The chances of the over one million, seven hundred thousand candidates seeking admission into public universities for the 2022/23 session are fast diminishing.
The candidates sat for the last Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board examination in May but the institutions where they hope to continue their education pursuit have remained shut for the sixth month running following the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on February 14.
The lecturers were later joined by the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) both of which started with a two-week warning strike on March 28.
The 2021/22 academic session should have been over by now and prepare for the new session in full swing if not for the strikes.
The Federal Government and ASUU are not shifting their positions and there is no evidence that the universities will reopen anytime soon.
The lecturers had previously gone on strike in March 2020 and called it off in December of the same year only to start the current one in March.
Stakeholders say there is so much confusion already in the university system that no one seems to have a clear idea of how the current students will proceed from where their academic work stopped when the strike commenced, and whether there will be places for the fresh intakes each of whom paid N4,700 for the JAMB admission form.
The National President of SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim yesterday shared his fears about the logistic problems that the universities are likely to face if and when the ASUU strike is over.
Ibrahim, who is a member of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) – the umbrella body for SSANU and NASU members, said it would take serious efforts and planning to solve the problem created by the strike.
“The strike will definitely affect the 2022 admission because there is already a backlog of a set of students that have not started anything.
“Even if the Federal Government addresses the strike today, there is already confusion. As you are aware, most of universities have not completed their last session.
“So there was already an admission that people just registered and had not even started attending lecturers before the strike commenced.
“About three sets of students are waiting to be admitted to start their courses. The system is saturated.
It will only take serious discussions, and permutations to solve this problem. As you are aware, there are limited spaces in public universities as a result of infrastructure deficit and human resources.
“Nobody can explain what will happen.”
Among other demands, ASUUseeks the payment of N1.1 trillion university revitalisation funds, an amount the government says it does not have.
Its other demands include deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), payment of outstanding arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), addressing proliferation and governance issues in state universities, settling promotion arrears, releasing withheld salaries of academics, and payment of outstanding third-party deductions.
Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Mr Festus Keyamo, said last week that the Federal Government was not in a position to borrow N1.2 trillion yearly to resolve the long-running strike embarked by ASUU.
“Should we go and borrow to pay N1.2 trillion yearly?” Keyamo snapped while fielding questions on Channels television.
“You cannot allow one sector of the economy to hold you by the jugular and then blackmail you to go and borrow N1.2 trillion for overheads when our total income would be about N6.1 trillion. And you have roads to build, health centres to build, other sectors to take care of,” he said.
He asked parents across the country to beg ASUU, drawing angry reactions from many Nigerians.
National President of SSANU, Mohammed Ibrahim, told The Nation yesterday that the unions have been asked to resume negotiations with the Federal Government Committee handling the 2009 agreements with the university unions.
The Committee is chaired by Prof. Emeritus, Nimi Briggs, Pro-Chancellor, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo.
The SSANU national president said: “The strike is on but the Federal Government has asked all the unions to resume the renegotiation with the Nimi Briggs Committee.
“We are looking forward to next week as we are also hopeful that something tangible and reasonable will come up.”
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, yesterday pledged to work with the government and lecturers to end incessant strikes in Nigerian universities.
Abubakar spoke at a youth programme with the theme “Intergenerational Synergy on Government”, organised by the PDP to commemorate the 2022 International Youth Day celebration in Abuja.
Abubakar, who recalled how his late father was arrested for never wanting him to go to school, described education as a fundamental right of any citizen, especially children and youths.
He decried the inability of the government to resolve the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), saying such would not happen under a PDP administration headed by him.
He said he would work with university authorities and the government to “make sure we end this incessant strikes by ASUU.”
He added: “This is because education is fundamental to your growth. It doesn’t matter whether you are in politics, business or any sector. The fundamental right of every youth or every citizen is to be educated.
“Therefore it is the responsibility of any responsible government to make sure that right is given to every Nigerian, every youth in this country.”
The former vice president who reiterated his pledge for youth inclusive government promised to provide youths with the opportunities to acquire the training and experience to take over from the older generations.
Abubakar urged the youth to support the PDP to take over the government in 2023 to rescue the youth and the nation.
“I believe that the PDP provides the best platform for you to actualise your individual’s collective and national aspirations,” he said.