Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Federal Govt forced ASUU to embark on Nationwide Strike

Once again, the Federal
Government's
refusal to honour an agreement
it
reached with lecturers of public
universities has forced the Academic
Staff Union of Universities to
embark on
industrial action on Monday,
SEGUN
OLUGBILE reports When the Academic Staff Union
of
Universities suspended its two-
month
strike in February 2012, many
had thought that the last had been
heard of
national strikes in public
institutions. This
optimism was hinged on the
Memorandum of Understanding signed
by the Federal Government and
the
lecturers on how to resolve
funding
challenges, infrastructural decay and
welfare problem in the nation's
public
universities.
But this is not to be, as the
union on Monday stated that it has
returned to the
trenches to fight government
for its
alleged refusal to honour an
agreement it reached with lecturers.
Specifically,
ASUU said it has resumed the
suspended
strike from Monday (yesterday).
This action, the union's National
President,
Dr. Nasir Fagge, said was taken
after
the Federal Government allegedly
failed to implement the agreement.
Fagge said the action, though
painful,
would be total, comprehensive
and last
for as long as the government implements the details of the
Memorandum of Understanding
that
both parties signed in 2011.
Consequently, the semester
examinations going on in some universities would be disrupted,
while
admission processes would be
put on
hold. Final year students writing
their projects would be hit hard, as
their
supervisors would not attend to
them. By
this, academic activities in public
tertiary institutions, particularly in
universities
and polytechnics, which had been
on
strike in the last three months,
would be paralysed.
The decision to embark on the
action
was taken during the National
Executive
Council meeting of ASUU at the Olabisi
Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye,
Ogun
State between Sunday and
Monday. All
the 53 chapters of ASUU were represented at the meeting,
during
which 51 chapters of the union
overwhelmingly voted in support
of the
action. Briefing the press about the
outcome of
the NEC meeting at the
University of
Lagos on Monday, Fagge said the
union decided to suspend the action in
January
2012 after the Federal
Government and
ASUU signed the MoU, which
contained how all the issues of funding,
pension
scheme, retirement age and
payment of
earned allowance for qualified
lecturers would be handled.
The Federal Government, the
union
stated, had only implemented
the
extension of the retirement age of
professors to 70, but had failed
to pay
the earned allowance for
lecturers who
are assigned other duties apart from
teaching, research and
community
service. The earned allowance is
the
money paid to lecturers who are assigned to administrative duties
such as
heads of department, hall
wardens,
student project's supervision and
examination duties and pay for extra
workload on lecturers.
Under the student projects'
supervision
allowance, a professor is
expected to be paid N15, 000 per theses. Also,
under
the extra workload category,
the
lecturer/student ratio in Arts,
Social Sciences and Education faculties
is one
lecturer to 50 students, one to
35 in
Faculty of Sciences and one
lecturer to 25 students in Colleges of
Medicine.
Lecturers are supposed to be
paid if they
have more than the national
lecturer/ student ratio.
"When we signed the MoU, it was
stated
that N100bn had been set aside
to pay
the earned allowance. But I can tell you
that no lecturer has been paid
since
2009. Yes, the government has
extended the retirement age of
professors to 70 as agreed, earned
allowances have not been paid
while
little has been done to raise the
level of
infrastructure in universities," he said.
Although he explained that the
union
had met with government over
the
matter many times, government has
refused to respect the
agreement.
Rather, he said, ASUU was told
that the
government forgot to include the earned
allowance in the budget.
The Chairman, ASUU, UNILAG
chapter,
Dr. Karo Ogbinanka, who had
earlier briefed the press about the
readiness of
his chapter to start the strike
after a
congress on Monday, explained
that the strike was called because
government
had never shown enough
commitment to
the development of the sector.
He explained that after the MoU was
signed, a NEEDS Assessment
Committee
on the State of Public
Universities was set
up to look at the state of infrastructure of
the institutions.
"The report has been submitted
and all
of us know that our universities
fall short in physical development, but our
concern
is government has not done
enough to
revamp these institutions and
the modalities for the injection of
funds into
these universities have not been
followed. That is why there has
been
increase in the rate of agitation for
improved municipal facilities in
our
universities which has
unfortunately been
leading to the deaths of innocent
students," Ogbinaka said.
But why is the union embarking
on strike
when it has not given the
government the required ultimatum, Ogbinaka
explained that the union had
done a
warning strike before now.
"Anyway, we don't even need to
give them ultimatum because it is
clearly
stated in the MoU that we
signed with
them that we (ASUU) will go on
strike without warning should they fail
to
honour the agreement. They
have
reneged on the agreement and
so there is nothing that can stop us from
embarking on this comprehensive
and
total strike," he said.
On when UNILAG would join the
strike, Ogbinaka said that immediately
after
the press briefing, a congress
would be
called and the university
management would be informed. "It's a
national strike
and UNILAG has joined the
action," he
said.
Also the National Treasurer of ASUU, Dr.
Ademola Aremu who is also the
former
Chairman, University of Ibadan
chapter
of ASUU said the action, being a national
one, would be fully supported by
lecturers at the premier
university. "We
are not fighting management of
the university, it is the Federal
Government
that should be blamed for
pushing us to
the wall to make this painful
decision," Aremu said.
Most of the students our
correspondent
spoke to on this new
development
expressed sadness at the action. They
called on the Federal
Government to
honour the agreement by giving
their
teachers their due. "I'm in the final year,
if this crisis is not urgently
resolved, it will
dislocate my career and that of
the other
students," Wale, a student of Political
Science at UNILAG said.
But before ASUU finally resorted
to go on
strike, the House of
Representatives had few weeks ago summoned the
Minister
of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu
Rufa'i and
officials of the union with a view
to ensuring that the crisis did not
degenerate. The duo were
invited to
meet with members of the House
Committee on Education as part
of the moves by the legislature to
avert the
looming strike.
It followed a motion of urgent
public
importance sponsored by Mr. Bashir
Babale (PDP/ Kano) and
unanimously
endorsed by his colleagues.
Babale said it had become
worrisome that university lecturers
frequently
embark on strikes to compel the
government to meet its
obligations.
This, he noted, was not good enough as
the issues at the root of the
crisis were
matters that had been agreed
upon by
both parties. The lawmaker urged the House
to
intervene in the crisis and avert
the
impending strike.
Other lawmakers who contributed to the
debate, argued that democracy
cannot
survive without good education.
They warned that it would be
wrong for the government to continue to
treat its
2009 agreement with ASUU with
levity.
But this intervention was
fruitless, as government said it had no
money to pay
the earned allowance.
"We even agreed to sacrifice 20
per cent
of the earned allowance but government
said it could only pay 50 per
cent. We
were even shocked when they
said they
had forgotten to include the money into
the budget. So, since 2009 no
lecturer
has been paid the earned
allowance
and all of us can testify to the fact that
our universities whether old or
new are
still being underfunded,"
Ogbinaka said.
The ASUU officials, however, pleaded
with students and parents to
bear with
the union as they could no
longer stand
government's lack of commitment to
education.
The last time ASUU embarked on
a
national strike over the same
issue was December 5, 2011. The union was
prevailed upon to suspend the
strike in
February 2012 after the Federal
Government signed the now
contentious MoU with ASUU with a promise to
accede to the lecturers'
requests.
President Goodluck Jonathan
hurriedly
signed into law a bill that sought to
extend the retirement age of
professors
to 70. But after that not much
had been
done to make the system better than it
was in 2009.
Efforts to speak with the
minister failed,
as a top official in the ministry,
who pleaded anonymity, said she was
not
available for comments.
The source, however said the
ministry
would comment on the new development
on Tuesady (today). Share
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