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University students react to ASUU’s withheld salaries

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Students of federal government-owned universities in Nigeria have reacted to the withheld salaries of members of ASUU, the union of university lecturers.

The withheld salaries are as a result of the industrial strike action embarked upon on February 16, 2022 which would be called off eight months later on October 16, 2022. The federal government’s subsequent declaration of pro rata salary payment, which the union condemned, indicated that the salaries of the union members during the period of absence from work will not be paid.

University students react

Speaking with Edugist, Tola (pseudonym), a 300-level student of Botany lamented the grievous situation which has disrupted not only the academic calendar but also her personal plans to further her education.

Tola’s plan was to spend four academic sessions to pursue her undergraduate degree but she has insofar spent close to five calendar years and is still in 300 level.

“Coronavirus outbreak in 2020 was the first blow, and the slow response of public universities to innovate new teaching methods did not help matters,” said Tola. “We lost an entire year in 2020, another in 2022, it’s tiring. Now, I just want to graduate and move on with my life.”

Tola blamed her predicament solely on ASUU by not finding other measures to tailor their needs to the federal government. When asked if withheld salaries should be paid, she queried, rhetorically, “Did they work? Did they teach? Were they even nice to students who protested with them?”

She added, “I just don’t like their behavior towards us (students), it is not like we are in charge of the government. A class of 3 hours, you (lecturer) spend thirty minutes and use the entire time saying Buhari should pay salary. It is really shitty, then the exam comes, you set it brutally like Buhari will step down if we (students) fail.”

Spending more years than necessary for a degree program in Nigeria’s public university is not an emerging culture, however, after spending two years more than required, coupled with the potential to have an extra year after racking up few carryovers, another university student Sam (pseudonym), wants the federal government to pay ASUU’s withheld salary. “Please, they should pay up, I don’t want another strike till I graduate.”

Faith, an undergraduate of accounting, believes ASUU keeps making students innocently suffer for their demands which is not meant to be. She however pleads with both the union and the federal government to reach a common ground.

“I really just want them to have an understanding, whether through payment or otherwise.”

She fears she may abandon her studies if another industrial strike action emerges. “I can’t afford to go back home due to another strike, I just might drop out,” said Faith.

PhD holder weighs in

In his speech at the 53rd Convocation Ceremonies of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, overall best PhD graduand Ahmed Yinusa appealed to the federal government on the payment of withheld salaries of ASUU members.

Dr Yinusa urged the federal government to pay the withheld eight months’ salaries of public university workers without further delay.

Being a lecturer in the department of mechanical engineering of the same institution, he said the unpaid salaries had taken a huge toll on both his immediate and extended families particularly when he had to contend with many financial challenges such as payment of rent, children’s school fees, feeding and hospital bill for his aged mother, who was down with a serious ailment.

“[…] So, I will appeal to the federal government to pay the withheld salaries not only to the lecturers but to all university workers, who are being owed,” he said.


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