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Socialist Democracy July - August 2003 Index


By Adeola Soetan

On 16th June, 2003, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its five-month old strike in deference to an order of the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) asking it and the Federal Government to return to the "status quo" before the strike.

Contrary to the mischievous propaganda of Obasanjo's government to misrepresent the strike as a mere "bread and butter" struggle for increment in salaries and personal emoluments, the universities teachers' demands actually deal with vital issues facing the nation's educational system.

The immediate reason for the current strike is the repudiation of the agreement government made with ASUU in June 2001. That agreement provided for adequate funding of the university system, separate salary structure for academics, university autonomy and non-victimisation of any ASUU members who participated in the earlier strike which led to the June 2001 agreement. In particular, ASUU was demanding the unconditional reinstatement of 42 of its members in the University of Ilorin who were sacked as a result of the strike.

Acting to its tradition of deceit, Obasanjo's administration had not only repudiated this agreement, it has gone a step further to violate the rights of Nigerian students to qualitative education in its policies and utterances since the crisis started.

On funding, ASUU is demanding for a minimum of 26% annual budget to be allocated to education and funding for rehabilitation of students' hostels, classrooms, laboratories, studios, engineering workshops, water and electricity supply, roads and teaching facilities, and to make up for shortfalls in budgetary allocation. The response of the government is to allocate an all-time low, meagre 1.83% of the 2003 budget to education.

In fact, since the regime came to power, there has been decreasing budgetary allocation to education: (1999: 11.12%, 2000: 8.36%, 2001: 7.0%, 2002: 5.9%, 2003: 1.83%). But the same government allocated 23% to service fictitious foreign debts in the 2003 budget. This attitude of the government is a reflection of its neo-liberal World Bank/IMF of severe cuts in government spending on social services like health and education, and the privatisation and commercialisation of these services.

The ASUU president, Dr. Fasina, also announced that the strike was being suspended in response to calls by parents, students and some other groups as well as individuals. Now that the strike has been suspended, he appealed to these groups and individuals to put pressure on the government to return to the negotiating table.

The courage and determination of ASUU members must be commended. However, the fact that ASUU have been compelled to undertake repeated struggles over virtually the same issue shows the incurable nature of capitalist crisis. It reveals the need to build a holistic working class alternative to effect system change.




Socialist Democracy July - August 2003 Index