……ASUU must compensate students for wasted time – FG
….FG’s offer miserable, says ASUU
Tuesday’s meeting between the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government has again ended without an agreement.
This means the six-month old strike by public university lecturers is set to continue.
The striking lecturers had met with the Professor Nimi Briggs Committee on Tuesday at the National University Commission in Abuja with high hopes of resolving the impasse.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said it rejected the Federal Government’s offer because it is “miserable”.
ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said this in a statement on Thursday. The statement was titled, ‘Why ASUU rejects government’s award of salary’.
Osodeke asked the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, to return to the New Draft Agreement of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Renegotiation Committee whose work spanned a total of five and half years as a demonstration of good faith. The statement read, “The major reason given by the Federal Government for the miserly offer, paucity of revenue, is not tenable.
This is because of several reasons chief of which is poor management of the economy. This has given rise to leakages in the revenue of governments at all levels.
“There is wasteful spending, misappropriation of funds, and outright stealing of our collective patrimony. ASUU believes that if the leakages in the management of the country’s resources are stopped, there will be more than enough to meet the nation’s revenue and expenditure targets without borrowing and plunging the country into a debt crisis as is the case now.”
Osodeke in the statement explained that the government imposed the ongoing strike action on ASUU, saying FG had encouraged it to linger because of its provocative indifference.
It read, “The Munzali Jibril-led renegotiation committee submitted the first Draft Agreement in May 2021 but the government’s official response did not come until about one year later! Again, Award presented by the Nimi Briggs-led Team came across in a manner of take-it-or-leave-it on a sheet of paper. No serious country in the world treats their scholars this way.”
It stressed that the government’s surreptitious move to set aside the principle of collective bargaining, which was globally in practice, had the potential of damaging lecturers’ psyche and destroying commitment to the university system.
According to ASUU, this is, no doubt, injurious to Nigeria’s aspiration to become an active player in the global knowledge industry.
“Rejecting a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining is a repudiation of government’s pronouncements on reversing “brain drain”. It is common knowledge that, more now than in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerian scholars, especially in scarce areas like science and medicine, are migrating in droves to Europe, America and many parts of Africa such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Ghana with supportive environment to ply their trades as well as competitive reward systems for intellectual efforts. Does the Nigerian government care about what becomes of public universities in another five or ten years if this trend continues?”
Also, it stated that the New Draft Agreement had other major recommendations for the funding of major components of the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ ASUU Agreement, saying “one of such recommendations is the tax on cellphone and communication lines. Ironically, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning recently announced its readiness to implement ASUU’s recommendation, as a revenue
source, but not for education, without acknowledging the Union!”
The statement stressed that at the commencement of the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ ASUU Agreement on 16th March 2017, both the Federal Government and ASUU teams agreed to be guided by the following principles as their terms of reference: “Reversal of the decay in the Nigerian University System, in order to reposition it for its responsibilities in national development; Reversal of the brain drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff but also by disengaging them from the encumbrance of a unified civil service wage structure; Restoration of Nigerian Universities, through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention; and Ensuring genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.”
Meanwhile, The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, on Thursday, said it is the responsibility of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to compensate students for the time wasted during the six-month strike, not the Federal Government.
He also said the government will not concede to the union’s demand to pay lecturers their emoluments for the six months of no academic activities.
Adamu suggested that the affected students should “take ASUU to court” to claim damages incurred over the strike period.
The Education minister said this at the 47th Session of the State House Ministerial Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the federal government bears no liability to compensate millions of students grounded for six months over lost time.
He also said if the students are determined to get compensated, they should take ASUU to court.
In the face of lingering industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has denied getting a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari to resolve the protracted strike in two weeks.
During the weekly Ministerial Briefing on Thursday in Abuja, the minister told State House Correspondents that the President instead told him to resolve the issues within the shortest possible time, contrary to what the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, told the media.
He insisted that he will not succumb to ASUU’s demand for their members to be paid the backlog of salaries withheld within the period of six months that they were on strike, noting that it is the penalty for their action.
The minister also disclosed that five of the university-based unions will likely call off their strike within the next one week while that of ASUU remains uncertain.
Adamu argued that in spite of the N2.5 trillion expended on education by President Buhari’s administration through the Tertiary Education Fund (TETFUND) as well as Universal Basic Education (UBEC), surpassing the N1.2 trillion demanded by ASUU, lecturers have maintained their position to embark on a needless strike.
However, he, noted that ASUU had begun consultations with their members to determine whether to call off their strike as well.
The minister also faulted figures by UNICEF as well as the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs pegging the number of out-of-school children at 10.5 million.
According to him, that figure has since 2020 declined to 6.9 million.
This is as he said the government has further recorded impressive enrollment in the last year, particularly in frontline states such as Kano, Kaduna, Sokoto, Gombe, Bauchi, Adamawa, Taraba, Rivers, and Ebonyi states.
The minister equally added that the attitude of Northern governors depicts that they are trying to destroy the primary school education system, except for a few, no governor can boast of a sound primary education in their states. According to him, lack of cooperation from states has crippled his ability to intervene as minister to help states rescue primary schools as it will amount to nothing if the foundation of the education system is already rotten.