Strike: Don't Pay Lecturers for the Nine months they didn't work - Former UI VC to FG


Who funds the strikes by ASUU?
 

(1)Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any other law – (a) where any worker takes part in a strike, he shall not be entitled to any wages or other remuneration for the period of the strike, and any such period shall not count for the purpose of reckoning the period of continuous employment and  all rights dependent on continuity of employment shall be prejudicially affected accordingly.  – Section 43 of Trade Dispute Act.

According to a report in the Daily Trust (December 24, 2020), a former vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Prof Isaac Adewole, “warned the federal government against paying lecturers for the nine months that they did not work, saying that would encourage more strikes in the future.”


The news report went further to quote the Pro-chancellor of Osun State University, Mallam Yusuf Ali (SAN), as noting that “the university had adopted a ‘no work, no pay’ policy since 2018. He said Uniosun is autonomous and that the state government had never interfered in its affairs.”

One must ask in passing why must state universities, funded by state governments in a federation, participate in a federal ‘IPPS strike’?!

For months, some of us watched with disgust and dismay how the federal government pandered to the whims and caprices of the ASUU leadership, some of whom have their children in Nigerian private universities and institutions abroad. Not once, not twice, Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour, caught a pathetic sight. It was as if ASUU was the employer while the government was the employee! While announcing what he described as conditional suspension of the latest strike, the president of ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi of a state university, added a caveat “…our members are not tired of withdrawing their services”! Why not? ASUU members always collect salaries for embarking on strikes! This can only happen in Nigeria!

The just-suspended strike began in February only with protests over the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPS), a platform designed by government to curb massive scam in the old payment platform (GIFMIS). According to Ngige, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) discovered that some lecturers drew salaries from two to four universities all at the same time, beside the menace of ghost workers and other corrupt practices in the system!

When the current chairman INEC, Prof Yakubu Mahmood, was the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, he lamented from time to time the inability of most of our public institutions of learning to access the billions of Naira in the fund. The reason being that the universities were unable to account for the management of the previous funds they received from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund! The public should demand from ASUU what became of the past revitalization funds released by the federal government. It is like pouring water in a basket as the public varsity system is riddled with corrupt practices, pollution and mismanagement of funds. Besides, the public should also demand from ASUU, if their products have become more employable in the labour market after the past revitalization funds released by the government.

We know the federal government, from one administration to the other, especially since the foray of the military into governance, has not been able to fully meet its obligations to the education sector, but this is only part of the story. The platitudinous phrase, ‘rot in infrastructure’ is often a smokescreen employed by the ASUU leadership to negotiate salary enhancement during any industrial action. It is always the top item on the list of its demands in order to court public sympathy. It’s a predictable pattern since the late 80s, when strikes became the norm rather than the exception. Of course, it’s always easy to embark on strike since you’ll still collect your salaries at the end of the industrial action! The just-suspended strike began only with IPPS matter but within weeks, ‘rot in infrastructure’ became the first item while, as usual, pocket enhancement in the name of a contraption called Earned Academic Allowances was tucked into the list of demands. Nigerians should not be fooled.

The strike is a yearly ritual, a stratagem to obtain rise in emoluments of the academics but the ASUU hoax is to push on the front burner ‘decay in infrastructure’ in order to earn public sympathy for any industrial action. Under the current administration alone, the union went on strike for four weeks in 2017, 13 weeks in 2018 and now 41 weeks in 2020! And they earned salaries for embarking on strikes!

The next strike timeline is predictable. There may be only a warning strike in 2021 because of the prolonged 2020 strike. But by 2022, there will be another strike, lasting months. ‘Rot in infrastructure’ will be the top item while Earned Academic Allowances will be tucked into the list of demands. There will be a new ASUU President to lead his men in battle. Every new leadership of ASUU must get pocket enhancement as the barometer for measuring the success of its tenure. But the strategy is to push on the front burner ‘decay in infrastructure’ in order to obtain public empathy.

It is high time the public demanded accountability from the public varsities. You embark on strike every year! Why not? You can always come back to collect salary arrears! Even in ‘normal times’, the lecturers who show up in class two weeks to the semester exams still collect their salaries! One may recall that former chairman of NUC, Prof Peter Okebukonla, once lamented the “academic dead woods” in our varsities.

It is shocking to read that some local chapters of ASUU are sanctioning their members that enrolled in IPPS. IPPS was the template designed by the employer to pay its employees! Yet the same ASUU leadership collected salaries in violation of Section 43 of Trade Dispute Act! This is putting the leadership of ASUU on notice. Our children can no longer be used as canon fodders. When next you go on strike, there will be a court action not only to ensure total and perpetual compliance of the federal government with Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, but to force ASUU to return the salaries for the nine months they were at home in 2020 to the public purse. Time, the leadership of ASUU should remember, does not run against the state! Hence, this should be last strike the public will accept. ASUU is not the only union in Nigeria. It cannot hold the entire nation hostage. Enough is enough!

The leadership of ASUU may wish to reflect on the immortal words of Prof Babatunde Munir Ogunsanwo, at the 49th inaugural lecture of Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye on Tuesday, July 28, 2009. “Government,” he observed, “has no business in negotiating salary for university staff because the latter are not employees of government. The responsibility to fix the salary of any university staff should be left strictly to the Governing Council of that university if we are sincere about our demand for university autonomy and academic freedom. The concept of unified salary structure for members of the academic staff is not only retrogressive but archaic and encourages indolence. Under this system, a hardworking, industrious and innovative academic staff would have to seek motivation elsewhere as there is no difference between his ‘take-home’ pay and that of a lazy colleague who will not accept any administrative responsibility but rather indulges in attending to his lectures a week or two before the commencement of an examination.”

“With the advent of technology in this modern age, it is regrettable that ASUU has not been able to formulate an enduring alternative to strike as a weapon for industrial disputes. The union cannot claim the dearth of expertise in industrial psychology, sociology, law or crisis management, who should be able to synthesize an efficient alternative to strike actions which have done more damage to the public image of ASUU as a union of academics who are never contented but rather are ready to sacrifice the future of their students for the improvement of their personal emoluments.

“Furthermore, the local chapter of the union should, as a matter of urgency, begin a process of self-sanitization. A union which claims to be at the vanguard of demand for qualitative university education cannot continue to shield academic ‘dead-woods’ who remain in the system for decades without self-improvement.”

Dr Okoh, a retired lecturer, writes from Lagos.



Source: the Nation

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