Why we cannot end ASUU strike now- Ogunyemi, ASUU President


 
There are indications that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may not be calling off its eight months old strike anytime soon despite offers by the federal government.

The Union has insisted that it will only call off the the 8-month old strike when it sees significant commitment of the federal government towards fulfilling its promise to the union.

ASUU had embarked on the strike following disagreement it had with the government over refusals to bring its members under the federal government Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which it said does not capture its peculiar situation, adding that it will bring it under government bureaucracy, and erodes it autonomy

ASUU therefore, proceeded to develop what it described as ” a more transparent pay system” named the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as an alternative to the IPPIS

Following the disagreement, ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike in March over several issues including the non-implementation of agreements and resolutions the government reached with the union in 2009.

Thus, despite several meetings with the federal government, both parties had remained resolute on its position, until recently when the federal government offered the sum of N65 billion to ASUU to call off the lingering strike

Labour Minister, Chris Ngige had while speaking on the latest offer, disclosed that N15 billion of the amount would be dedicated for revitalisation of universities.

N20 billion, he said, was offered to the union, which makes it N35 billion earmarked for revitalization of infrastructure in the universities.

The government therefore, urged the Vice-chancellors across public universities to submit details of the Earned Academic Allowances EAA to the National Universities Commission (NUC) before November 30.

But Biodun Ogunyemi, President, ASUU in an interview with BusinessDay on Thursday said that the union is yet to meet with other branches of the union to deliberate on the offer. He however said the decision to call of the strike will be taken very soon.

“We assure our students that once we see significant improvements in what government is planning to do and see them actually doing what they promised we will not hesitate to call off the strike."

The ASUU President when pressed further, said
“I will not be the one to determine if ASUU will call off the strike, we have sent the latest offers to our branches and we will meet very soon to consider and get back to government if not tomorrow (friday), it will be very soon."

This is just as the ASUU President warned that the country may face another wave of brain drain following the poor commitment of government towards addressing the demand of the union and ultimately address the different levels of rot in Nigeria’s education system.

Ogunyemi wondered why the federal government had refused to raise a Visitation Panel to its Universities for over ten years now, as against provisions that such panels must visit the Universities, every five years.

Such visits, he said would allow the government to evaluate the true state of infrastructure in the Universities.

Ogunyemi, said Nigerian Universities not only lack the basic infrastructure to keep scholars in the sector, but the very few available facilities are already going obsolete and government’s will to address the matter has been tragic.

The ASUU President said the immediate cause of the the lingering crisis remains the non implementation of the 2019 Memorandum of Action (MOA) signed with the federal government on 7th February 2019.

He decried that government have made several promises to the union for several years which has not been actualized despite the Memorandum of understanding and Actions signed.

According to him, some of these issues include the revitalization fund, which has been on since 2009; Earned Academic Allownaces which government agreed to pay in four installments in 2019, the failure of government to carry out Visitation to public universities. He siad the last Visitation was conducted in January 2011 and government promised to inaugurate Visitation panels but has not fulfilled it.

"Government made several promises on all these but have not been able ro fulfil them. Government is now trying to play a trick against the union”, he cried

The President disclosed that only N20 billion of the N1.3 trillion naira have been committed by the Muhammadu-Buhari led administration to revitalise university.

“Let me put it bluntly, government has not addressed revitilization that is why it’s still an issue”, he said.

He recalled that in 2013 under Jonathan government conducted a NEEDS assessment on universities and agreed to inject a total of 1.3 trillion into Publuc universities for six years after seeing the level of decay, but only successfully paid the the first tranche of 200 bn, while 220 billion is to be paid for the next 5 years, but regrets that the Muhammadu Buhari Administration has not done anything meaningful to that regards.

Ogunyemi explained that of the N65 billion offered by government to lure the union into calling of the strike only N25 billion is for revitalization instead of the agreed N110 billion, while 40 billion was meant to address Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).

On other demands of the union, particularly the IPPIS and its proposed UTAS, the ASUU president said, despite the “powerful lobby and gang up ”. UTAS will surely see the light of the day.

He insisted that the university system has its peculiarities, adding that IPPIS will not allow the University its autonomy

"We cannot embark on recruitment without clearance from the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation which will take away the autonomy of Universities.” he said

According to him, the universities will among other things lose its autonomy and deprive students of learning in line with global beat practicesm

“You don’t put University under the armpit of civil service because you are now exposing them to the risk of bureaucracy. Universities are unique its not like civil service where you just unify all allowances and payroll."

"Under IPPIS, We cannot attract scholars from other climes to share global practices. IPPIS will not allow that because it means you will have to go and clear with the head of service . What we call over time excess work load, administrative allowances are not the same as the civil service”, he said.

The ASUU President recalled that in the 1990s , Nigeria had the first wave of brain drain adding that the country is yet to recover from it, even as he regretted that government is yet to create the enabling environment for scholars to compete with their counterpart on ither climes.

This, according to him is evident in the lingering strikes following failure of government to commit funds to the revitalization of the university system after several years of clamour and agitations for several years.

He disclosed that only N20 billion of the N1.3 trillion naira have been committed by the Muhammadu-Buhari led administration to revitalise infrastructure in universities across the country

He pointed out that the union is not just pushing for the adoption of the home grown UTAS for the interest of the union alone, but for the benefit of the entire country.

According to him, ” IPPIS was imposed on Nigeria by the world bank and the leadership of Nigeria has consequently been sold to world bank and IMF.”

"Nigeria is not free, Nigeria is in chains, if informed Nigerians know the level of bondage the country has been put into, we will all join hands with ASUU."

“Our government took a loan of 140 million dollars to implement IPPIS and we are bringing a platform that Nigeria will not need to pay any foreign currency to service, which one is better? Is it something that will enslave us or something that will liberate us. We are clear about the reasons for accept IPPIS”, he said.

Source: BUSINESSDAY

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