ASUU Ask for N1.5tr to stop strike
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Senator Uche Chukwumerije, mentioned the figure in his contribution to a motion urging the lecturers to call off their strike. READ MORE LATEST NEWS IN NIGERIA
The motion, sponsored by the Senate Leader, Senator Victor Ndoma-Egba (Cross River Central) and 106 others is titled “Appeal to Academic Staff Union of Universities to call off the strike and return to work”.
Chukwumerije, who read the controversial 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and ASUU, said part of the component of the agreement on funding stipulated that “all regular Federal universities shall require N1.5 trillion for the period 2009 to 2011.
He said ASUU was insisting that the agreement be implemented to the letter.
He said that the agreement also said “this money is to be paid in three installments, 2009 almost N500 billion; 2010 almost N500 billion; 2011 almost N506 billion”.
Besides the N1.5 trillion, the agreement also stipulated that “each state university shall require N3.6 million” while “a minimum of 26 per cent of the annual budget should be allocated to education”.
According to him, the agreement also said that “Education should be put on First Line Charge” and the Education Tax Act should be amended to its original concept as High Education Fund.”
He noted that the agreement said that “Governing Council of Universities should access and effectively utilise the Education Tax Fund for research, training and development of academic staff”.
Other components of the agreement include Salary Structure and earned allowances.
The earned academic staff allowances include: “Post graduate supervision allowances; Teaching practice and industrial allowances; honorarium for external moderation of undergraduate and postgraduate examination system, postgraduate study grants; external assessment of readers or professors, Call duty and clinical duty and hazard allowance and excess workload allowance.”
Other demands include “non salary condition of service, which includes clinical load, car refurbishing, housing loan, research leave, sabbatical leave, sick leave, maternity leave, injury pension, provision of office accommodation and facilities.”
Pension of university academic staff and compulsory retirement age, National Health Insurance Scheme, transfer of landed property, patronage of university services, funds from alumni associations, private sector contributions, cost saving measures, duty free importation of education materials by universities and setting up research development units by companies operating in Nigeria, were also part of the agreement.
Also setting up of budget monitoring committee, University post doctoral fellowship, which says that each university governing council should introduce post doctoral fellowship leave with pay outside Nigeria, Provision for teaching and research, national research funds, University autonomy and academic freedom, membership of governing councils, review of laws that impend university autonomy, academic freedom in terms of accountability and transparency and No Sole Administrators for universities, were included in the agreement.
Chukwumerije said there were in the agreement ambiguities that should have been avoided.
Ndoma-Egba noted that on July 1, ASUU began a strike to protest the failure of the Federal Government to implement the 2009 agreement signed with the union for the proper funding of the universities.
He said for upwards of four months, the strike has paralysed work in universities and rendered students redundant.
He observed that while the Federal Government may have released N100billion for infrastructure development in the universities and N30billion for accumulated allowances of lecturers, the lecturers have rejected the gesture as being grossly inadequate.
The Senate Leader observed that despite several negotiations between the striking lecturers and representatives of the Federal Government coupled with the intervention of prominent Nigerians for the parties to reach a compromise, the strike has persisted.
Ndoma-Egba is worried that “this is one strike too many and the entire education is grinding to a halt, considering that not only is ASUU, the Academic Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) is on strike and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) recently embarked on a seven days warning strike, all separately pressing for demands not unconnected with funding.”
He added that he is disturbed further that “after about four months of fruitless negotiations between the ASUU and the Federal Government over the strike, there are strong indications that the Federal Government may have commenced the implementation of the ‘No Work, No Pay’ rule, a development that may further compound amicable resolution of the dispute.”
He urged the Senate to resolve to appeal to the striking lecturers to suspend the strike and return to work to prevent further devaluation of Nigeria’s educational fortunes.
He prayed the upper chamber to mandate the Committee on Education to continue to liaise with the Federal Ministry of Education, the National Universities Commission, ASUU and all other stakeholders to proffer a lasting solution to strikes in the sector.
He urged the Senate to mandate the Senate President, David Mark to engage President Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of ASUU to resolve the crisis.
The three prayers were unanimously adopted.
Mark who summed up senators’ contributions, said: “The essence of this motion is to find a solution and a way forward. I have listened to all those that have spoken so far.
“There are immediate problems that we need to tackle yesterday and some that we need to plead with all the parties involved to give time so that they can sort it out.
“My personal appeal on behalf of the Senate to all the parties involved will be that they try to understand.
“Let us shift ground in our understanding of the problem and find a solution because if all the parties involved just dig in and they say they won’t shift ground, then there will be no solution to it and Nigeria will be worse off for it.
“Whether it is the executive, the legislature or the judiciary or ASUU, not shifting ground is not going to help to find a lasting solution to the problem.
“I want to appeal to ASUU and in fact let me even use the words, I want to beg ASUU on behalf of the Senate that they resume and come back to work.
“They have made a strong case. Their position is obvious now. We can now see the consequences of their action and I think if they extend it beyond this then they will begin to lose public sympathy.
“I will personally beg them if that is the way that they think will help them to get back to work.
“There is no winner, there is no loser in this exercise. As long as the strike continues, nobody will win and everybody will lose.
“So if we look at it from the perspective of saying yes, ASUU will win and the executive will win then we are missing the point completely.
“It is not a question of a winner or a loser, all of us will lose. ASUU will lose, the country will lose and we will lose and we don’t want to find ourselves in that type of situation.
“All of you have spoken very well. It is not a matter of PDP, APC or any other political party. We are all Nigerians and if we don’t build a solid foundation in our education system, we are going to lose at the end of the day.
Mark spoke of research as the pillar of national development, which, in his view, “must be hinged purely on education not on oil, not even on the amount of money that we get.
“Listening to the agreement that was signed by the Federal Government as Comrade Uche Chukwumerije read out, I was really wondering whether this was signed or it was just a proposal.
“But when he concluded, he said it was signed. It only shows the level of people the Executive sent to go and negotiate on their behalf because ab initio, people must be told the truth, what can be accomplished and what cannot be accomplished.
“If a leader says I am going to accomplish this, he is morally bound to honour it. But, even if you decided immediately after that you cannot accomplish it, I think it is only proper for you to go back and start renegotiating.
“But if you prolong it on the basis that you are still going to honour it and you don’t honour it, then it doesn’t portray us in good light.
“This is where the Federal Government ought to call those who were party to this agreement,” the Senate President said.
To him, “ASUU simply took advantage of the ignorance of those who were sent and simply just allowed this agreement to go on because it is obvious that this is going to be very difficult piece of paper to implement”.
Mark added: “They found that those who were sent there simply didn’t know their right from their left and they just went ahead.
“I think that also is not fair because ASUU is an organisation in Nigeria and we are not going to go to another country to implement this piece of paper.
“It was obvious to me as soon as Chukwumerije concluded that this was a difficult thing for them to implement.
“I think in all seriousness we will make this passionate appeal to all the parties involved.”