Again, ASUU decries FG’s insensitivity, says industrial dispute imminent

The Academic Staff Union of Universities has again decried what it calls the Federal Government’s “appalling and intolerable” neglect of public universities, saying that government has been “insensitive and non-responsive” since it (ASUU) suspended its last strike on Friday October 14, 2022.

Addressing a press conference on Monday at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, the Zonal Coordinator of the Akure zone of the union, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, said despite ASUU’s optimism at the onset of the President Bola Tinubu administration, governmental policies and actions had failed to instill hope for industrial harmony in universities.

ASUU Akure zone comprises the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife; Federal University of Technology, Akure; Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti; Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, and the University of Medical Sciences, Ondo – whose chairmen were all present at the Monday press conference.

Egbedokun listed the grievances of the union which the Federal Government, despite agreements and commitments over time, had failed to address to include the renegotiation of the FGN/ASUU 2009 agreements, withheld salaries of academic staff, unpaid arrears of promotion, illegal deduction by governing councils, underfunding of universities and arrears of Earned Academic Allowances.

He also spoke on the need for government to urgently find a lasting solution to the worsening socioeconomic crisis in the country, among others.

Particularly, the union accused the Federal Government of refusing to sign the draft renegotiated agreement produced by Prof Nimi Briggs team – the renegotiated agreement it said in fact now needs renegotiation.

“We call on President Bola Tinubu to review and sign the draft agreement produced by Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs for immediate implementation,” the union said.

Egbedokun acknowledged that four of the seven and a half months salaries of members of the union withheld by government owing to the protracted strike were paid a week ago, but he added that there is a need for government to expedite the payment of the outstanding balance immediately, as “all tasks which were suspended during the seven and half months strike of 2022 have been duly completed” by members.

“This implies that our members are entitled to full payment of all the seen and half months withheld salaries,” he stressed.

Egbedokun added that the union discovered that the payment of the withheld salaries was processed through the IPPIS platform – “despite government’s celebrated pronouncement that tertiary institutions had been removed from IPPIS.”

“We regard this act as duplicitous, dishonest and deceitful. IPPIS is a policy that is inconsistent with the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act (N0 11) of 1993 and universities must be removed from it.”

The union therefore calls on the Federal Government “to live up to its own promise to forestall looming industrial disharmony.”

ASUU Akure zone also decried what it called illegal dissolution of universities’ governing councils, accusing the vice chancellors, ministry of education and state ministries in charge of higher education of “illegally taking over the functions of councils through contract awards, approval of promotions and today, many illegal recruitments are going on in our universities.”

“We regard this as a vicious attack on university autonomy, and strongly request the federal and state governments without further delay to reverse the illegal dissolutions and reconstitute councils whose tenures have expired.”

On unpaid arrears, Egbedokun said that since the inception of the introduction of IPPIS, the promotion arrears of the union’s members had not been paid.

He said members are currently being owed several months of promotion arrears, ranging from six to 36 months.

“Intellectuals should not be treated as daily labourers, and we demand the immediate release of the promotion arrears of our members,” he stressed.

He also bemoaned the gross and debilitating underfunding of the university system, adding that the budgetary allocation to education had always been “meagerly embarrassing” over the years.

According to him, as a fallout of the 2022 struggle, the budgeted sum of N170 billion in the 2023 budget was never released.

Rather than government funding universities appropriately, ASUU noted that university administrations had resorted to “analogous increase in fees and introduced sundry charges which are beyond the reach of the already impoverished common Nigerians.”

“ASUU Akure zone condemns in its entirety this sheer insensitivity of the government and demands that the revitalisation fund be released. We also demand that henceforth, budgetary allocation to education should be upwardly reviewed to reflect international best practices.”

The union ended the conference by issuing a warning that “if government’s insensitive stance continues and our members are pushed to the wall, Nigerians should not blame the union for the contiguous industrial unrest.”

Other ASUU chapter chairmen present at the event included Professor Anthony Odiwe (OAU), Pius Bamidele Mogaji (FUTA), Sola Afolayan (EKSU), Abayomi Fagbuagun (FUOYE) and Abraham Oladebeye (UNIMEDO).

SOURCE: NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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