ASUU Draws Fresh Red Line Against FG, Kicks Against  Universities Privatization

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By; MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said that it will never support the introduction of exorbitant fees beyond the reach of the children of the Nigerian down trodden neither will it be a party to privatizing Nigerian public universities, as it equally rejected in totally the casualization of Nigerian academics.

To this end, therefore ASUU called on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the Federal Government to as a matter of urgency and national interest, resolve all outstanding issues with the union for the wellbeing of the Nigerian nation, so that the country will take its rightful place in the globe.

The Nigerian universities academic staff stated clearly in a press statement in Bauchi on Tuesday, that the union would continue to defend the university system and the Nigerian State through all legitimate means, saying categorically that they cannot be cowed by tyrants.

The statement by the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) chapter of the union, noted with concerns that after suspending the eight months old strike due to court order and interventions of well-meaning Nigerians, the government descended so low to withhold salaries of ASUU members, but only paid pro-rata the October salary.

Signed by the chapter’s chairperson, Dr. Ibrahim Inuwa, it observed that Nigerian government are not interested in the development of Nigerian public universities to global university best practice, as it deliberately under funds the universities through the guise of no money, to introduce exorbitant school fees beyond the reach of the children of the masses.

“The introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) as a payment platform in the public service and its forceful implementation in federal public universities has robbed the federal universities of their autonomy and academic freedom”, ASUU said.

ASUU expressed dismay that IPPIS regime resulted in haphazard payments of staff salaries, non-payment of promotion arrears, non-implementation of promotion, mutilation of salaries, untimely retirement of staff, and caused the withholding of a lot of university staff salaries, ranging from one, two and in some cases thirteen months respectively.

The statement recalled that the move was challenged by the Union and the government agreed in principle to adopt an alternative platform, UTAS (University Transparency & Accountability Solution), developed by the Union at no cost to the government, regretting however that in the normal antics of the government, the unions’ payment platform is far from seeing the light of the day.

“As a patriotic union, ASUU has for years been calling on the government both at state and federal levels to accord the Nigerian public universities a befitting and conducive learning environment that will drive the nations’ wellbeing through inclusivity and global competitiveness, which were visibly captured in the FGN/ASUU agreement of 2009”.

Chairperson said that ASUU was not surprised that the Nigerian ruling class who are saddled with the responsibility of managing the country and are supposed to be at the forefront of championing the course of partnering with the academia to actualize and sustain the nations’ inclusivity and global competitiveness, are the ones’ deliberately and actively working against these feats.

Dr. Inuwa further recalled that ASUU deployed several diplomatic means to persuade the government to address the contentious issues in the public universities but all fell on deaf ears, leaving the union with no choice than to declare a nationwide strike on the 14th February, 2022 to drive home its demands.

He outlined the issues that necessitated the strike to include Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) Funding for revitalization of public Universities Proliferation of Universities, Visitation Panel Renegotiation of the FGN/ASUU Agreement of 2009 Replacement of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) with University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), as well as Withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues.

Inuwa described the union demands as legitimate and long overdue, saying the Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) are allowances of academic staff earned through excess workloads they’ve done and administrative work assigned to them by their respective universities, and to date governments are owing backlog of the allowances.

“In the FGN/ASUU agreement of 2009 which captures conditions of service, funding, university autonomy & academic freedom, and other matters, the government is expected to honour the agreement by providing funds for revitalizing public universities”.

He noted that it led the union another strikes to compelled the government to set up a NEEDS Assessment committee to ascertain the level of rot and decay in Nigerian Public Universities, and it recommended that government should commit N1.3trillion in the public universities to arrest the rot and decay in the system.

“The government agreed to pay this fund in six Tranches. After the release of the first tranche of N200 billion by the Jonathan administration in 2013, only N50billion out of the N1.1 trillion outstanding has so far been released by the Buhari administration”, chairperson also recalled.

“While the Union is struggling day and night to ensure that the government fulfill the agreement it willingly signed with the Union, the governments at State and Federal levels became politically obsessed with the establishment of public universities, even where it is evidently clear that the existing ones are grossly under-funded”.

Inuwa said that fundamental part of the FGN/ASUU 2009 agreement is that it should be renegotiated after every three years to reflect the current economic realities and discourage brain drain as well as attract qualified foreign academics, but unfortunately the government is deliberately frustrating the renegotiation of the agreement.

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