Nigeria’s Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has given the federal and state governments a three-week ultimatum to implement the memorandum of understanding and agreements they reached with the union, threatening that lecturers might be constrained to resume nationwide industrial action.
The union also decried the rising debt profile of the country, describing government’s borrowings as “reckless”.
It expressed regret that while public debt was rising, the cost of governance was also skyrocketing, adding that there was need to declare austerity measures on government apparatuses and drastically reduce the cost of governance.
Addressing journalists at its headquarters in Abuja, ASUU President, Emmanuel Osodeke, said the union was worried that almost one year since it suspended the nine month strike over non-implementation of the 2009 agreement, the federal government was yet to honour agreements reached with the university workers.
“We are very dissatisfied with government’s attitude to our issues. We have given the government three weeks to meet our demands during the NEC meeting we had Saturday and Sunday,” he warned.
Osodeke said the decision was part of the resolutions reached at the National Executive Council (NEC) of ASUU held last weekend at the University of Abuja.
He listed some of the outstanding issues to include, funding for revitalisation of public universities, Earned Academic Allowances, deployment of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS), and promotion arrears.
Other outstanding issues highlighted by ASUU included renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FG agreement and inconsistencies in IPPIS payment.
Osodeke said the N30 billion revitalisation fund for public universities kept in a dedicated account at the Central Bank of Nigeria was yet to be disbursed even when majority of the Vice Chancellors had successfully defended their proposals as conditions precedent to accessing the fund.
He said: “The proposal defense exercise which took place from October 4th to 8th, 2021 was followed by the transmission of the report to the minister of Finance for the release of allocated funds to the successful universities.
“On the strength of this, representatives of the federal government gave assurance that the qualified universities would get the funds on or before the end of October, 2021. Surprisingly, as of today, November 15, 2021, government is yet to fulfill its promise, with no cogent reason made available to our union.”
On the issue of Earned Academic Allowances, ASUU said the federal government had assured that N22.127 billion was appropriated in the 2021 budget, adding that the Ministry of Finance would take up to the end of October, to effect payment to members.
However, Osodeke lamented that nothing had been done to implement that part of agreement as well as other demands contained in the MoA signed with the federal government before ASUU suspended their strike last year.
Regarding the controversy over the appointment of Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, to the rank of Professor by the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, ASUU said its NEC rejected the report of the five-man panel which held that due process was adhered to in the appointment.
According to ASUU president, there were critical questions begging for answers which he said included whether Pantami met the 12-year post qualification requirement as contained in the advertisement.
ASUU said another issue in contention was whether the man possesses the required relevant academic publications and 70 percent being in web presence.
The union also wondered whether a serving minister in Nigeria could take up a tenured appointment in the university and whether he was capable of carrying out his official duties as required of a professor at same time as a serving minister.
After raising 10 issues against the appointment of the Pantami by FUTO authorities, ASUU NEC resolved to set an up independent panel to investigate the issues afresh.
The union also said that it would appoint another committee to visit ASUU-FUTO to determine the role of members in the controversial appointment, assuring that outcome of the panel’s findings will be made public.
ASUU further spoke on the union’s assessment of the state of the nation, saying that it was regrettable that insecurity has become a norm and the fact that the nation’s security architecture has almost collapsed.
“ASUU is particularly worried by the incessant attacks on our educational institutions especially the universities. Not too long ago, a young pregnant pharmacist and staff of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital was abducted and killed. The reign of terror unleashed on schools and colleges in states like Niger, Kaduna, Zamfara, Borno, Yobe has not only caused distress to the families whose children and wards were abducted for ransom but has discouraged schooling and compounded the problem of out-of-school children,” he said.
ASUU suggested the tightening of the porous borders around the North West and north east parts of the country and stoppage of unrestrained movement of illicit arms across the country.
In addition, ASUU urged the federal government to immediately address the problem of inequality, rising poverty and youth unemployment in the land.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja