hashtag #FGASUUFaceoff to follow the discussions.
While some vehemently condemned the FG for reneging on their promise, forcing the lecturers to go on the strike, others blamed ASUU for being insensitive to the plight of the students they had been trained to teach. Other range of issues raised include the inability of the Nigerian government to honor court rulings, provide funding for the revitalization of public universities in Nigeria which coincidentally had been confirmed by the Federal government through the Needs Assessment Report on the state of public universities in Nigeria and the Federal Government Technical Committee recommendations to both the Federal Executive Council and the National Economic Council.
To read the full text or download the report of the conference proceedings, click HERE
Picture credit: Kayode Ogundamisi