Segun Awofadeji in Bauchi
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has expressed concern over the federal government’s failure to implement the agreement reached in 2013 between both parties for the rehabilitation of decaying infrastructure in public universities between 2013 and 2019.
Under the 2013 FGN/ASUU agreement, the federal government is required to provide N1.2 trillion with an annual disbursement of N220 billion to redeem the agreement already reached.
The Bauchi Zone of the union that comprises ATBU, UNIJOS, Bauchi and Gombe State Universities, and Federal University, Kashere, recalled that the federal government has since 2013 when it started implementing the agreement with N200 billion, failed to release any other amount for the subsequent years.
The zone led by Professor Nanmwa Voncir, said in a press conference in Bauchi that the government has failed to release the 2014, 2015, and 2016 tranches 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 dire consequences.”
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 owe staff up to six months salaries.
He regretted that in addition to the cash squeeze of the universities, the federal government shut all staff schools and sacked all staff with no money to provide electricity, water, stationeries, chemicals and supplies needed for the smooth operation of the institutions.
According to him, the renegotiation of FGN/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.
He stated that other issues affecting 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.
Voncir listed some of the issues which the union rejected and called on the 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 the policy has virtually strangled the universities, as they have difficulties in accessing budgeted funds, and that it is incompatible with university autonomy, stressing that universities should be exempted from its operation.
He also recalled that under the 2009 agreement, government should increase its budgetary allocation to the education sector to meet up with the UNESCO benchmark of 26 per cent, whereas allocation to the sector is progressively decreasing.
He noted that the yearly allocation to the sector is 2014 -12 per cent, 2015- 11 per cent, and 2016- 8 per cent, saying that all serious economies of the world are knowledge-driven, but Nigeria drives its economy by sheer whims and caprices of politicians in accordance to their perceived primordial sentiments.
On the removal and appointment of vice-chancellors, ASUU said the action by the federal government is contrary to any known rule governing universities in the country, adding that by law only governing councils appoint vice-chancellors.
Voncir insisted that governing councils of universities be allowed to follow due process and appoint vice-chancellors, stating that anything short of that is unacceptable to the union.