The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the Federal Government of deliberate plans to prolong the ongoing strike.
In a statement by Coordinator, ASUU Lagos Zone, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, the union alleged the slow pace of negotiations with government was an indication that government had no intention to end the over seven months strike.
The union stated this against the backdrop of a statement by Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige that government would call for a further meeting with ASUU after collating necessary data to ensure pending issues were bought to the negotiation table.
Sowande said it was appalling that the government team, having had series of meetings with the union was just collating vital data required to engage the union, saying ‘’government has deliberately been wasting time and resources of our union on meetings and engagements it was not prepared for.”
‘’It is therefore not surprising that Dr. Ngige-led government team has not been able to return to negotiating table since the last engagement with our union on November 4, 2020.’’
The union urged parents, students and general public not to be persuaded by the minister’s statement that government could not afford to pay the conservative N110 billion for the revitalisation of public universities. It said the Needs Assessment Report of 2012 provided evidences of the need to save public universities from imminent collapse.
“In fact the document stipulated that N1.3 trillion injected over five years would save the public universities from collapsing. Government’s failure to faithfully release the revitalisation fund over the years is a deliberate attempt to allow the public universities to collapse.”
According to ASUU, only recently, government approved N5 billion as bailout fund to operators in the aviation sector to ameliorate the harsh realities of COVID-19 on their operations, stating that over the years, Nigerian government has spent over N1.5 trillion to bailout power generation and distribution companies to keep their businesses afloat despite the privatisation of the power sector.
Sowande said trillions of naira had been granted commercial banks as bailout funds to save them from collapsing and queried if government could bailout private businesses for ‘business good’ then Nigerian public universities deserved to be bailed out for ‘public good.
“In the interest of our students who have been at home for seven months, our union has shifted ground from the initial insistence of a release of one tranche of N220 billion revitalisation fund to demand for 50 per cent of one tranche (N110 billion) for government to show its commitment to revitalisation of our universities. This is a major reason government has not been able to return to negotiation with our union in the last two weeks.’’
Sowande explained that issues in contention goes beyond its rejection of Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) for which the union had developed an alternative called University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
He reminded Nigerians that members of ASUU were on indefinite strike because of the failure of government to fully implement the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement and February 2019 Memorandum of Action which stipulated timelines for the release of funds for the revitalisation of dilapidated infrastructure in public universities, payment of outstanding earned academic allowances, conclusion of renegotiation of 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement, setting up of visitation panels to federal universities as well as underfunding and proliferation of state universities.