Cartoon depicting the labor strife in Nigerian higher education. The Academic Staff University Union (ASUU) are currently on strike during August 2013., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Why strike must continue, by ASUU
FRIDAY, 23 AUGUST 2013 00:00 BY MARY OGAR
FROM the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Thursday came a declaration: No calling off of the current strike until all demands are met.
At a briefing in Lagos, ASUU’s President, Dr Nasir Issa Fagge described the much advertised government’s intervention in the current impasse as full of deceit and lacking in integrity.
Besides, Fagge insisted that the period of negotiation was over with the signing of the agreement between the Federal Government and the union in 2009, stressing that government should rather move towards implementing the agreement.
Fagge explained that the government team, at the latest meeting between the two parties held last Monday in Abuja, spoke with a tinge of finality and declaring its unpreparedness to implement the agreed massive injection of funds to revitalise public universities.
The ASUU president also expressed shock at the government’s declaration that it would not pay university academics their earned allowances which, he stated, had accumulated from 2009 to 2013 but would rather propagate the provision of N30 billion to assist various Governing Councils of Federal Universities to defray the arrears of N92 billion owed to all categories of staff in the university system.
For those clamouring that ASUU should soft pedal on the negotiation, Issa-Fagge argued that they had, so far met with government 10 times since the action commenced on July 2, 2013.
He said: “ASUU was shocked at the level of deceit, dishonesty and lack of integrity displayed by government. Here was a government that has been propping on the union at least since the release of the MoU in January 2012. Never in the history of ASUU-Government relations have we, as a union, ever experienced the kind of volte-faced exhibited by government.”
Fagge disclosed that the Secretary of the Federation ridiculed the agreement, the MOU and the Needs Assessment Report, mocking the Minister of Education to “go and give them N400 billion, at which point, members of the government team scornfully laughed.”
According to him, the meeting was highly bewildering, embarrassing and highly unacceptable.
“ASUU cannot believe that the agreement, MOU and the Needs Assessment Report, undertaken and endorsed by the highest public officials in the land would be so blatantly ridiculed by the same people,” he said.
Fagge, who vowed that the union would never shift its ground on the agreement, also affirmed: “At this point, we can’t be talking about shifting ground because we shifted grounds in 2009. In 2006, ASUU presented demands and government also presented demands and we succeeded in reducing the demands through an agreement reached in 2009, after three years of negotiation. At this point, we are not talking about negotiation but implementation of agreement duly signed by both parties.”
Fagge hinted that the Union may opt out of the Suswam-led committee, based on principles, as the committee “lacks the will to effectively resolve the crisis.”
Besides, he maintained that ASUU would not be corrupted. “Chaos has become the order of the day,” he averred, “and our goal is to ensure that orderliness emerges at the end of this.
It is a shame that the government is talking about pace when we continue to churn out graduates of English who can hardly write English language or medical doctors who have not been exposed to manikins and are expected to perform surgeries. The major aim of our struggle is to see that change is effected in this country.”
The issues involved in the current industrial dispute include: Funding requirements for revitalising the Nigerian universities; Federal Government Assistance to State Universities; Progressive increase of annual budgetary allocation to education to 26 per cent between 2009 and 2020, and Earned Allowances.
Others are: Amendment of the pension/retirement age of academics on the professorial cadre from 65 to 70 years, Establishment of the Pension Fund Administrator, Governing Council; Transfer of Federal Government landed properties to universities as the setting up of research and development units by companies operating in Nigeria as well as teaching and research equipment.