By Muyiwa Adekojede
ASUU has confirmed that N30 billion in Revitalisation Funds and N22.5 billion in Earned Academic Allowances, equaling N52.5 billion paid by the Federal Government, are not enough to address the challenges facing the university system.
The president of the ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, told Punch on Sunday that unless the government addressed the union’s demands, including the 2009 agreement, there is a possibility of a strike still happeningg soon.
Federal Government officials also asserted that lecturers received N30 billion in Revitalisation Funds and N22.5 billion in Earned Academic Allowances. It’s officials further noted that they had made some progress in implementing what they had agreed upon with union officials.
But, in Osodeke’s view, the government’s payment is just a token gesture, which is not sufficient for lecturers to reverse their decision on the strike.
Additionally, he noted renegotiations and resuscitations of universities hadn’t been addressed by FG too.
As a result, the ASUU President requested the federal government to correct the problems with the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, which was rejected by the union and replace it with the University Transparency and Accountability System.
On December 24, 2020, the union suspended its nine-month strike following a meeting of its National Executive Council. Members of the union who did not enroll in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System and in accordance with other union agreements began a strike over nonpayment of salaries.
ASUU’s former president, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said, “What we have done is to give the government the benefit of doubt and that is why we have added the caveat. Should the government renege, our members are not tired of withdrawing their services.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the FG recent N52.5bn payment to ASUU, Osodeke noted that, “There is an agreement and we want them to implement the agreement. The issue is not about money. There is the issue of renegotiation, there is the issue of resuscitation of the universities, and there is the issue of UTAS. So, you don’t just come and throw a little money and think the challenge has been resolved.
“This is what our political class is doing. They believe that once they throw a little money, everybody will run back. That is the problem. So, it is not about the token they have given. There are more fundamental issues.”
Osodeke said the strike planned for the new year would have happened, but it was put on hold earlier because the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council intervened and pledged to insist on the integration of the agreement by the federal government.
“Our going on strike is a possibility. The only reason we relaxed is because a group, Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, intervened. We respect the group so much. The group told us they would intervene and they would ensure that the government implements our agreement. That is why we agreed to the benefit of the Federal Government, The ASUU President continued.
“So, we decided we will give the Federal Government till the end of this year (2021) and see what it will do. Other groups also intervened. That explained why we relaxed going on strike, so that they will not say ASUU likes going on strike.
“The Federal Government should do the needful by embracing the agreement to prevent ASUU from going on strike. Nigeria as a whole will suffer the brunt of ASUU going on strike.”
However, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, the Minister of State for Education, said there was no need for ASUU to hold another strike because the Federal Government had addressed these issues.
In addition, he explained that a group that has extremely made up its mind to strike might not be prevented from doing so.
During an interview with a reporter for Punch, he stated, “I have always said my position is that even if you slap me, I will tell you that there is no justification for a strike. It doesn’t matter; if you like, you can kill a goat for the person, if he wants to go on strike, he would go. If you don’t kill a goat for him, and he doesn’t want to go on strike, he will not go on strike.
“Our objective is to train Nigerian children. That is the whole essence of the entire education spending. So, anything that you are in that is not in pursuant of that goal, you are losing means. The fact that you want to go on strike because there is a form of payment which is not accepted, you can decide you want to do that, nobody can beat you for doing that.
“There is no issue they (ASUU) have raised that we have not tackled. I don’t have any disagreement whatsoever with ASUU, none at all. That has always been my position. My attitude is if you want to work, you will; if you don’t want to work, you will not.”
The minister stated that the ASUU was aware of the consequences of its actions and the effects on the education system. He continued, “The only reason we asked them to come and lecture is to deliver content for the children.
“They said you didn’t pay them; you paid them, they say it is not enough. You pay them the one they say is NEEDS assessment, they have not even finished utilising the last one, they said you must bring another one. We said okay, we agreed. They said send money for earned allowance, we sent it.
“Anything they say, we have done. But they say they don’t like the way we are doing it. So, are you going to beat somebody who does that.”
In an answer to a question about what the government would do if the union went on strike again, the minister said there was no Plan B since it was impossible to hire lecturers from the moon.
“If they go on strike, there is no Plan B. We are not going to recruit lecturers from the moon. There is no need for a strike. Nobody can tell me that a strike is needed for anything. If you don’t want to teach, say so, and not that you want to go on strike. For what? There is no basis for any strike in Nigeria,” Nwajiuba added.