The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Monday called on Nigerians to prevail on the federal government to pay its members their withheld eight-month salaries to avert a fresh crisis in the nation’s universities.
The union alerted that the looming crisis would surpass previous one experienced in the nation’s university if the federal government failed to heed their call.
Chairman University of Ilorin branch of ASUU, Professor Moyosore Ajao, said this at a special congress of the local branch held at the university’s main auditorium.
Moyosore’s speech was read by the secretary of the union, Dr AbdulGaniyu Olatunji.
The university lecturers had staged a solidarity rally within the university’s campus before retiring to the auditorium where they addressed journalists on “Casualisation of Intellectual Workers In Nigeria: Prelude To Our Response.”
Ajao said:” Gentlemen of the press let me assure you that our union is resolved to continue to call the attention of government to its responsibilities despite the obnoxious treatment being meted out to us by government. To this effect, though we have resumed work in our university, government’s ignoble stance of withholding our eight months’ salaries, which is based on its ill- advised policy of “No work, No Pay” is set to trigger fresh crises.
“In the coming days, the union would respond by considering to invoke the “No Pay, No work policy and would abandon the works that have accumulated for those period which government has falsely claimed, through Chris Ngige, that our members have not worked.
“It is pertinent to note that, before any industrial action, the union would have given series of warnings. Therefore, Nigerian stakeholders should understand that not to heed the warning of the union is to risk unpleasant consequences.
“Thus, members of the public are hereby sensitiJed and put on notice again that fresh crisis, which would surpass all previous ones, is looming again in Nigeria universities as our members cannot and would not continue to do free work that would not be remunerated. We hope that with this notice, all relevant stakeholders, who have the ears of government and would act fast before the fragile peace restored on our campuses nationwide collapses.
“Our union and its members should not be held responsible for the consequences that its actions, in response to the crude wickedness of the Nigerian state, would have on all stakeholders.”
He added: “As a law abiding union, we have heeded the directive of the court which directed that we resume to our duty posts while the substantive matter is being heard. However, after resumption from strike and to our utmost dismay, government decided, that half salaries be paid to our members for the month of October, 2022. This development is unacceptable and would be resisted by our union. The fact is that academics are not casual workers. Only casual workers receive pay prorate. The law of the land is also clear on this; indeed, the National Industrial Court made it clear in a landmark judgment in 2020 that tenured staff cannot be paid pro-rata.
“While the union finds it absurd that the Ministries of Education and Finance have surrendered their duties and now take order from Ngige, the crass ignorance exhibited by Chris Ngige’s order makes a mockery of the Nigeria nation which in the committee of nations in the world has become infamous as the first nation to convert intellectual workers in its universities to casual staff. It is very sad that the minister of labour is ignorant of the fact that academic staff engage in so many activities aside teaching duties. In fact, the primary duty of an academic staff is research, and there are other activities such as that that continue to engage their attention irrespective of strike action or whether school is in session or not.”
In a similar position, the University of Ibadan chapter of ASUU Monday alleged that the federal government was on a mission to destroy the public universities in Nigeria.
Chairman of the UI branch, Professor Ayoola Akinwole said this at a stakeholders’ congress and protest rally held across the university’s campus.
He listed some of the alleged ways the federal government was planning to crumble the varsity system to include ” violation and repudiation of all extant agreements reached with the union, forcing the union into strike, prolonging the strike by its inaction and victimization of ASUU members for embarking on strike, which they were forced into by the negligence and inaction by the government.
“Today’s protest has become necessary due to our conviction that the federal government is on a mission to destroy the public universities through inadequate funding, and through its war against ASUU.”
Akinwole further said: “In addition to the foregoing, ASUU members are being treated differently from members of other unions that also embarked on strike to press home their demands.
“For instance, the members of the Research Institutes embarked on twelve-month strike and their salaries were paid throughout the period they were on strike. On the contrary, the salaries of ASUU members were stopped a month into the strike and members were expected to starve to death. This is evidence of double standard, inconsistency and selective treatment meted out to ASUU members by the government.”
“Similarly, government has surreptitiously appropriated funds belonging to ASUU and its members. For instance, the government deducted check-off dues for the months of March, September and October 2022 without remitting same to the union.
“This was also the case in 2020 when about three months’ ASUU check-off dues were deducted by the government without remitting to the Union. The only explanation for this is that the government is hell-bent on destroying ASUU in order to have the freedom to destroy the public universities.
“As a union of intellectuals, it is our historical responsibility to protect the public universities from collapse and fight for the interest of our members as well as the interests of the Nigerians students. All these considerations necessitate today’s protest,” the union contended.
‘Decentralise varsity structure’
But in an intervention, Executive Vice Chairman and Chief Executive National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI), Professor Mohammad Sani Haruna said the decentralisation of the University Salary Structure remains the best way out of recurring industrial crisis in the varsity system.
While advocating that lecturers negotiate on case-by-case basis with their respective Governing Councils, he said the varsity teachers should be paid by contact hours and remunerated according to the impact of their output.
The NASENI boss made the position known at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria during the launching of four books and celebration of excellence by a Professor of Public Administration – Aminu Ladan Sharehu.
Haruna posited that the Nigerian varsity system ought to grow to a level where lecturers would earn more than a Vice Chancellor or political office holders if their works attract funding.
The NASENI boss, who lamented that universities were not solving any socio-economic challenges of the communities in their catchment areas, expressed worry that the nation’s ivory towers had no linkages with industries and relevant research organisations.
He said: “Let me advocate that: University Salary Structure and indeed of all tertiary institutions should be decentralized in such a way that lecturers are paid for productivity hours.
“Salaries to be negotiated on case-by-case basis with the Governing Council and according to the capacity and performance of the lecturers and the universities.
“Yes, payment of living wages is important, but it does not make sense to pay the uniform salaries for lecturers in Damaturu, Birnin Kebbi, Lagos and Port Harcourt where cost of living is not the same.
“Lecturers should be paid by contact hours and remunerated according to the impact of their output. They can earn more than a Vice Chancellor, or political office holders if their work attracts funding from private sector or other sources or impact attract glories to their institutions.
“By these, I am advocating decentralized unions; both ASUU and NASU are out of tune with the reality. Each institution to have its local union having contract with the Governing Council.”
Expressing further disgust at the rot in the system, the don said: “As an academician myself, let me confess that the attitude of some teaching staff leaves much to be desired. Some lecturers are not even qualified or suitable to teach courses assigned to them. Most have no professional teaching qualification, most have no passion for teaching and are in the profession only as ‘lasting job alternative.
“I have seen teachers who recycle the lesson notes given to them when they were students three to four decades earlier. How can the products of such process be relevant in today’s dynamic and digital world?
“Lecturers are not accountable in most public institutions for absenteeism and for failure to adhere to planned timetable and for non-execution of practical structured in their syllabus. Corruption and sexual harassment are generally unchecked leading to half-baked graduates.
“Our universities are not solving any socio-economic challenges of the communities in their catchment areas and have no linkages with industries and relevant research organisations. Most cannot attract any research fund because need-oriented research and market driven research is not in their culture. I bet some lecturers can fail the very exam they are setting for their students.
“Lecturers of higher institutions no longer spend vacations in the industries to update their knowledge. What is disheartening is that graduation days or period of many bright students are sometimes unreasonably delayed by lazy and non-supervised lecturers with negative consequences on the career progression of affected students especially in ABU. The problems are many.”
On ABU, he said: “The case of ABU that cannot resume academic activities immediately after the strike is called off is worrisome. ABU has lost many academic years and any rush to catch up can only end in production of half-baked graduates.
“Generally, unemployment rate will continue to grow. Thousands of unemployable and unskilled but half-baked graduates are turned out annually in Nigeria.”
He said there was “need to strategize on the reduction of fake certificates from Cotonou in Benin Republic because of prioritization of degrees instead of skills.”