The Federal Government and workers’ unions in various sectors of the economy were literally at each other’s jugular, yesterday, over the five-month long strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, which has grounded the nation’s ivory towers.
Pointedly, the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, ANAP, and National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, NUBIFIE, have threatened to shut down airports, banks and financial institutions in solidarity with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, which has directed its members to embark on a nationwide protest on July 26 and 27 in solidarity with the university teachers’ industrial action.
However, Presidency officials yesterday accused ASUU leaders of sustaining the on-going strike by blackmail, threat and feeding members with lies about the Federal Government’s efforts at resolving the industrial action that has entered the sixth month.
“This is different from the N304 billion from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund TETFUND for 2021 and first quarter of 2022,” the Presidency officials added
General-Secretary of ANAP, Abdulrasaq Saidu, said yesterday that members of the union will align with the NLC position in protesting against the unfortunate situation in the tertiary education sector.
Saidu said the over five-month strike has ridiculed Nigeria’s educational system and made it a laughing stock.
“ASUU, NASU, SAUTHRIAI, NAAT had been on strike for more than five months due to the apparent failure of government to sign the re-negotiated 2009 Agreement with ASUU, failure to honour the terms reached in the May 2022 MoU signed with ASUU, and habitual failure of government to respect Collective Bargaining Agreements willingly signed with labour Unions,” he noted.
He said not only the students are suffering, but also parents and the society, adding that the poor economy has also affected every home in the country.
Saidu said education remained the bedrock of any country aspiring for greatness, noting that ASUU strike would eventually lead to a regrettable situation in future, if not well-handled.
“Our children are using eight years to read courses of four years with resources being wasted. We cannot continue this way,” he said.
In a related development, the NUBIFIE said it would join the NLC in its solidarity strike over the lingering ASUU strike.
According to NAN, NUBIFIE said this in a statement signed by Anthony Abakpa, its national president and Mohammed Sheikh, general secretary, on Sunday.
“However, if after the one-day protest by NLC on this issue and nothing is done, the union will have no other option than to call out all our members in banks, insurance and other financial institutions in solidarity with ASUU,” it added.
NUC laments effects of prolonged strike on Nigeria’s economy, students, others
As the ongoing ASUU strike entered its 6th month, the National Universities Commission, NUC, has lamented the effects of the strike on students, Nigeria’s economy as well as reputation of the nation’s universities.
Executive Secretary of NUC, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, speaking yesterday, at the opening session of the 2022 management retreat with vice-chancellors of Nigerian universities, organised by the commission, asked the vice-chancellors to ensure that universities fulfill their primary roles and mandate.
He specifically said they must take up the challenge through competence and resolutions.
“Our universities have been confronted with uncertainties due to the unfortunate strike. ASUU strike is is in the sixth month and as vice-chancellors, we know the negative consequences of the prolonged closure of universities, we know what it means in terms of its effect on the economy of a nation. As vice-chancellors we know what it means in terms of our institutional reputation and the future of our youths.
“University education is fundamental to success and a nation’s economy. Nations explore teaching, research and community development for aspiration of goals,” Prof. Rasheed said.
Rasheed said NUC was determined to promote dialogue and constructive engagement with critical stakeholders to see a crisis-free university system.
The retreat, he explained, was to identify and support on-going efforts by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, the Federal Ministry of Education and other stakeholders ,in ensuring stability and put an end to on-going strike in the country’s public universities.
“Nigerian universities must fulfill their primary roles and fulfill their extant laws,” he added.
Noting that “the National Universities Commission is responsible for the development of universities in Nigeria”,the NUC boss reiterated the resolve of his organisation to “continue to provide guidance to ensure students sponsors get value for education.”
Speaking at the retreat, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, represented by the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nanah Opiah, explained that one of the challenges created by COVID-19 is paucity of funds.
ASUU sustaining strike with lies, blackmail, threat, FG spent N421.27bnon varsities — Presidency officials
Accusing ASUÛ leaders of sustaining the on-going strike by blackmail, threat and feeding members with lies about government’s efforts at resolving the industrial action, some Presidency officials told Vanguard that the Federal Government has implemented five out of the seven issues on the Memorandum of Action, MoA, it signed with the leaders of ASUU in December 2020 and has paid not less than N92.27billion as Earned Academic Allowances, EAA, among others to ASUU members before embarked on strike.
This is different from the N304 billion from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund TETFUND for 2021 and first quarter of 2022.
According to them, “the universities received N25 billion for all their staff in May 2022 arising from the consequential adjustment of the 2019 minimum wage. What this means is that every staff of the Federal Government was given 10 per cent increase as against what he or she was earning before the new minimum wage.”
One of the officials said: “The Federal Government paid ASUU N40 billion EAA as Earned Allowance in January/February 2021 for 2020. The government also paid N22.27 billion for 2021 mainstreamed into 2021 budget as promised to ASUU in the MoA. Similarly, N30 billion was paid in June 2021 for Revitalisation as contained in the MoA, amounting to about N92.27billion.
“On the issue of ASUU’s University Transparency Accountability Solution, UTAS, as against the Federal Government’s Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS, UTAS, has been tested since 2021. While it passed USER Acceptance, it failed Integrity test. That is, it did not pass vulnerability test against hackers, stress and traffic usage/ accommodation.
“You are aware that the other unions in the university system, especially the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, said they developed their own payment platform which they call University Peculiar Payroll and Payment System, U3PS or UPPPS. NASU and SSANU have vowed that even if UTAS is 100 percent perfect, their members would not key into it. How do you describe that? It is total confusion.
“Nevertheless, as part of efforts to resolve the issue, further tests on UTAS and UPPPS, even, the IPPIS are ongoing at the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA. But ASUU’s insistence on the usage of UTAS whether good or bad shows how they want the matter to remain unresolved. As part of the implementation of the MoA, on the visitation panels to the universities, it has been done. The panel’s work has been concluded and its gazette will be released anytime.
“On the issue of renegotiation of 2009 agreement, another official informed that “it was actually renegotiated in 2013/ 2014 and to be reviewed every five years. The Wale Babalakin committee started the renegotiation in 2018 and left it later for Professor Munzali. Because its proposal in 2021 was not processed in the Federal Ministry of Education until October 2021, a new committee was set up headed by Professor Nimi Briggs.
Unfortunately, the committee also decided not to work with the appropriate Federal Government agencies like the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Budget Office, National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission, Office of Head Civil Service of the Federation and Ministry of Labour and Employment that fix and recommend salaries and wages and public service Conditions of Service as proposal to the Federal Ministry of Education and Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages.
“However, ASUU went back to tell its members that an agreement has been drawn up. This is in bad faith as any such agreement is guided by capacity and ability to pay. The proposal’s financial implications as it affects the 44,377 lectures with about 7,000 professors when you include other staff in the universities comes to about one trillion Naira a month. The Presidential committee on Salaries chaired by the Minister of Finance as we speak is still working on a template to accommodate all in the Education sector including Polytechnics and colleges of Education.”
Lamenting, one of the sources, said: “ASUU’s habit is to intimidate everybody. Because UTAS failed integrity test, they said the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Patami ‘s Professorship should be withdrawn, accusing him of asking NITDA to fail UTAS. They also threatened to withdraw the certificate of the Director-General of NITDA from ABU. At the negotiation table, they used threat which is against ILO principles of Collective Bargaining.
They have been feeding their members with lies. As a union, you must conform to the tenets of unionism. The Labour law says once a matter has been apprehended by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, you go back to work. Go and check Section Eight of the Trade Dispute Act. It is there.”
Northern students back NLC, mobilise to join nationwide protest
The students’ wing of the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, has urged its members in the 19 states of the region, who are affected by the strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to join the protest action declared by the NLC.
Vanguard had reported that the NLC, in a circular obtained on Sunday, declared a two-day nationwide protest in solidarity with the striking lecturers.
The circular dated July 15, was signed by the National President of the NLC, Ayuba Wabba, and issued to all state chairmen of the union.
According to the circular, the protest will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in all the states of the Federation and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
Backing the call to action in a statement jointly signed by Jamilu Aliyu Charanchi (National Co-ordinator) and Emuseh Gimba Bokunga (National Secretary), the student wing of CNG blamed the Federal Government for failing to fulfill some of the agreements it made with ASUU as far back as 2009.
The statement reads in part: “We note that the government is unconcerned by the disadvantages of the closure of universities. Politicians are so unconcerned; their major concern is how to secure the next election, rather than securing the next generation and the future of the country. This is related to the fact that most of their children are studying either abroad or in private universities.
“As a last option and failure of these decent moves to yield positive results and ensure the reopening of universities, we hereby direct all our state chapters to mobilize students and parents to join Nigerian Labour Congress for a massive protest that would entail the shutting down of activities in all states and National Assembly, all political party offices and all major highways, airways and railways.
“It is unfortunate, that people in Government today, whom are the major beneficiaries of the magnanimity and foresight of past Nigerian leaders in the provision of quality, accessible, readily available and affordable education are today the same people working to deprive other generations of the same privileges. We are left with no option but to do anything humanly possible which will ensure the reopening of our classes.”