The Federal Government and workers’ unions in different sectors of the economy were physically at odds yesterday over the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, five-month strike that has grounded the nation’s ivory towers.
In particular, the Association of Nigeria Aviation Professionals, ANAP, and the National Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees, NUBIFIE, have threatened to close airports, banks, and financial institutions in solidarity with the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, which has directed its members to stage a nationwide protest in solidarity with the university teachers’ strike on July 26 and 27.
On the same day that the National Universities Commission, NUC, lamented the strike’s effects on students, the economy, and the reputation of the nation’s universities, the students’ wing of the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, urged its members in the 19 Northern states affected by the ASUU strike to join the NLC’s protest action.
However, Presidency officials yesterday accused ASUU leaders of prolonging the strike by blackmailing, threatening, and misleading members about the Federal Government’s attempts to end the walkout, which is now in its sixth month.
According to some Presidency officials, the Federal Government has implemented five of the seven issues in the Memorandum of Action, MoA, signed with ASUU leaders in December 2020, and has paid not less than N92.27 billion in Earned Academic Allowances, EAA, and other benefits to ASUU members before they went on strike.
“This is in contrast to the N304 billion from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund TETFUND for 2021 and the first quarter of 2022,” Presidency officials said.
Abdulrasaq Saidu, General-Secretary of ANAP, said Wednesday that members of the union would join the NLC in protesting the sad condition in the tertiary education sector.
He urged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop the strike immediately, stressing that the prolonged strike has exacerbated social vices in the nation by forcing students to participate in unsavory activities that might jeopardize their future.
According to Saidu, the five-month strike has rendered Nigeria’s educational system a laughingstock.
“ASUU, NASU, SAUTHRIAI, and NAAT had been on strike for more than five months due to the government’s apparent failure to sign the re-negotiated 2009 Agreement with ASUU, failure to honor the terms reached in the May 2022 MoU signed with ASUU, and habitual failure of government to respect Collective Bargaining Agreements willingly signed with labor Unions,” he noted.
He said that not just pupils, but also parents and society, are suffering, and that the country’s terrible economy has touched every family.
Saidu said that education remained the backbone of every nation striving for greatness, saying that the ASUU strike would ultimately lead to a tragic scenario if not managed properly.
“Our pupils are wasting resources by taking eight years to read four-year courses.” “We can’t go on like this,” he remarked.
In a similar event, the NUBIFIE said that it will join the NLC in a solidarity strike in response to the ongoing ASUU strike.
According to NAN, NUBIFIE said this in a statement signed by its national president, Anthony Abakpa, and general secretary, Mohammed Sheikh, on Sunday.
“However, if nothing is done following the NLC’s one-day demonstration on this matter, the union would have no choice but to call out all our members in banks, insurance, and other financial institutions in solidarity with ASUU,” it continued.
As the current ASUU strike reached its sixth month, the National Institutions Commission, NUC, criticized the strike’s consequences on students, the Nigerian economy, and the image of the country’s universities.
Speaking yesterday at the inaugural session of the commission’s 2022 management retreat with vice-chancellors of Nigerian universities, NUC Executive Secretary Professor Abubakar Rasheed challenged the vice-chancellors to ensure that institutions achieve their main tasks and mandate.
He expressly said that they must rise to the task with skill and resolve.
“Due to the terrible strike, our universities have been presented with uncertainty.” The ASUU strike is in its sixth month, and as vice-chancellors, we understand the devastating implications of extended university closures, as well as the impact on a nation’s economy. As vice-chancellors, we understand what it means for our institution’s reputation and the future of our students.
“University education is critical to prosperity and the economy of a country.” Nations investigate education, research, and community development in order to achieve objectives,” Prof. Rasheed said.
Rasheed said that the NUC was dedicated to foster communication and constructive interaction with key stakeholders in order to achieve a crisis-free university system.
He said that the retreat was held to identify and support ongoing efforts by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, the Federal Ministry of Education, and other stakeholders to ensure stability and put an end to the country’s public university strike.
“Nigerian universities must perform their core functions and adhere to existing legislation,” he continued.
Noting that “the National Universities Commission is responsible for the growth of universities in Nigeria,” the NUC president reaffirmed his organization’s commitment to “continue to give guidelines to guarantee students sponsors receive value for education.”
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who was represented at the retreat by the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nanah Opiah, highlighted that one of the issues generated by COVID-19 is a lack of funding.
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 N92.27 billion as Earned Academic Allowances, EAA, among others, to ASUU members, accusing ASUU leaders of sustaining the on-going strike through blackmail, threat, and feeding members with lies about government’s efforts to resolve the industrial action.
This is in contrast to the N304 billion allocated by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund TETFUND for 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.
“The universities got N25 billion for all their workers in May 2022 as a result of the resultant adjustment of the 2019 minimum wage,” they said. This implies that every Federal Government employee received a 10% raise over what they were receiving prior to the new minimum wage.”
“The Federal Government paid ASUU N40 billion EAA as Earned Allowance in January/February 2021 for 2020,” one official stated. The government also contributed N22.27 billion into the 2021 budget, as pledged to ASUU in the MoA. Similarly, N30 billion was paid in June 2021 for Revitalisation, as stipulated in the MoA, totaling about N92.27 billion.
“ASUU’s University Transparency Accountability Solution, UTAS, has been tested since 2021 in comparison to the Federal Government’s Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System, IPPIS.” It passed the USER Acceptance test but failed the Integrity test. In other words, it failed a vulnerability test against hackers, stress, and traffic usage/accommodation.
“You are aware that other university unions, particularly the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, have stated that they have developed their own payment platform, which they call University Peculiar Payroll and Payment System, U3PS or UPPPS.” NASU and SSANU have pledged that even if UTAS is ideal, their members would not enroll. How would you put it? It’s a huge mess.
“However, as part of attempts to remedy the problem, the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, is conducting further testing on UTAS and UPPPS, as well as the IPPIS.” However, ASUU’s insistence on using UTAS, for better or worse, demonstrates how they want the subject to stay unsolved. It has been done as part of the implementation of the MoA, on the visiting panels to the institutions. The panel’s work has been completed, and its report will be made available at any moment.
“On the question of the 2009 agreement’s renegotiation, another official said that “it was really renegotiated in 2013/2014 and to be revisited every five years.” The renegotiation was initiated by the Wale Babalakin committee in 2018 and was subsequently handed up to Professor Munzali. Because its proposal in 2021 was not considered by the Federal Ministry of Education until October 2021, a new committee chaired by Professor Nimi Briggs was formed.
Unfortunately, the committee also decided not to collaborate with the appropriate Federal Government agencies, such as the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Budget Office, the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission, the Office of the Federation’s Chief Civil Service, and the Ministry of Labour and Employment, which fix and recommend salaries and wages as proposals to the Federal Ministry of Education and the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages.
However, ASUU returned to inform its members that an agreement had been drafted. This is a bad faith transaction since any such arrangement is based on capacity and ability to pay. The financial consequences of the plan, which involves 44,377 lectures with over 7,000 professors when other university workers is almost one trillion Naira every month. As we speak, the Presidential Committee on Salaries, led by the Minister of Finance, is working on a template to accommodate everybody in the Education sector, including Polytechnics and colleges of Education.”
One of the sources bemoaned, “ASUU’s practice is to scare everyone.” Because UTAS failed the integrity test, they demanded that Professor Isa Patami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, resign from his position, accusing him of directing NITDA to fail UTAS. They also threatened to revoke ABU’s certificate from the Director-General of NITDA. They utilized threats at the negotiating table, which violates ILO Collective Bargaining rules.
They have been spreading misinformation to their members. As a union, you must follow the principles of unionism. According to labor legislation, after an issue has been apprehended by the Ministry of Labour and Employment, you must return to work. Check out Section Eight of the Trade Dispute Act. It is present.”
The Coalition of Northern Groups’ students’ wing, CNG, has asked its members in the region’s 19 states impacted by the Academic Staff Union of Universities strike action to join the NLC’s protest action.
According to Vanguard, the NLC announced a two-day countrywide protest in sympathy with the striking academics in a circular acquired on Sunday.
The circular, dated July 15, was signed by Ayuba Wabba, National President of the NLC, and was sent to all state chairmen of the organization.
According to the circular, the demonstration would take place on Tuesday and Wednesday in all of the Federation’s states as well as Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory.
The student wing of CNG backed the call to protest in a statement signed by Jamilu Aliyu Charanchi (National Co-ordinator) and Emuseh Gimba Bokunga (National Secretary), accusing the Federal Government of failing to meet some of the commitments it made with ASUU as early as 2009.
“We notice that the government seems indifferent about the drawbacks of university closures,” the statement says in part. Politicians are so careless; their primary focus is ensuring the next election, rather than safeguarding the next generation and the country’s future. This is due to the fact that the majority of their children are studying overseas or at private institutions.
“As a last resort, and in the event that these decent moves fail to produce positive results and ensure the reopening of universities, we hereby direct all our state chapters to mobilize students and parents to join the Nigerian Labour Congress in a massive protest that would entail the closure of all activities in all states and the National Assembly, all political party offices, and all major highways, airways, and railways.”
“It is regrettable that persons in government now, who are the main beneficiaries of previous Nigerian leaders’ magnanimity and foresight in providing excellent, accessible, easily available, and inexpensive education, are now striving to deprive future generations of the same benefits.” We have no choice but to do all humanly feasible to assure the resumption of our lessons.”
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