ASUU begins mobilisation for another strike in varsities

University lecturers are heading for another strike over the re-negotiated 2009 agreement with the Federal Government, it was learnt at the weekend.

There are indications that the National Executive Council of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will meet on February 14 to review the implementation of some components of the agreement and decide on industrial action.

It was learnt that the re-negotiated agreement has five components, including funding for revitalisation, autonomy for universities and welfare.

The committee, which re-negotiated the agreement, was headed by Prof Munzali Jibril, Pro-Chancellor, Federal University Lafia, Nasarawa State and Chairman, Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities.

An ASUU leader, who preferred not to be named, said there had been a lack of progress in the agreement since it was re-negotiated last May.

The source said the government team on the committee proposed certain figures which were adopted with an assurance that the government team had the authorisation to push through the agreement.

He said: “The government side proposed something (new salary) and ASUU asked the government team if they had the mandate of their principal regarding what they proposed and of course, they answered yes, but said they will have to go back to consult.

“After the re-negotiation had been concluded, they said they had to go back and discuss with their principal. That is where we are with negotiations on all five chapters.

“The five chapters of the 2009 FG-ASUU are funding for revitalisation, the autonomy of universities, welfare of lecturers and four and five are related. These are things we bring up each time we go on strike.

“Let them go and sign the re-negotiated 2009 agreement. It has always been like this with the government.

“The antics of government regarding ASUU is always like this: We go on strike for government to come to the table for us to negotiate. After concluding the negotiation, we always have to go on strike for them to sign it and again go on strike for them to implement.

“It has always been like this right from 1992. It is not new; it is the character of the government.

“What is playing out now is what has been since 1992. Three stages: you will go on strike for them to negotiate, you will go on strike to get them to sign the agreement that they willingly negotiated then the final stage you go on strike to get them to implement.

“This is not going to be the last strike. People should know that because after this, there will be another strike probably for them to implement that agreement.”

ASUU President Prof Emmanuel Osodeke dismissed as mere promises the comments by President Muhammadu Buhari that the Federal Government was committed to meeting ASUU’s demands to prevent another round of strikes.

Osodeke said the appeal for understanding by the president was a mere promise they have heard before.

The ASUU President, in an interview with The Nation in Abuja, said most of the demands of the union have not been met by the Federal Government.

He listed some of the demands to include: non-signing of the re-negotiated FGN-ASUU 2009 agreement, non-payment of the balance of Earned Academic Allowances, non-deployment of UTAS, non-payment of lecturers on sabbatical, and proliferation of universities by state governments.

Buhari had, during a meeting with members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, led by Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Abubakar III and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, said the Federal Government was committed to honouring promises made to ASUU to prevent strikes in universities.

The President also appealed to the union to note the fiscal pressures that the government was currently facing.

The ASUU President accused government officials of wasting resources on foreign trips.

He said ASUU leadership would meet soon to take a decision.

Osodeke said: “We have heard him so many times and nothing happened. Except when we start seeing something concrete being done the plea will just be like any other plea we have heard; mere promises.”

He added: “If they are correct, no problem. But, are they correct? Is he correct that there is no fund? Are we not seeing things that are covering billions of naira? Bailing out banks, and others and having multiple travels by governors, principal officers of government – all consuming dollars?

“If education is really the priority of this government, would we be saying there is no fund? How many countries in the world allocate five or six per cent of their budget to education?

“Nigeria is the country that allocates the lowest budget to education. That is the problem because they don’t believe in it because their children are not in this country.

”If their children were here and probably in public universities today, they would not be treating education like this. In some countries, they give 25 to 30 per cent of their budget allocation to education, but Nigeria is six per cent.

The budget is even worse than it was. This is the problem we are having. We speak and we don’t implement.

“The allocation in the 2022 budget is less than what was given in the 2021 budget. This is why people don’t really believe in what the government is saying.

“We are meeting soon and the NEC of the union will take a decision.”

The ASUU president also chided the Federal Government for failing to implement the re-negotiated FG-ASUU 2009 agreement.

Osodeke said 10 months after negotiations on the agreement were concluded, the Federal Government has failed to take action.

”The most important one is the issue of the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement. We agreed that we will negotiate the agreement up till now, nothing has happened.

“Last year, ASUU and the government reached an agreement and a draft for signing and they reverted back to their principal. Up till now they have not come back to us on whether they agree or not, since May last year – that is almost 10 months now; nothing has been done,” Prof Osodeke said.

He also accused the government of failing to deploy the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS) – the payment platform developed by the university lecturers despite passing the integrity test conducted by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) last year.

Prof Osodeke said: “We have the issue of UTAS. Thank God, everybody has confirmed that IPPIS is a fraud. The Auditor – General of the Federation has confirmed that it is a fraud; just to siphon money and they are telling lies. And we said we will give them an alternative which the government agreed they will implement if we produce it.

“We produced and went for a test. Even with their fraudulent test, it passed more than 80 per cent of the test. Yet, they are not implementing.

“The major fraud that we have found out is that in order to ensure that the thing doesn’t go in, they started inputting things that are not our own; even plagiarising people’s work. People who have done some work and they were negative, they went and plagiarise it, picked it word for word and put it and reported it negative and we have all the evidence.

“Meanwhile the IPPIS that has been ruining the country was never tested by NITDA, they just brought it and implemented it and we are seeing the adverse effects today as reported by the Auditor General of the Federation.”

He also said the Federal Government was yet to release the arrears of Earned Academic Allowances since May last year.

“We also have the issue of Earned Academic Allowances. We have arrears. The government said they have mainstreamed it. So, we are looking at this year’s budget. But, there are still a lot of arrears remaining.

“And the government promised they were going to give a tranche in May last year. Until now that tranche was not released.

“The visitation panel report that was set up early last year – February, till now the white paper has not been released. Which means something is going,” he said.

The ASUU leader added: “None of the issues have been fully resolved. Some of our members are still owed between two, three and give months. Those who are on sabbatical are not even earning their money.

”Our colleagues who were promoted two or three years ago have not gotten the arrears of their promotion. You know in academics when you are promoted, those in the professorial cadre will have to go for external assessment and by the time they come, the actual date of implementation would have been exceeded and the arrears are paid. Till now, nothing is being paid.

“Some people who have been promoted can’t even get their main salary; the Accountant – General’s office pay them whatever they like through their so-called IPPIS.

“All the issues are still on board. State governors are still proliferating universities when they cannot fund the ones they have. Abia State recently announced a new university. Meanwhile, the one they have they cannot fund it. These are the issues, none have been implemented.”

(THE NATION)

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