Posted by News Express | 9 February 2014 | 5,295 times
Barely two months after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), called off its nearly-six-month strike, the Nigerian university system may soon be thrown into another round of crisis.
ASUU yesterday, in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, alerted the nation of an alleged non-compliance by the Federal Government with the agreement signed between both parties, last December, prior to ASUU’s decision to call off the industrial action.
Accusing the President Goodluck Jonathan administration of breaching its agreement with the union, ASUU pleaded with Nigerians to prevail on the Federal Government to see to the implementation of the contract, particularly the aspect that deals with funding of universities, so as to prevent another round of strikes.
ASUU’s National Treasurer, Dr. Ademola Aremu, who made the appeal on behalf of the union, alleged that the Federal Government had not kept its own side of the bargain.
Aremu recalled that the government had promised to fund universities, but wondered why, despite the assurances, it was yet to do so.
The Federal Government recently released N200 billion to the universities before ASUU called off its strike, with an expectation that a total sum of N1.3 trillion would be released in the next six years.
The resolution was signed between ASUU and the Federal Government on December 11, 2013, in the presence of the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar.
On Tuesday, December 17, 2013, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the lecturers’ body resolved to suspend the strike it embarked upon on July 1, 2013, and directed its members to resume work forthwith.
Aremu said: “ASUU members are not strike mongers; our last strike was inevitable, although it was preventable. Of the N220 billion that the Federal Government promised to release to our universities for their development, as we are talking now, the money that is to be warehoused with the Central Bank is yet to be released. The Federal Government’s promises remain just promises. We are appealing to Nigerians, through the media, to help us appeal to the Federal Government to make the promises become a reality.”
ASUU maintained that, inasmuch as its members would not want to resort to strikes in settling issues with the government, they would want Nigerians to know that the conditions of the universities really needed to be improved upon.
Also, the chairman of the University of Ibadan chapter of the union, Dr. Olusegun Ajiboye, insisted that all that ASUU members stand for, is a free society, where individuals’ rights and entitlements are not trampled upon.
Ajiboye said ASUU members would continue to kick against injustice in the country until governments do the right thing.
He urged the media, more than ever, to sensitise Nigerians on the plight of ASUU and its members in universities and allied institutions, maintaining that the struggle was meant for all Nigerians, irrespective of status.
“A current case in point is the recent sack of over 90 workers at CRIN (Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria), simply because their appointments were not confirmed. This development is unacceptable to ASUU, and we are kicking against it. Nigeria must be a free state for everybody.
“Despite the fact that ASUU was initially called names during our strike, is ASUU not vindicated at the end of the day? What we are saying is that ASUU’s struggle is for all. We appreciate the contribution of the media to our struggle, and we urge you not to relent,” he stated.
In the same vein, the union had recently directed its members not to fill forms, distributed by the National Universities Commission (NUC), warning that it may lead to an industrial action.
The NUC had given out the forms for a new method of payment, tagged: Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS).
The directive was given by the same University of Ibadan branch of ASUU, claiming that the method of payment had been roundly condemned in the health sector after noticeable flaws in the system.
The lecturers cautioned the NUC not to distract them now that they were trying to cover lost grounds occasioned by the six-month strike, while declaring that the method of payment negated the principle of university autonomy agreed upon since 1992.
“Our attention has been drawn to NUC’s circular, directing university staff to fill IPPIS forms. This is to remind you that the union’s position on IPPIS has not changed. Until NEC reviews its earlier decision, no ASUU should fill the form. NEC is to discuss this issue later this month (February) and give further directive. United we bargain, divided we beg.”
Ajiboye said, “the integrated payment system does not take into consideration the peculiarity of the work of academic staff, and it negates the principle of autonomy, which ASUU won since 1992.
“IPPS negates the principle of university autonomy that ASUU fought for. We are employed by our respective governing councils, and not centrally by NUC. For salaries to be paid from Abuja is strange to the world university system, apart from the dangers inherent in it,” he said.
Attempts to get reactions from the Minister of Education, Dr. Nyesom Wike, yesterday was unsuccessful, as he was said to be outside the country on official assignment, while the Permanent Secretary in the ministry could also not be reached.
Wike’s Personal Assistant, Mr. Lambert Oparah, said in a telephone conversation yesterday, that he was not competent to comment on the said looming strike. His words: “Please, I am not competent to speak on the topic. Only the minister or the Permanent Secretary can make statements or comments on such matters. The minister is out of the country on official duty and the Permanent Secretary cannot be reached until Monday. But I assure you that the minister will speak on it on Monday (tomorrow).”
•Adapted from a Sunday Newswatch report. Photo shows ASUU President, Comrade Nasir Fagge.
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