BSU Strike: Who Is To Blame?

Benue State University, Makurdi | CenzoNaija
Benue State University, Makurdi | CenzoNaija

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (Asuu) BSU chapter embarked on strike action on Thursday, February 1, 2024, over the alleged inability of the Benue State University management to meet up with her demands. The strike was said to be a sequel to the previous strike that was suspended by the union on June 26, 2023, due to an agreement reached by both parties.

The branch chairman, Comrade Tarnongu Kwaghfan, and the secretary, Terumun Gajir, issued a statement subsequent to declaring the strike. The statement read in part: “The National Body of the Academic Staff Union of Universities has approved the request by the Benue State University Branch, ASUU-BSU, to resume the strike the branch suspended on June 26, 2023.

“The permission to proceed on this strike was formally communicated to members of the branch on Thursday, February 1, 2024, on the floor of an emergency congress held at the Arts Theatre Complex. The strike action is total, indefinite, and comprehensive until all the demands of the branch are satisfactorily addressed by the Benue State University (BSU, administration.

“It is no longer news that the BSU Administration has refused to address the welfare concerns of the Union after a series of engagements. The most provocative of these was a tripartite agreement reached in January 2023 between the Benue State Government, BSU Administration and Governing Council, and ASUU-BSU. This agreement, which stipulated increased funding for the university to address the issues of promotion and annual increment, was a road map to industrial harmony at BSU.

“To the credit of the Benue State Government, it has kept its part of the agreement and has continued to sustain the additional funds for the university for the specific purposes of implementing promotions and annual increments and to defray the accumulated arrears thereof.

“Regrettably, the same cannot be said of the BSU administration; meanwhile, the university has religiously collected the additional funds from the government but has refused to pay the staff their entitlements. This breach of the January 2023 agreement by the BSU Administration led to the May 2023 strike by the Branch.

“ASUU-BSU graciously suspended this strike on June 26, 2023, following assurances by the BSU Administration to adhere to the January 2023 agreement. Unfortunately, the university has remained in breach of the agreement by failing to pay the arrears of the annual increment since it started collecting the funds from the state government from January 2023 to January 2024.

The BSU vice chancellor, professor Joe Iorapuu, in a press statement reacting to the union’s press release, described it as “manufactured propaganda and ignorance” and reiterated his commitment to resolving the misgivings and ensuring the strike is suspended.

His statement read in full: “I have read and received so many calls regarding the press release from ASUU-BSU in respect of the declared strike action. As the head of the university, I have a responsibility to protect my staff and students. I am also accountable to the government that appointed me. I have more facts and figures about the happenings at BSU than anyone out there. As much as I am available for public debate, I will not succumb to the manufactured propaganda and ignorance in the public space. Currently, our interest as the management of the university is to ensure that we resolve the misgivings and get our students who are desirous of writing their exams to do so. In addition, we have met with ASUU-BSU and communicated with the government appropriately. It is therefore inappropriate to jump into the public space, reacting to manufactured propaganda and ignorance.”

A few days later, a circular was released by the school management tagging the ongoing strike as “semester break,” which supposedly was to last for two weeks, after which school activities will fully resume.

Unfortunately, when the period elapsed, a new circular from the school surfaced, informing the staff and students that the break had been extended until further notice. By this time, there’s no specific date of resumption announced by the school management anymore. Though it was gathered that Asuu had extended the strike to an additional four weeks,.

Prior to the commencement of the semester break, as announced by the school management, the vice chancellor had a meeting with the student union representatives and a few staff members, excluding Asuu representatives. During the meeting, which was held at the Art Theatre Complex, the vice chancellor presented payment receipts, which suggested that Asuu had been paid up to date and lacked substantial reasons to embark on the strike action.

A member of Benue State University staff who pleaded anonymity also revealed that the Asuu strike was instigated by political interests. According to him, the strike has nothing to do with staff welfare, as the university is allegedly up-to-date with her payment. He, however, said that the Asuu members want the vice chancellor sacked because he manipulated himself into the office and was never qualified.

The pertinent question on the lips of the BSU students, currently begging for an urgent answer, is “Who is to blame for the strike?” The Asuu or management? One will also wonder why the vice chancellor has not taken the Asuu to court this time, as he did previously.

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