- Cries out over haphazard payment of salaries Says it will not lose sleep over VCs’ sack
Paul Obi in Abuja
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) monday took a swipe at the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the depreciating level of the economy and the ensuing suffering of the masses, accusing the president and the party of running a change government that is devoid of transformation.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja on the state of the nation, ASUU President, Dr Nasir Isa, explained that the symptoms of the prevailing economic crisis has become obvious with its attendant consequences and overall burden on Nigerians.
Isa said: “There is no doubt that Nigerians are suffering. There exists a socio-economic crisis in Nigeria. We are all aware of the manifestations of the crisis which our country faces. There are many symptoms of the crisis: rising level of poverty; increasing rate of unemployment; heightened expectation leading to heightened frustration among Nigerians due to the failure to realise an improved living standard.”
He argued that government’s inability to squarely tackle the present economic hardship has had a ripple effect on the daily lives of the masses, stressing that, “food prices are higher and access to health facilities has not improved; live and property remain insecure. In short, Nigerian people are still suffering,” Isa stated.
The ASUU president further maintained that so far, since the inception of the administration, “the disappointment of Nigerians stems from the fact that we have a government whose leadership promised change but which is not practising transformation (deep, fundamental change).
“Democracy in Nigeria is still seen superficially as what leaders do for the people rather than government by the people. Democracy is essentially popular participation in governance and popular sovereignty. Yet, there is in existence a long term national development plan agreed upon in 2008 (Nigeria’s Vision 20: 2020). This has been abandoned in favour of IMF/World Bank imposed and enforced Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEFF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP),” ASUU said.
The body accused the government of pursuing an economic and political ideology that is more embedded in propaganda.
“Some of these ideologies are explicitly stated while others are implicit. Sometimes, those who have implicit ideologies claim to have no ideology at all,” they stressed.
The union also decried the haphazard payment of salaries to its members. According to ASUU Convener, Finance and Investment, Dr. Muhammed Usman, since December 2015, ASUU members have continued to face untold hardship due to the distorted nature of salary payment by government.
Usman cited University of Ibadan and other first generation universities facing the brunt of haphazard payment of their salaries.
On the Panama papers scandals where the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, former Senate President, David Mark, Alhaji Dantata and Gen. T.Y. Danjuma (rtd) were mentioned, ASUU stated that the right thing to do was to investigate the matter and if anybody is culpable, such person should be jailed.
“What is the normal thing done to tax evaders? Isa asked. “If you catch somebody evading tax, you know what to do. In other countries, if you are caught evading tax, you pay all the taxes that you failed to pay, there are other financial punishments. Apart from that, you also go to jail. No matter how powerful you are, there is no exception. If anybody is involved, I think the right thing should be done,” he said.
ASUU also condemned in strong terms, the on-going fuel crisis, stating that it has created a deep gulf between the government and the people, “the current fuel crisis has adverse consequences on the socio-economic life of the nation; it has increased the cost of food, transportation, electric power as well as general cost of living. It has created political cost.
“It has also widened the distance between the government and the people, and created distrust between the people and the government. It has caused general social tension in the land. Government is slow in implementing the policies it pronounced in 2015,” ASUU president added.
Further, ASUU lambasted the government over its failed attempt to reposition the power sector, stating that after some years, “the DISCOS have failed to deliver on their promise of free distribution of pre-paid meters. And despite massive protests of workers and other patriotic Nigerians, the DISCOS are forcing the hiked electricity tariff regimes down the throat of the citizens.”
On the sacked vice-chancellors, ASUU said the VCs were in the first place appointed wrongly, therefore, the body “will not lose sleep over the sack of the VCs.”
It maintained that ASUU had earlier warned against their appointments, but government ignored their pleas, to the detriment of extant laws governing universities.
ASUU also warned against the erosion of universities’ autonomy, stating that recent government pronouncements with regards to the university system was not in the interest of the academia; neither does it exist within the rules of university autonomy.”
The ASUU also opposed the move by President Buhari to borrow the sum of $2 billion from the Chinese government to finance various infrastructural projects.
The president, who arrived Beijing, the Chinese capital monday, is expected to facilitate the granting of the loan to Nigeria, with focus on key strategic and developmental projects of the administration.
But speaking against the loan, the ASUU president said it was unwarranted, and argued that Nigeria already had resources to cater for such needs.
He said: “Monies can be collected; taxes and all the stolen money that we are recouping; when we put everything together, and do the right thing, I assure we will get more than $2 billion from there. So why do you need to go and borrow when you have enough to address your problem?” Isa asked.