It is common knowledge that the flashpoint of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and Federal Government face-off is the 2009 agreement, which has undergone a series of renegotiations with great controversy. However, what seems to be obscured is the impact of the impasse on the country, particularly with the continuous circumnavigation in the wilderness of war against insecurity and economic quagmire.
On August 30, 2022, the ASUU declared an indefinite strike after several rollovers that commenced on February 14. Some of its demands include the release of revitalisation funds for universities, renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement and deployment of the UTAS payment platform for the payment of salaries and allowances of university lecturers, among others.
Before the current face-off, there have been several industrial actions with results synonymous to a motion without movement. This has affected the career of most students by elongating their period in school.
Accumulation of failure of the successive government to create enabling environment for businesses has worsened the saturated labour market with a scenario akin to that of scarcity in the midst of plenty. This has crippled the quest to attain self-reliance in production and services by opening floodgates for the importation of all kinds of products.
Those piloting the affairs of the country seem to have lost the compass with an ending policy somersault exacerbating the exodus of companies from the country. This is aggravated by the abysmal performance in the power sector despite the change and next-level choruses that characterised the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
As a matter of fact, what seems to have changed since 2015 is the method of corruption, the democratisation of insecurity across all the geopolitical zones, chronic poverty and educational backwardness that has bred more than 20 million out-of-school children roaming the streets. The surge in the operation of kidnappers and successes made in ransom collection from most of their victims seems to have gotten to the peak where nobody can predict the direction of the terror from these non-state actors.
Some of those that were kidnapped while travelling by train from Abuja to Kaduna State in March are still in the den of the kidnappers, while those that gained their freedom have to pay for it through a team of negotiators. Though, in the public, it is claimed that no ransom was paid.
The exponential growth in the killing and kidnapping industries across the country has shown that there is disequilibrium between the amount claimed to have been released in the war against insecurity and the security situation in the land.
A report titled, Nigeria Security Situation, by Beacon Consulting, shows that since 2016, Nigeria has spent more than N10.82 trillion on defence yet insecurity continues to accelerate at an unprecedented rate. For instance, 2,357 cases of violent attacks were reported in the country from January to June 2022, representing a 47.5 per cent increase from the 1,235 attacks witnessed in the same period in 2021.
While the number of fatalities increased by 35.9 per cent in the first half of 2022 compared to the 4,927 fatalities recorded in the first half of 2021. Similarly, not less than 3,357 persons were abducted compared to 2,540 persons abducted in 2021, representing a 24.3 per cent increase. Yet, the government continue to claim technical victory over insecurity.
The reason for this disequilibrium seems to be ambiguous but cannot be unconnected to the humongous corruption that has eaten deep into the fabric of Nigeria and reduced the country to a nation gasping on a ventilator for oxygen because of the injuries occasioned by the impact of this menace.
Its manifestation across the stratum of the nation’s life shows that it has corroded the zeal for patriotism. No wonder, some have argued that a nation that fails to kill corruption will surely be buried by it. This can be deduced from the news of the alleged diversion of N109 billion by the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris, days after the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, announced that the country is broke.
This is not the only revelation on corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission under the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) regime. In fact, the monies claimed to have been recovered from corrupt persons since 2015 are not enough to meet the demands of ASUU if properly managed. In 2018, the nation was thrown into a comic atmosphere when an officer at Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board claimed that a snake has swallowed N36 million kept in her custody.
The entry and exit routes of the snake were never disclosed throughout the interrogation period. It will not be a surprise if an officer in the National Petroleum Company Limited claims that the subsidy being paid on premium motor spirit is being swallowed by sharks because of the controversy surrounding the litres of PMS reportedly consumed daily in the country.
Of recent, the Nigeria Customs Service comptroller-general questioned the NNPC Ltd’s claim that the country consumes 60 million litres of petrol daily. His question was that if the company puts daily consumption of petrol at 60 million litres, why does it allow 98 million litres to be lifted daily? Because not all the people that filled their tanks today will fill them with the same quantity the following days.
In response to the question, the NNPC has formed an internal committee to do a re-assessment of the litres consumed daily. However, It will not be a surprise if at the end of the investigation the litres is raised to 70 million litres because of the structure of corruption diverting some of the funds meant for subsidy to private pockets. The same corruption has crippled the education sector and made most public primary and secondary schools forbidden fruit for parents that want a better education for their children.
The quest for a better tomorrow occasioned by the treatment meted on the retirees by the government has quenched the passion for sacrificial teaching in schools and contributed to the growing brain drain in the country.
To leave the state of motionlessness, the government needs to match her words with action by showing political will in all matters of national interest so that the country can regain her position in the league of prosperous nations of the world.