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By Oludayo Tade


In the Spirit of the season of Love, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on February 14 commenced a “four-week roll-over, total and comprehensive strike action” over failure of the Federal Government (FG) to fully implement the Memorandum of Action (MoA) it signed with the Union on 23rd December, 2020.

The Union is angry that the draft report of the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement which has been submitted to FG for finalization and signing has been delayed for over nine months.

ASUU is unhappy with FG’s delay tactic in the adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) and the forceful payment of salaries and emoluments of her members through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). In this piece, attempt is made to unpack the factors underlying the current warning strike and the likelihood that it may become indefinite if the leopard of FG does not change its spots. This piece reveals the irresponsibility in high places and unveil a deliberate attempt to enslave the intellectual community. How did we get to the warning strike?

Ladies and gentlemen, on March 9, 2020, ASUU began an indefinite strike to: ask government to revitalize public universities with funding, pay arrears of earned academic allowances from 2013 to date, pay salary shortfall, halt proliferation of state universities, make FG constitute visitation panels to her universities to assess governance challenges, ensure FG constitute 2009 FGN/ASUU renegotiation Committee, get government to adopt University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), and get withheld salaries paid to members as well as ensure that deducted but un-remitted check-off Union dues are paid to Union accounts. The Federal government failed to use the period of lockdown to engage the Union until it was time for students to return to school. By December 22, 2020, the Union, considered the implorations from parents and other stakeholders and signed a Memorandum of Action (MoA) with timelines to each item in the agreement assigned.

On the re-constitution of the 2009 FGN/ASUU re-negotiation committee, it was agreed that the committee would be inaugurated on December 2nd 2020 and given eight weeks to conclude its work. “Government posited with certainty that the negotiated position shall be implemented without delays. The Minister of Labour and Employment undertook to liaise with the leadership of the Governors forum, Senate and Chief of Staff of Mr President to actualize the expeditious implementation of the agreement that would ensue from the re-negotiation”. Ladies and gentlemen, the renegotiation that was supposed to end in eight weeks didn’t end until May, 2021, because some members of the FG team contracted COVID-19 and everything had to wait until they recovered. However, months after the submission of the renegotiated agreement, the FG has been dribbling the Union against their promise to “implement without delay” as contained in the 2020 MoA. Why is this renegotiation important?

For 13 years, ASUU had relegated pursuing better welfare of their members and elevated getting better infrastructure and conducive learning environment. But each time ASUU pursues these altruistic goals, the principal beneficiaries (parents and students) stand as opposition to the struggle. Does the holy book say love thy neighbour more than yourself? Lecturers, therefore told their leadership pointblank to prioritize their welfare and liberate them with a living wage and a world class conditions of service. In August 2021, I wrote on ‘greedy Nigerian professors and their fat salaries’. Let me tell you that no professor in Nigerian public universities earn $1000 in a month. See what other cadres earn: Assistant lecturer (N118,277 -N137, 334); Lecturer II has a doctorate degree (N129, 724 – N153, 563); Lecturer I has at least three years post-PhD experience on the job (N160, 809 – N203, 778); Senior Lecturer with at least six years experience on the job (N222,229 –314, 159); Associate Professor (with at least nine years experience on the job: N277, 179 – N350, 169) and a full Professor with more than 12 years of experience on the job (N332, 833 – 416, 743). This is what they have been earning since 2009. Divide their earnings with dollar and you will know why they are bitter.

In Ugandan public varsities, Assistant Lecturer earns $1,631; Senior lecturer, $2,432; Associate Professor, $3,891 and Professor, $4,054 per month, respectively. In University of South Africa, a Junior Lecturer earns N10, 453, 326 – N17,427,663; Lecturer, N12,547,744-N20,910,248; Senior Lecturer, N16,272,983 – N27,891,819; Associate Professor, N20,224,232 – N32,564,902) and Professor, N22,325,844 – N37,209,741 per annum. Nigeria cant even attract a lecturer from Ugandan let alone scholars from South Africa! While a politician from Uganda and South Africa will be happy to work as politician in Nigeria, their scholars will never come to Nigeria. This is why Nigeria can’t attract foreign scholars to our ivory towers.

What about the funding for revatilisation? The 2013 MOU stipulates that Nigerian public varsity would need the sum of N1.3trilion for a modest revitalisation. The fund was to be paid in tranches of N200billion (2013), 220b (2014), 220billion (2015), 220billion (2016), N220b (2017) and 220billion (2018) respectively. Only the former President Goodluck Jonathan government released 200billion in 2014. It took another strike before the Muhammadu Buhari government released N20billion in 2019 “as a show of commitment to the MoU of 2013”. In the 2020 MoA, government offered to pay N30billion “on or before January 2021”. It will shock you that the N30billion was just paid last November/December 2021. This leaves a balance of N170billion to be paid for year 2014. It should be noted that the money for revitalization goes to university administration and not ASUU as government will want people to believe. When you say ASUU loves strike, remember that students live in zoo-like hostels, take lecturers in crowded and poorly ventilated lecture rooms and ill-equipped laboratories. The implication is that students produced in such conditions will not have pity on others when they get to position of leadership in future.

Earned academic allowances (EAA) are also owed lecturers in public varsities spanning 2013 through 2020. The last disbursement made by government was only for 2021 because a provision for it was forced to be made in the supplementary budget of 2021. Earned Academic Allowances is an agreement reached to compensate lecturers who do excess work more than required since government refuse to employ and students’ population keeps increasing. There is a minimum number of student-lecturer ratio approved. In some disciplines, it is one lecturer to 40 students but in Nigerian public varsities, a lecturer could teach a class size of about 300students or more. It is the excess of what ought to be taught that is calculated as EAA. Since, 2013, lecturers have been supervising students on credit with government owing them in excess of over sixty billion naira!

There is also the issue of UTAS. ASUU opposes the use of IPPIS in paying salaries of lecturers because it does not capture the peculiarities of the university system. It developed University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS). The Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige gave his assurance in 2020 to follow up with Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and Federal Ministry of Education (FME) to expedite action on the test process and ensure the deployment of the UTAS for the payment of salaries of staff of universities. The timeline was February 2021 for the discussion of time for its deployment. These agencies tested the UTAS platform and rated it 87percent and only asked the Union to correct the observed issues. But while the assessment was concluded in August 2021, government refused to release the assessment report to ASUU until December 16, 2021. ASUU is now angry because, government says the Union will start the test process all over!

Lecturers continue to do researches with their money and that is the only grace Nigerian public universities are still enjoying to feature in webometric rankings. When strike happens, students suffer and lecturers whose promotions are due get trapped in it but we must fight and sacrifice. Ideally, students ought to be the one fighting government to get better infrastructure and conducive learning environment but lecturers, through their Union have decided to do this as a sacrifice for the children of the masses. I know many ASUU chairmen who face the ethical dilemma of having to prosecute strike while their children at home ask them: “Daddy, why don’t you people just let me graduate first?”. Everyone is in a hurry going nowhere. No pain, no gain. Years ago, ASUU warned that one day, the children of the poor will have nothing left to eat but the children of the rich. This is already happening. The untrained millions of out-of-school children are unleashing the beast the system planted in them through banditry, terrorism, armed robbery, kidnapping among others. Parents and other stakeholders have options to pick from: join government to destroy public funded university education or support ASUU to extract commitment and funding from government so that children of the masses will have hope of becoming responsible leaders of tomorrow.

Dr Tade, a sociologist writes via dotad2003@yahoo.com

By oyonews

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