Strike: How lecturers are dumping Nigerian universities for greener pastures

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has raised the alarm over the exodus of lecturers from the nation’s universities for greener pastures abroad.

The union attributed the development to the Federal Government’s poor treatment of its members which it said had forced many to venture into other sources of livelihood.

Speaking to The PUNCH, on Sunday, the National President, ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, lamented that many lecturers had taken to farming and other economic activities, while a large number had left the country.

Osodeke spoke in reaction to the government’s refusal to meet some of their demands, including the payment of seven months’ backlog of salaries accrued during the strike.

The union had embarked on four strikes totaling 578 days under the Muhammadu Buhari administration. The current strike by ASUU started on February 14, 2022, and entered its day 188 on Monday (today).

In 2017, the union went on strike for 30 days; in 2018, the lecturers shunned work for 90 days while in 2020, the public universities were shut down for 270 days.

ASUU accused the government of failing to release the revitalization funds for universities; failure to deploy the University Transparency Accountability System for the payment of salaries and allowances of university lecturers.

ASUU had also demanded the release of earned allowances for its members; the release of the whitepaper report of visitation panels to universities and renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/2009 agreement.

Speaking on the mass exile of lecturers from the university system, Osodeke stated, “So many lecturers are leaving to engage in farming and others; lecturers are tired of the treatment they’re receiving from the government and because of this, they are looking for alternatives.  So many more will leave even after the strike too.

‘’I pity the country; Nigeria will be the loser for it.  Instead of coming to the table; look at how they will solve the issue, rather, they believe in punishing lecturers. It’s so sad. Your lecturers went on strike, you believe they will become hungry and come back to beg. Many lecturers will also leave to venture into other areas; some are also looking at becoming self-employed.”

The ASUU Chairman, University of Lagos branch, Dr. Dele Ashiru, revealed that more than 70 percent of the brightest brains in academia had left the country, adding that the government had been so disrespectful and insensitive to the scholars.

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“The impact of the government’s insensitivity and deployment of the weapon of hunger might not be immediately known until after the strike. As I speak with you, more than 70 percent of bright and promising young academics retained by the university through mentorship have all left the country for greener pastures due to the poor conditions of service in Nigeria.

‘’Those that are left are on the verge of leaving. No government in the history of Nigeria has been so insensitive, brash, and disrespectful of the best brains in the country. This is unfortunate and a shame,’’ the don lamented.

Ashiru, in an interview with Arise TV, monitored by one of our correspondents on Sunday, said the union was not going to call off its strike action as done by the other academic unions.

He said, “ASUU is a union of intellectuals, we don’t look at what others do to make our decisions. We make our decisions based on verifiable facts and the facts available to us have not shown this government to be a responsible and sensible one.”

Corroborating his colleague, the Chairperson of ASUU, University of Uyo chapter, Dr. Happiness Uduk, confirmed to one of our correspondents that some lecturers had left the system.

She said, however, that she could not specify how many of them had already left UNIUYO.

She stated, “I cannot tell you how many there are because I am not sure about it. But I don’t think what is happening in other universities is different from ours. People are indeed getting opportunities and leaving the system; we have heard about people who have left already.”

It was also learned that some lecturers at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife; the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, and the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, had similarly resigned and relocated abroad.

The Chairman of the ASUU chapter of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Dr. Adeola Egbedokun, said the number of his members that had left since the strike commenced was not known yet.

Egbedokun, however, declared that he would encourage those who desired to leave to do so because of the Federal Government’s poor handling of education.

He added, “It is impossible for us to know until school reopens. That is when we can know because no one will give us notice that he or she is leaving. It is the university that would be notified, not the union.’’

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“But I will encourage as many people as possible that want to move on, to move on. That is the reality. Nigeria has been plunged into the mud. I have never seen this kind of callousness in my life,” Egbedokun concluded.

One of our correspondents in Abeokuta gathered that two lecturers had officially resigned from the OOU while several had left FUNAAB and relocated abroad.

The Chairman,  ASUU FUNAAB, Dr. Gbenga Adeleye, said he did not know the number of lecturers who had resigned or relocated.

But a union leader in FUNAAB, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many lecturers had left the university and relocated abroad.

The source further said a particular college in the university had almost become empty as a result of the development.
He said “I know that some of our colleagues have left. Some of them would say they want to go and meet their families for holidays, but we know that they will not come back.

“I can confirm to you that most people leaving often take permission that they want to go for holidays. However, they’ll not return. It’s not official because some of them go under the guise that they are coming back.”

Confirming the situation, the ASUU Chairman at OOU,  Joel Okewale, disclosed that two lecturers had resigned from the institution.

“I know about two or three of our colleagues that have relocated from my own end here; I don’t know of any other person.

“I also know of one who is having a little challenge in giving due notice in his resignation, but I don’t know the update. We are having a congress tomorrow (today), if there are other people, I will have an idea.”

The Chairman ASUU at  the Federal University of Technology, Akure,  Prof. Oluyinka Awopetu, when contacted,  said, “There, of course, are lecturers that are traveling out of the country in pursuance of further qualifications.”

“It is extremely impossible to authoritatively say they abandoned the profession. Others sought ways of coping in this difficult and trying time as well. One may not be able to say if they are coming back or not! If you were in their shoes and you find a better opportunity, what will you do please?

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On his part, the ASUU leader at the University of Nigeria,  Christian Opata, said some lecturers were pursuing other means of livelihood.

 He said, “I’m not aware of any for now. What I can say authoritatively is that many used this strike to find new means of making money by establishing new lines of business. I know of two people who are loaning money to members without interest. They made millions (of naira) through tomatoes, yellow pepper, and maize farming.’’

Meanwhile, the leaders of Nigerian students under the aegis of the Council of Student’s Union Presidents have vowed to sue the FG over the prolonged strike by ASUU members.

The SUG President of the University of Jos, Joshua Adankala, disclosed this in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos, on Sunday.

Adaka said “We are planning to take them (FG and the ministers of education; labour and employment and others) to court. The court action has become imperative because we can’t take the continued strike anymore.”

The CSUPs which comprised the students union governments in over 100 universities in Nigeria, in the first week of August, stormed Abuja where they lamented the continuous loss of students to incessant killing from bandits’ attacks as a result of their prolonged stay at home caused by the strike.

The president, of the National Association of Nigeria Students, Sunday Asefon, said the association was still holding talks with its legal team after which it would decide the next line of action.

The education minister last Thursday asked students affected by the ASUU strike to sue the union for liabilities suffered as a result of the industrial action.

But giving an update on NANS’ decision to take the government to court on Sunday, Asefon said they were still consulting with their legal team.

The Students’ Union President of the University of Ibadan, Adewole Adeyinka, spoke on the plan to sue the government.

“We are concluding on this by this week. We are holding a meeting with some stakeholders in Abuja this week but we won’t disclose their identities now,” the student leader said.

Report By Grace Edema, Solomon Odeniyi, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Onozure Dania, Patrick Odey, Bola Bamigbola, Daud Olatunji, Raphael Ede, James Abraham, Dennis Naku, Chima Azubuike, and Olufemi Olaniyi. ©Punch

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Chila Andrew Aondofa

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