READ: why ASUU might still embark on strike. - SyCtRenDs



Sunday, November 11, 2018

READ: why ASUU might still embark on strike.

An indefinite strike, was pronounced by Academic staff union of universities, which was comprehensive and total, On November 4, 2018.

The National Executive Council of the union, which held at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, the Ondo State capital, said the strike action was declared as no substantial progress had been made on the issues of the implementation of 2009 FGN/ASUU agreements, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU; 2012 and 2013) and Memorandum of Action (MoA, 2017) and the truncation of the renegotiation of the union’s agreements.

The strike is to make government to address the funding for revitalisation of public universities based on the FGN-ASUU MoU of 2012, 2013 and the MoA of 2017.

The union wants the reconstitution of the current government team to allow for a leader and chairman who has the interest of the nation and its people at heart; release of the forensic audit report on Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), payments of all outstanding earned academic allowances and mainstreaming of same into salaries, beginning with the 2018 budget; payment of all arrears of shortfall in salaries to all universities that have met the verification requirements of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA); and release of University Pension Fund operational license.

The national president of the union, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, while announcing the commencement of the strike, had re-echoed the insincerity of government in meeting their demands.

In his words:

“Having waited patiently for action and meaningful negotiation with reasonable men, using the principle of collective bargaining, ASUU at its NEC meeting of 3rd and 4th November, 2018, at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), resolved to resume the nationwide strike action it suspended in September 2017, with immediate effect.

This strike will be total, comprehensive and indefinite. Our members shall withdraw their services until government fully implements all outstanding issues as contained in the MOA of 2017, and concludes the renegotiation of the 2009 agreements.”

The ASUU president had also emphasized on the necessity of the strike when he said a paltry N20billion revitalisation fund was released despite the fact that the same government released N1.3 trillion to a distressed bank recently.

Ogunyemi also argued that the government was not interested in public universities as the children of top politicians and rich men in the society patronise private universities to the detriment of public institutions.

While suspending a similar strike action in 2017, ASUU signed a Memorandum of Action (MoA) as against Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), with a view that the change of title would make government accelerate action on agreement reached with the union.

The Memorandum of Action, which was signed by ASUU president, Biodun Ogunyemi, NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, Labour minister, Chris Ngige, permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono and permanent secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Bolaji Adebiyi, was to be accomplished within six weeks (October 2017). But almost a year after the deal, the Federal Government has yet to keep its part.

The Federal Government released the sum of N23 billion to pay outstanding Earned Academic Allowances of outstanding of 2009 and 2010. From 2011 till date, Nigerian academics have been teaching and supervising excess number of students for free.

The MoA   agreement disclosed:

“outstanding balance of the EAA arrears shall be paid upon the completion of the forensic audit,” but while universities ready for this have submitted, the Federal Government has failed to release the audit report, let alone commence payment of outstanding 2009-2012 earned allowances,” 

The 2013 MoU stipulated that Nigerian public universities would need the sum of N1.3trilion for a modest revitalisation. The fund was to be paid in tranches of (N200 (2013), 220b (2014), 220 billion (2015), 220 billion (2016), N220b (2017) and 220 billion (2018)) in five years.

It was furthermore found out on Sunday learnt that only the Goodluck Jonathan government released 200 billion in 2013. Since that single intervention, nothing has come forth. 

ASUU stated this had resulted in infrastructure decay,  inability to attract foreign scholars and poor university products.

In 2017, when ASUU told the Federal Government that, to suspend the strike, it had to pay N220billion for revitalisation, government expressed inability to pay because it was not budgeted for. However, it offered to release the sum of N20 billion by October 2017 as a sign of commitment to raise fund for revitalising the comatose education in 2018.

The union was also angered by what it called the hard-line stance of the leader of government team, Dr Wale Babalakin, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) in the renegotiation of ASUU/FGN agreements. The union reportedly said only new agreements should be discussed while previous ones and MoU/MoA (1992, 2001, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2017) should be discarded. This led to the breakdown of renegotiation.

While the union acknowledged that some progress had been made in the payment of shortfall in salaries, in a letter written to the minister of education on October 2018, ASUU asked government to pay many outstanding balance. ASUU asked the minister to ensure that her loyal members in the University of Ilorin who were excluded in the payment of academic allowances get paid. Other issues are the failure to release operational license to the Nigerian University Employees Pension Company (NUPEMCO). The union has only been given approval in principle and cannot hit the ground running.

Due to the strike action, many students can’t complete their semester examinations, it was gathered.

In   a move to encourage ASUU to call off its nationwide strike and return to the negotiation table, the Federal Government has promised to release N20 billion to the union.

The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, attributed the delay in meeting some of the demands projected by ASUU “on the weak financial base of the Federal Government.” He noted that previous administrations made bogus promises to the academic unions when the economy was quite buoyant.

“I must say that this is difficult to reconcile, with all the efforts and positive achievements we have been able to make.

“Let me begin by saying that the issues necessitating this strike dates back to 2009 when the then government of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ adua signed an agreement with the ASUU on the funding of federal universities in the country.

“The agreement provided for funding of universities to the tune of N1.3trillion over a period of six years. It is instructive to know that Nigeria was experiencing the oil boom at that time. It was, therefore, expected that government would be able to meet the terms of agreement.

More so the minister, explains :

“However, international oil prices crashed in subsequent years, thereby throwing the country into economic hardship. At the inception of this administration, the country’s economic fortunes worsened, nose-diving into recession, with dire consequences on all sectors of the economy, including education.” 

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