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Why FG must act now to avert imminent ASUU strike

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By Gabriel Chy Alonta 

As members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) mulls another strike action, it is imperative to remind the Federal Government of the need to act fast to save the soul of public universities in Nigeria. 

There are indications that ASUU members have vowed to shun any sort of Memorandum of Understanding or Action from the Federal Government, especially after the government breached all the contents of the 2020 MoA without minding whose ox is gored.

According to ASUU, the Federal Government of Nigeria has reneged from signing and implementing the re-negotiated 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement that includes funding for the revitalization of public universities and earned academic allowances. 

“The situation has been compounded by the introduction of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the attendant consequences of mutilated/amputated salaries, non-payment of promotion arrears and the non-adoption of the better local produced Universities Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for payment of personnel cost in universities. 

“As at today 1st February, 2022, Academic staff in Federal Universities are owed between one month to more than two years arrears of salaries, the situation is more pathetic in some state-owned Universities, especially in the South East including Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University of Anambra state, where there are no pension scheme, non-payment of several years of earned academic allowances, among others.

These and more were part of the grievances tabled to newsmen at the end of one-day warning strike by members of ASUU, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka Chapter, on Tuesday, February 1, 2022. The press conference took place at ASUU-NAU Secretariat, and was presided over by the ASUU-NAU chapter chairperson, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh. 

Comrade Ufoaroh, who denied that the union had ever coerced the federal government into signing any of the MoU/MoA between the duo, said it was ominous that the Federal Government and cohorts would breach the articles of the MoA of 22nd December 2020. 

“Academic Staff of Universities have been on the same salary structure from 2009 till date with all the galloping inflations. This is not good for the university education in Nigeria as it adversely affects the morale of lecturers and has great consequences on their productivity.

“The take home pay of a Professor at the bar at current exchange rate is less than one thousand dollars ($1000.00) from the three thousand dollars ($3000.00) it was in 2009. What a shame! This is a serious cause for concern in relation to its adverse effect on the output and productivity of such Professors. Little wonder that many Professors are shopping around for positions and appointments as against their vocation. 

“The state universities are not left out. Most visitors to State Universities (State Governors) have scandalously abandoned the responsibilities of the state-owned universities. These State Universities are now in existence and being sustained by funds from Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and NEEDS ASSESSMENT Fund, both being products of ASUU Struggles.

“This sad development has led to commercialization and pricing of university education out of the reach of the vast majority of Nigerians. University authorities now resort to extortion of an unprecedented array of fees from the students to pay salaries. This cannot be the way for a country or state that wants to achieve greatness”, ASUU-NAU chairperson decried.

The union also beckoned on religious leaders, traditional rulers, parents, students, the Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and other stakeholders to prevail on the Federal Government to fulfill the agreements reached with ASUU so as to save public Universities from being shut down again.

Meanwhile, Prof. Okey Aniebo, ASUU chairperson, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Igbariam, bemoaned the rot in COOU, while calling on the visitor, Gov. Willie Obiano to be alive to his expectations. He fingered COOU management over the poor treatment of ASUU members’ welfare, and warned that the union would continue to fight for its members.

Earlier during the Special ASUU-NAU Congress, one of the ASUU-NAU founding fathers and former director, Unizik Business School, Prof. Au. Nnonyelu, tasked the union members to be courageous, determined and be willing to make sacrifices in the union’s struggles. He harped on understanding the ideological foundation of the struggle to enable members to become more committed.

Also, Prof. Harris Ike Odimegwu, another top figure in ASUU-NAU struggle and Director of Academic Planning of the institution, said the union had a unique identity, and noted that all struggles of the union were targeted at members’ welfare.

This paper also cornered some students to seek their opinion on the looming strike. According to them, it will be very unhealthy and we will be greatly affected. Let the federal government do the needful to stop members of ASUU from proceeding on another strike barely after a year. We will not want to take protest to the government houses and streets, so, they should settle our lecturers.

Other ASUU-NAU present and past executives at the meeting include Prof. Dennis Aribodor, Prof. Vivian Nwogbo, Comrade Dr. Peter Okoye, and Comrade Joseph Onyejiaka.

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