By Ifeanyi Okonkwo
The tussle over the lingering issues between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government is far from being over.
The Nnamdi Azikiwe University branch of ASUU, has threatened to embark on another indefinite strike if the Federal Government fails to implement the agreement it reached with the union in 2009.
They equally appeal to government to settle them, noting that the Union leadership and her members were tired of negotiation.
Addressing a press conference at ASUU Secretariat Awka, the Unizik branch Chairman, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, said it was deeply saddened that the Federal Government had failed to honour the agreement which is entered into in 2009 without coercion.
Ufoaroh regretted that government had spurned the magnanimity the union extended to it through the signing of various Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Memorandum of Action (MoA) on the way forward for Nigerian tertiary education.
In his words “We are saddened that having reached the end of the tunnel, we couldn’t find any light.
True to their character, the agents of the Federal Government of Nigeria have reneged from implementing the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement.
“Up till now, the federal government is still in arrears of major components of the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement that includes funding for the revitalization of the public universities, earned academic allowances and the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement.
The situation has been compounded by the introduction of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) and the attendant consequences of the mutilated salaries, promotion arrears and the non-resolution of the more favoured University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
“We once again alert Nigerians that unless the government strives to sincerely resolve these issues, there will be no rest for us all. There will be no more MOUs or MOAs.
When the macabre dance begins, there will be no stopping it until everything is fully implemented.
“The insincerity of the federal government is not just beyond understanding, it is beyond tolerance”.
“Gentlemen of the Press, for emphasis, the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU FGN Agreement was concluded on 19th May, 2021. Eight months on, the Federal Government has neither reacted to the draft agreement nor responded to the union.
“This is an ominous sign that the articles of the MOA of 22nd December 2020 which indicated that the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, undertook to liaise with the leadership of the Governors Forum, Senate and the Chief of Staff to Mr President, President Mohammadu Buhari, to actualize the expeditious implementation of the agreement that will ensure from the re-negotiation, will be breached.
“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 university education in Nigeria as it adversely affects the morale of lecturers and has great consequences on their productivity.
“As of 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 the Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University of Anambra State where there are no pension scheme, non-payment of several years of earned academic allowances among others.
“As I speak to you all, the take-home pay of a Professor at the bar at the 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 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 exodus of Professors from academics is a death knell on the university system in Nigeria.
“Permit me at this point to draw the attention of our fellow countrymen and women to the innumerable generic challenges confronting our State Universities.
“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 TETFund (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) and NEEDS ASSESSMENT Fund, both being products of ASUU Struggles. Even payment of personnel costs is abandoned.
“This 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.
“Gentlemen, all efforts to get the government to respond and resolve these challenges have woefully failed. Rather, the representatives/agents of the Government are claiming that the Federal Government of Nigeria entered into various agreements, MOUs and MOAs under duress.
“As a tradition of our great Union, this press conference is an early warning shot that we are reluctantly being driven to the point of entering another vicious cycle barely one year since the last traumatic experience.
“We use this opportunity to appeal to well-meaning Nigerian including our religious leaders, traditional rulers, parents, students, the Civil Society Organisations (CSO) and indeed every stakeholder to prevail on the Federal Government to fulfil the agreements reached with ASUU so as to save our public Universities from being short down again.
“We also appeal to student bodies, parents and the masses to join ASUU in the struggle to save the soul of our public Universities before it will go the way of public secondary and primary schools in Nigeria.
“We once again alert Nigerians, that unless the federal government strives to sincerely resolve these issues, there will be no rest for us all.
“There will be no more MOUs or MOAs. When the macabre dance begins, there will be no stopping it until everything is fully implemented. The insincerity of the federal government is not just beyond understanding, it is beyond tolerance. Join us once again to walk this talk,” Ufoaroh concluded.