Incessant ASUU Strike and Dwindling Performance of University Students In Nigeria

James Atang Itsegok & Adamu Muhammad Hamid

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is a Nigerian union of university academic staff, founded in 1978. ASUU is an offshoot of the Nigerian Association of University Teachers (NAUT) which was established in 1965. At that time, NAUT consisted of only five (5) Universities in total including University of Ibadan, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, University of Ife and University of Lagos. Professor Victor Emmanuel Osodeke emerged as the body’s president on 30 May 2021.

Nothing can be more shocking than learning that the Academic Staff Union of Universities has embarked on no fewer than 16 industrial actions between 1999 and 2022.

For those who may not know, a major factor triggering university lecturers’ strikes is the failure of the government to fulfill an agreement it entered into with the academic union. Another factor is the failure of the lecturers to reinvent themselves and face current realities and find fresh ways of resolving their incessant disputes with the government.

Each time the ASUU strike rears its ugly head, one is forced to conclude that both the government and our lecturers lack empathy for us the students. Better put, they don’t have our interests at heart.

The recurrence of the ASUU strike has numerous negative impacts on us, something the government and ASUU don’t consider when they fail to come to an agreement. We lost a whole session to this same madness two years ago. The same thing is already happening now, with the ongoing strike.

Since an idle mind, as they say, is the devil’s workshop, it goes without saying that idle students, forced to remain at home by the ongoing strike, can be instigated to join criminal activities such as cybercrime, kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry and the likes.

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It is however good to note that during ASUU strikes, some students devote their time to learning relevant vocational skills. And learning a skill is crucial, especially now that there is no hope of securing a sustainable job after graduation. However, skill is just a bonus to getting a quality education.

According to Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” If the strike persists and if future strike actions are not averted, there is every possibility that more students will lose interest in higher education.

Sadly, too, some young ladies have been forced into early and unprepared marriages by their parents during the course of this strike. It is not all parents that will agree to let ASUU waste their children’s youthful age. That is why they won’t mind marrying off their daughters, as the needless industrial action festers.

Meanwhile, what the lecturers’ union demands from the government is for it to honour its own promises made in 2009 for improved funding of the university system and working conditions of the lecturers. Though the government has now devised means of strategically disowning the 2009 agreement signed between its representatives and ASUU, the leaders should be reminded that government is an institution and not a person. Change of administration should not be an excuse to renege on binding commitments made by the government, especially those relating to a critical sector like education.

Underfunding of the education sector, over the years, has had collateral effects on the country. Our universities, hitherto exemplary centers of excellence that attracted academics from far and near, have now become grotesque carcasses of their former selves.

In a shameful development, Nigerians from lower and upper classes fall over themselves to leave the shores of the country for studies. A report released last year put the figure of what Nigeria lost to overseas studies at N1.5 trillion per annum. It could be higher.

Embarrassingly, countries like Ghana, Uganda, Togo, etc. that were hitherto considered far below ours in all respects, have now turned to our preferred destinations. Ghana alone is estimated to be benefitting from about N160 billion from hundreds of Nigerians trooping there to pursue university education.

Five (5) Catastrophic Effects Of ASUU Strikes On University Students

With the recent declaration by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the 14th of August, 2017 to embark on an indefinite strike following the failure of the Federal Government to fully implement the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement and the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it has become imperative to state that the Nigeria education system is gradually losing her salt by the day. ASUU was established in 1978 and has since then encountered some of the worst problems in the history of trade unionism in Nigeria.

Going down memory lane, one would realise that ASUU has been in protracted strikes during the military and present civilian regimes. The negative effects of these strikes cannot be overemphasised been that education is a transformation tool in any given society and should be held in high esteem rather reverse seems to be the case in our society. Strike actions by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria have had serious effects on the academic performance of the students, below are five (5) catastrophic ways ASUU strikes affects the performance of university students:


There is no doubt that previous ASUU strikes have been known for battering and shattering academic calendars in great measures. This current indefinite strike also if extended any further would come to a large extent batter the academic calendar. This disruption in academic programs goes a long way in elongating academic calendars thereby accumulating more days, months and even years to a degree programme.

The universities’ academic calendars have been greatly disrupted by ASUU strikes right from the military regime down to this civilian regime. The situation is gradually degenerating from bad to worse. This disruption of the academic calendar is one of the major causes of educational backwardness in Nigeria.


Aside battering the academic calender, it also serves as non-motivational factor to students. It discourages them from learning. Incessant strikes dwindle the academic performances of students.

As learning is suspended for a long period, the students’ reading abilities fall. Even the knowledge acquired during the learning period is even forgotten by some students. In the long run, they soon forget about academics and are no longer prepared for class activities which negatively affect their learning capability. This mostly turns some students into certificate seekers than knowledge seekers.


The third effect is closely connected to the second, which is engagement of the idle students in social vices including joining bad gangs and engaging in prostitution. Very many cases of pregnancy of young undergraduates during the period of strike have been reported.

It is not surprising therefore that during strike actions, most students are seen involved in diverse activities such as sexual immorality, cyber scam, pool betting, unnecessary gossip, watching of films and reading comic materials for entertainment purposes rather than reading their books.


This concurrent strike action has a way of making students totally lose faith in the educational system of the country. This is because a four year degree course has been unofficially increased to five years or even more.

Globally, there is the usual sneer when Nigerian universities are mentioned and a quick link with unstable university calendar due to frequent strikes. This image robs graduates of our universities of international esteem even when their worth has not been proven through employment.


The typical scenario is to condense or compress course topics that should have been taught for the period of the strike to about a fifth of the expected and rush students to examinations thereafter.

The negative effect of these condensed course topics to the academic empowerment of students’ learning effectiveness can better be imagined than described.

In conclusion, ASUU and F.G should recognize that the future of this country and the education of its citizens for overall development are premised on the formulations and implantation of positive educational and social policies. Therefore, the need arises for a re-evaluation of the education sector. Factors that often lead to strikes in our institutions should be addressed. Education should be properly and adequately funded to encourage effective research and to avoid brain drain.

Meanwhile, the government should always try to honour whatever agreement reached with the union, so as to avoid these problems. Most protracted strikes can be averted if necessary steps are taken to build a good relationship between both parties. It is worth emphasizing that any government with a poor education system is heading towards a black future.

Now that some federal universities have started making upward reviews of fees generally, the reality of what ASUU was foreseeing long ago would start downing the common man. Nobody needs to be told that tertiary education in Nigeria has now assumed a level beyond the reach of the common man. Even state universities that do not announce a new upward revised fee regime, expectably, it is due to the governors’ fear of election. Such a decision could be capable of failing their parties during the 2023 election. Many of the state universities would definitely announce their fee regimes when the elections are over. For the country’s tertiary education sector to truly be affordable to the common man, there need for electing a truly patriotic citizen as president.   

James Atang Itsegok writes from Rain Zurfi, Dass Road, Bauchi, Bauchi State. Email Address: [email protected]


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