Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has rebuked the federal government for its failure to implement the agreement reached in 2013 between it and the union for the rehabilitation of decaying infrastructure in public universities between the period of 2013 and 2019.
Under the 2013 FGN/ASUU agreement, the federal government is required to provide the sum of N1.2 trillion with an annual disbursement of N220 billion to redeem the agreement already reached.
Bauchi zone of the union that comprised ATBU, UNIJOS, Bauchi and Gombe States Universities, and Federal University, Kashere also in Gombe, recalled that the federal government has since 2013 when it started implementing the agreement with the sum of N200 billion, failed to release any amount for the subsequent years.
The Bauchi zone of the union led by Professor Nanmwa Voncir said in a press conference in Bauchi yesterday that the Federal Government has failed to release the 2014, 2015, and 2016 trances of the 2013 agreement.
“As though to add salt to injury, beginning from December 2015 to date, public universities have experienced drastic reduction in their personnel overhead and capital grants with dare consequences”, he said.
Voncir explained that many universities now pay fraction of salaries or are out rightly unable to pay salaries at the end of every month, while state universities hardly receive subventions from their state governments with consequences that many owes salaries of staff up to six months.
He lamented that in furtherance of cash squeeze of the universities, the FG closed down all staff schools and sacked all staff with no money to provide electricity, water, stationeries, chemicals and supplies needed for smooth operation of the universities.
According to him, renegotiation of FHN/ASUU agreement 2009 provides that the agreement shall be reviewed every three years, but since 2012 when the agreement was due for review, the government has failed to set up its negotiating team despite repeated requests by ASUU.
Voncir stated that other issues incidental to the smooth running of the universities outside the implementation of the 2009 agreement have cropped up and which have serious consequences on the smooth operations of the universities.
He enumerated issues which the union rejected and asked government to reverse as Treasury Single Account (TSA), budgetary allocation to education, and removal and appointment of Vice Chancellors in the new Federal Universities.
On TSA, ASUU said that the policy has virtually strangled the universities, as they have difficulties in accessing budgeted funds, and it is also incompatible with university autonomy, stressing that universities should be exempted from its operation.
Voncir also recalled that under the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, government should increase its budgetary allocation to the education sector to meet up with the UNESCO benchmark of 26%, whereas allocation to the sector is progressively decreasing.
He gave yearly allocation to the sector as 2014 – 12%, 2015 – 11%,and 2016 is 8%, saying all serious economies of the World are knowledge driven, but Nigeria drives its economy by shear whims and caprices of politicians in accordance to their perceived primordial sentiments.