Just one day into the five-day warning strike embarked upon by the senior staff association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, and the non-academic staff union, NASU, which began this Monday, the industrial action is already taking its toll on the university communities in Edo State, namely the University of Benin and the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.
At the Ekenwan campus of the University of Benin where only security men manning the gates and other offices, as well as lecturers who are members of the academic staff union of universities, ASUU, could be seen going about their duties, there was a lull in the usual hustle and bustle characteristic of a university environment. Rather, some of the striking non-academic staff were seen loafing around and some others were sighted having fun and whiling away the time at the staff club. Most of the offices were under lock and key while the students who had been receiving lectures, complained of hard times as they began to feel the impact of the strike. A post-graduate student who identified himself as Franklin told the magazine that “when two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. We the students are feeling the pinch already just on day one of the strike. You can imagine having no water and no light which are very essential. It is these non-academic workers who are in charge of switching on the generators when the light goes off and pump water for our use”.
The magazine, however, gathered that the students who stay in the hostels and other residents on the campus have resorted to going to the university’s table water factory where there is a borehole, to fetch water. They are, however, apprehensive about how to cope every night without electricity. A security official volunteered the information that “normally, between 8 pm and 12 midnight, they switch on the generator to allow the students to study and do other things. But with the workers on strike, this night, there will be a blackout; it’s going to be a total blackout on the campus”.
At the Ugbowo campus of the university, a sign that something was amiss was noticeable right from the gate. Unlike before, only one of the two gates was open for both incoming and out-going motorists thereby causing a build-up of traffic which spilled into the busy Benin – Lagos expressway. At the main campus, activities were crippled by the strike as members of the unions complied fully with the directive from their national bodies to down tools. Local officials also were strict in enforcing compliance. As early as 8 am, a monitoring team set up by NASU to ensure compliance was on ground to make sure that offices were not opened, and where already open in defiance of the strike order, they were shut down and the workers sent away. A visibly impressed NASU UNIBEN chairman, Anthony Igbinosa, expressed satisfaction at his members’ unity of purpose, describing the warning strike as “the fight for a common course”.
According to him, “so far so good; it has been actually successful. We expected our members to comply, and they actually did. If you go round the campus, you will see that everywhere is sealed up and this will continue till Friday 23rd of August 2019 until we get directives from the national”. The decision of the unions to embark on a warning strike was taken Friday after the expiration of a 14-day ultimatum handed down to the Federal Government to address lingering issues of payment of earned allowances, the fate of the university staff schools, and renegotiation of the 2009 agreements as they affect their members.