The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has expressed concerns over the non-release of almost eight months’ salaries of university academics withheld on account of its 2022 strike action.
According to a statement signed by the ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke, this is one of the many issues affecting the Nigerian University System (NUS) as discussed by the union during its National Executive Council meeting at the University of Maiduguri, Maiduguri, Borno State from Saturday 19th to Sunday 20th August 2023.
He said that the ASUU NEC reiterated that “the application of the anti-labour ‘No-Work-No-Pay’ policy to academics ignores the indisputable facts that (i) only the teaching component of academics’ work was suspended during the strike action, and (ii) with the suspension of the strike through interventions by the then Hon. Speaker of Federal House of Representatives (now Chief of Staff to Mr. President and Visitor to Federal Universities), Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and other well-meaning Nigerians, the academics have made up for the lost ground under the most excruciating economic conditions”.
The union commended Nigerian academics for their courage, resilience, and determination to weather through the economic, social, and emotional storms unleashed on them due to their unpaid salaries.
ASUU attributed its past strike actions to the failure of successive governments to honour agreements and memoranda arrived at through the collective bargaining principle enunciated by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and domesticated in Nigeria’s labour law.
It, therefore, called on the President Bola Tinubu government to put machinery in motion for the speedy conclusion of the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU/FGN Agreement following the recommendations of the Professor Nimi Briggs Committee to restore the integrity of the NUS.
ASUU acknowledged the ongoing efforts to make the Federal Government release the withheld salaries of academics and implored its national leadership, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), and all true patriots to spare no efforts in this respect.
The union believes that payment of the withheld salaries would go a long way to shore up the sagging morale of Nigerian university teachers.
ASUU also regretted that its members are owed several months of promotion arrears arising from distortions traceable to the forceful enrolment of academics on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) platform.
It noted that the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation (OAGF) has failed to address the issue despite several efforts by the union and university administrations.
Consequently, ASUU called on the OAGF to ensure the immediate release of the backlog of promotion arrears to its members in the interest of industrial peace and harmony.
The statement further read, “NEC was disturbed by reports of massive employment racketeering perpetuated by operators of the discredited IPPIS, including scandalous revelations at the recent sittings of House of Representatives Probe Panel on IPPIS.
“NEC observed that the unsavoury trend has eroded university employment tradition in violation of the provisions of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2003, and Guidelines for Appointments and Promotions of individual universities. ASUU rejects all illegal appointments sponsored by the IPPIS and its agents in Nigerian public universities.
“NEC observed with dismay the Government’s moves to further erode the autonomy of universities as contained in the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act in respect of the dissolution of Councils. ASUU had cause to protest to the immediate past Federal administration over the same matter in 2015, and the decision was accordingly reversed.
“Dissolution of Governing Councils of federal and state universities before they serve their full terms does not only violate extant laws on university autonomy, but it also adversely impacts operations of the universities. NEC therefore calls for the reversal of the recent dissolution of councils of federal universities to ensure their smooth operations and stability.
“NEC reviewed the strenuous efforts of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to impose the Core Curriculum and Minimum Academic Standard (CCMAS) on Nigerian universities, despite well-founded criticisms and rejection by members of university senates and academic associations. NEC subsequently directed the leadership of ASUU to pursue the Union’s rejection of CCMAS to its logical conclusion.
“Painfully, NEC reviewed reports of mass exit of experienced academics and professionals from Nigeria’s public universities owing to disabling working and living conditions. NEC submits that a salary regime that places the professor- at-bar on four hundred and sixteen thousand Naira (N416,000.00) or less (no thanks to amputation by IPPIS) for more than ten years is disconcerting, debilitating and dehumanizing for scholars.
“NEC, therefore, advises governments at the federal and state levels to urgently arrest the growing ‘Japa’ syndrome on university campuses to reposition Nigerian universities for competitiveness in the global knowledge economy.
“NEC noted with dismay the continued onslaughts on ASUU members at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof (Mrs.) Nnenna N. Oti, and her agents over the questionable appointment of Dr. Isa Ibrahim Ali Pantami as a Professor at the University.
“NEC reaffirms its earlier position that the promotion of Dr. Isa Ibrahim Ali Pantami as a Professor in FUTO while serving as a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria was a breach of the University’s Appointments and Promotions Guidelines.
“NEC further reaffirms its recognition of the ASUU-FUTO Executive Committee (EXCO) led by Comrade Chinedu Ihejirika, currently being subjected to unwarranted attack and persecution in the University. NEC subsequently resolves that ASUU would hold the FUTO Vice-Chancellor, Prof. (Mrs.) Nnenna Oti, liable should any harm come the way of Comrade Ihejirika and other committed members of our Union in FUTO as well as those of their respective families.
“NEC was grieved by the deepening crisis of governance occasioned by the mindless acceptance and crude implementation of neo-liberal socio-economic policies of the international money lenders by successive governments since the birth of Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. NEC sadly noted the recent anti-people, draconian policies of the government that have brought millions of Nigerians to their knees and crippled businesses.
“We note that the expectation of democratic dividends which heralded civilian rule in 1999 has almost evaporated, as more Nigerians are daily gasping for breath under the suffocating grips of an insensitive, parasitic, corrupt and rent-seeking ruling class.
“NEC restates its avowed view that democratic culture can only take roots in an atmosphere of deliberate efforts to make life more meaningful for the citizenry, not a situation that daily expands the army of the poor, the unemployed, the hungry, and the miserable Nigerians.
“Lastly, ASUU calls on the new administration to save our nation by rejecting the pervasive neo-liberal policies that have brought untold hardship on academics, the working class, and all underprivileged Nigerians since the days of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the military regime in the 1980s. Nigeria must prioritize human development through adequate funding of education and health without meddlesome dictations of the World Bank and IMF.
“And, beyond palliatives, the Federal Government must immediately develop local capacities in the up and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry as well as renovate the old refineries and construct new ones because of their multiplier effects on the entire economy and the nation.”