1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The education sub-sector especially tertiary institutions in Nigeria have witnessed in recent time incessant closures due to industrial actions. The effect of these repeated closures of schools and academic programs on students’ learning effectiveness can better be imagined than described. Tertiary education in Nigeria has thus suffered tremendous setbacks as a result of industrial actions by both the academic (ASUU) and the non academic staffs. This has always subjected the students to pitiable conditions, disrupting academic programs, giving students’ undeserved extension in their study years, poor students’ concentration on academic programs and poor lecturer-student relationships amongst others. Consequently, students’ academic performance has comparatively become so low while various forms of examination malpractice are on the increase. University worldwide is regarded as the citadel of learning, the fountain of intellectual development and a ground for the production of leaders of tomorrow.
According to Ike (1999) a university fulfills, one major function, it is a knowledge and value provider, in other words, a university progresses when it is able to provide knowledge and value and when it is not properly managed by the administrators and staff, it then fails in its function of providing knowledge and value. This according to Nwankwo (2000) explains why merit has been the watchword in the university system – an institution in which a student must first be certified worthy in character and learning before being admitted into the Honors Degree. The role of universities in human capital development, research and technological innovation cannot be under evaluated. All over the world investment in University education is a critical component of national development effort. Nations today depend increasingly on knowledge, ideas and skills which are produced through researches in the universities. Nations invest in university education because society expects it to contribute to national development in three principal ways.
First, society expects its university to produce the highly skilled personnel in technology, engineering, management and other professions; secondly, universities have the responsibility of producing their own corps of academic personnel that is, the intellectual resource pool that will, through scientific research generate new knowledge and innovation to solve developmental problems. Thirdly, universities produce teachers, administrators and managers for other levels of human resources development institutions. The main union whose incessant industrial action takes a heavy toll on the academic performance of the students is the Academic Sta Union of Universities (ASUU). The union was formed in 1978, a successor to the Nigerian Association of University Teachers formed in 1965 and covering academic sta in the University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ife and University of Lagos. In the 80’s, the union was active in its struggles against the military regime. In 1988 the union organized a National an industrial action to obtain fair wages and university autonomy.
As a result, the ASUU was proscribed on August 7, 1988 and all its property seized. It was allowed to resume in 1990, but aer another industrial action, it was again banned on August 23, 1992. However, an agreement was reached on September 3, 1992 that met several of the union’s demands including the right of workers to collective bargaining. The ASUU organized further industrial actions in 1994 and 1996, protesting against the dismissal of sta by the Sani Abacha military regime. Aer the return to democracy in 1999 with the Nigerian Fourth Republic, the union continued to be militant in demanding the rights of university workers against opposition by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. In July 2002, the national president of ASUU, petitioned Justice Mustapha Akanbi of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to investigate the authorities of the University of Ilorin for financial mismanagement and corruption. In 2007, ASUU embarked on an industrial action for three months.
In May 2008, it held two week ‘warning strikes’ to press a range of demands, including an improved salary scheme and reinstatement of forty-nine lecturers who were dismissed from University of Ilorin in 1998. In June 2009 ASUU ordered its members in federal and state universities nationwide to proceed on an indefinite strike over disagreements with the Federal Government’s on an agreement it reached with the union about two and a half years ago. Aer three months of industrial action, in October 2009, ASUU and other sta unions signed a memorandum of understanding with the government and called o the industrial action. Prior to the last industrial action embarked on by ASUU, the National Executive Council (NEC), of the Union met from Tuesday 29th November to Thursday 1st December 2011 at the University of Port- Harcourt to review, among other things: the level of implementation of the 2009 ASUU/Government Agreement; the extent of compliance with the 2011 ASUU/FGN Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the implementation of the Agreement; Government’s unilateral dissolution of Universities’ Governing Councils; the on-going institutional accreditation and the state of the Nation, including the issue of alleged removal of fuel subsidy, but the lack of understanding between the two parties led to an indefinite strike embarked upon by the Union for fiy-nine days. It was later called o on the 1st of February, 2012. ASUU again went on a warning strike on 30th August, 2012. All these have le an unfavorable mark on the academic activities of the University students and it has also affected the academic calendar and the performance of the students. On 1st of July, 2013, ASUU embarked upon another Six months industrial action which was called o on the 17th of December, 2013 which really affected the Nigerian undergraduates leading to the involvement of students in many unwholesome activities. Often times, these incessant agitations by ASUU usually triggers industrial action by sister associations such as NASU, SSANU etc.