The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students Zone for the South-West (i.e., NANS Zone D) has come out to demand government’s fidelity with the agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on 22 December. This agreement resulted in ASUU’s conditional suspension of its nine-month strike action.
In a similar vein, the NANS Zone D condemned the misrepresentation of the situation and consequent threat against ASUU should it recommence the strike, made by the national leadership of NANS. This was in a press statement issued by the Kazeem Olalekan Israel, the NANS Zone D Public Relations Officer on 26th December.
In the statement, Comrade Kazeem further called for the government to “show full and massive commitment to the educational sector by increasing budgetary allocation to the educational sector in meeting the 26% UNESCO recommendation.” The Zone consistently stood by ASUU along with activists of the All-Nigeria Students Alliance Against Neoliberal Attacks (ANSA), which includes members and branches of the SWL on campuses, throughout the strike, organising a series of demonstrations in solidarity with the university lecturers.
Considering the rotten nature of the national leadership of NANS, ANSA and the Zone D leadership have their work cut out for them – broadening the base of activism for struggle to improved funding and democratic governance of the education sector. This will require consolidation of relations with ASUU and other trade unions in the sector for concerted struggle in the coming period.
The full text of the press statement can be read below.
THREAT TO ASUU BY NANS PRESIDENT; A CLEAR MISREPRESENTATION OF THE INTERESTS OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS!
FG MUST MEET ALL AGREEMENTS WITH ASUU OR FACE THE WRATH OF NIGERIAN STUDENTS!
As a zonal body, we do not align ourselves with the statement credited to the President of the association that students shall form a resistance against ASUU if another strike is embarked upon by varsity lecturers. We make bold to assert that the statement does not reflect the position of Nigerian students of South West extraction (and nationally). The statement does not only negate the principle of solidarity but also grant permission to this irresponsible and irresponsive government to sustain the trend of not investing in the education sector.
We believe that the NANS President must have issued the statement out of crass ignorance of the agreement that was reached between ASUU/FG before the strike was relaxed. As a zonal body, we are of the position that even if the NANS President is ignorant of the condition(s) of the agreement reached between FG/ASUU, he should have sought for it rather than denting the public image of the association by issuing a statement to threaten lecturers when, in the real sense, our threat as an association should be directed at the government that has neglected the educational sector for long.
As a zonal body, we believe that the strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is justifiable and that we need a proper integration to foster a successful outcome and, this has been a basis for us at Zone D, on numerous occasions, establishing our position as following with close marking the demands of ASUU as the Union is one part of our academic world.
It on record that the Nigerian students’ movement has never been neutral in a struggle for better funding of education and that the students’ body in the country has never aligned itself with members of the ruling class and, this is a legacy we are determined to sustain as a zonal body. Rather than make such a reactionary statement as issued by the President of NANS, Nigerian students have always taken the lead in the struggle for improved funding of the educational sector because students are the ones to benefit ultimately if the demands of ASUU for release of revitalisation funds and improved budgetary allocation to education are achieved which we must also champion alongside ASUU.
As a Zonal body, we reiterate that our role as students is not and cannot be that of a neutral arbiter. Rather, as students, we are duty-bound to give solidarity to ASUU struggle against an anti-poor and anti-education Buhari capitalist government which once it is able to defeat ASUU, will waste no time in pouncing on students as the next victim in its drive to make higher education the preserve of the rich-few.
As a zonal body, we find it nauseating that the NANS President would also subscribe to the fraudulent argument of “grass suffering as two elephants fight” which gives the erroneous impression that students are a neutral entity in a conflict over funding of education between the government and ASUU. In fact, the elephant in this scene is the Federal Government while both ASUU and students are the grass. We believe that our agitation as a students’ body must never be against ASUU as a body but against the Federal Government because, the responsibility of fulfilling the terms of agreement rests more on the Federal Government than ASUU. And, if not for governmental failure and renege on promises, there will be no reason for strike action by ASUU or any other Union on our campuses.
For the sake of enlightenment, ASUU relaxed the government-caused strike based on the fact that;
* The Federal Government offered to pay N30bn as part of one tranche of N220bn NEEDS Accessment on or before 31st January, 2021, as a sign of commitment to the MoU of 2013.
* It was agreed that the Office of the Accountant-General Federation (OAGF) shall release N40bn on or before 31st of December, 2020, to offset part of the outstanding claims of members of all the registered Trade Unions in the Universities after each staff had provided necessary evidence of having earned the allowances. The NUC is to provide the necessary account details before this date.
The aforementioned are just part of the conditions of the agreement reached between ASUU/FG, and, to us, we believe the two itemised conditions form the core of the whole agreement. We believe that no sane person will think of stampeding ASUU by the time another strike action is embarked upon if the Federal Government fails to show commitment to the agreement reached with Universities lecturers. And the NANS President must be made to realise that NO one can stop members of a Union from embarking on an industrial action in so far, they are determined to push forward.
In all, we call on the Federal Government not to renege on their promise and to also show full and massive commitment to the educational sector by increasing budgetary allocation to the educational sector in meeting the 26% UNESCO recommendation.
Kazeem Olalekan ISRAEL
PRO, NANS Zone D