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By Franz Wild
Abidjan
20 April 2006

The Nigerian university staff union says its members' working conditions have dropped below acceptable levels, and the government is interfering in academic affairs unnecessarily.  The union is planning a three day strike.

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Student in Nigerian classroom
Student in Nigerian classroom

Academic staff at universities around Nigeria say they will go on a warning strike next week.

The Academic Staff of Universities Union, the ACSU, says the educational sector in Nigeria has seen far too little money during recent years.  And that applies most directly to universities.

The union also says the government has been interfering in academics.

Union President Suleikano Abdulayi says Nigerian universities are in a terrible state of decline.

"From 1999 to today, the government has not given anything above 6.7 percent of the national budget to education," he said.  "Because of that, the universities are worst hit under the circumstances.  On the other hand, they are telling us, they are trying to build state of the art universities in Nigeria, when actually the universities in Nigeria are sinking."

The union says it had an agreement with the government, under which, the government guaranteed to allocate sufficient funds to universities.  The union calls this a right-to-work agreement.

Abdulayi says the government has broken this agreement by not making the necessary funds available.

"Our right to work means we should have good conditions to work in," he added.  "Everybody knows that Nigerian universities are in shambles.  The government is not allocating adequate resources to them.  In fact, because of that, you have no personal equipment, you have overcrowded lecture halls, you have student hostels in which 12 people stay in a room meant for two people, and these conditions are not suitable for learning."

The union says the strike will also serve as a protest on a second issue, that of political autonomy.  The union says universities, and their staff, are protected by law, which the government should respect.  They say, the government has previously arrested several professors who were striking, and this sort of interference cannot continue. 

Abdulayi says the strike is intended to show the government that union members will stand their ground.

"There is interference from the government here," he said.  "We want the universities to be autonomous on the basis of their laws and statutes.  We do not want anybody in the bureaucracy or the state interfering directly in illegal ways.  And, of course, our colleagues who suffered after a previous strike need to be given justice, too."

Nobody representing the government was available for comment.

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