- NDU lecturers suspend four-month strike
Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), wednesday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, demanded the full release of the N495billion, being the funds needed to revamp the country’s universities as contained in the agreement entered into with the federal government seven years ago.
The union noted that the government through its technical committee, which reviewed downwards ASUU’s N1.5trillion estimate needed to lift the tertiary institutions from their current rot, to about N800billion, had consistently reneged on the agreement.
ASUU’s Zonal Coordinator, Prof. Beke Sese, told journalists during a press briefing in the Bayelsa State capital, yesterday that aside the initial tranche that was eventually released in 2013, the government has refused to credit a dedicated account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) set up for that purpose.
ASUU’s interaction with the press, also coincided with the suspension of a four-month sit-at-home embarked upon by the lecturers at the state-owned Niger Delta University over unpaid salaries.
However, the state government after reaching an agreement with the NDU branch of the academic union to pay two months of the owed salaries, convinced them of the need to end the strike and return to the classrooms.
Sese, who was flanked by the chapter heads in the Port Harcourt zone, including Dr. Stanley Ogoun, the NDU branch chair, also bemoaned the non-payment of the university lecturers’ Earned Academic Allowances, staff salaries, the arbitrary removal and appointment of vice chancellors in federal institutions and the introduction of the Treasury Single Account into the university system.
Added to these, he said, was the need to renegotiate the 2009 agreement, amend the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), National Universities Commission (NUC) and National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions Act 2004 and have an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari, whom he said had been difficult to see one on one.
“The ASUU/FGN 2009 agreement provided an estimated cost of N1,518,331,545,.304, for the revitalisation of federal universities and N3,680,000, per student in the state universities between 2009 and 2011. However, the government said it needed to conduct a NEEDS assessment to determine how the funds would be utilised.
“This led to the constitution of a technical committee on NEEDS. The technical committee came up with about N800billion as estimates amount needed to revitalise Nigerian public universities in the short run of two years, translating into an annual intervention of N400billion.
“Government reneged on this and subsequently extended the implementation to six years between 2013 and 2018, again this has been breached.
“Apart from the initial N200billion of 2013, not even a single kobo more has been credited into the dedicated account with the central bank. This means that government is in arrears of N495billion up till 2016,” he lamented.
According to ASUU, the government has also only released N30billion of N92billion meant to settle the Earned Allowances of which only N13billion was eventually devoted for the purpose.
The union lamented that instead of a steady rise in the yearly budget for education in the country, the sum total has fallen from 11 per cent in 2013 to eight percent in 2016.
On the non-payment of salaries of some university lecturers, ASUU noted that it was “unrealistic and irrational” to expect high standards of academic activities in any university where staff and lecturers are unable to meet their basic needs.
“We condemn in the strongest terms, the tendency of the government to shift the burden of any perceived decline in resources on the weary shoulders of poor workers while it continues to run a very expensive government bureaucracy with unwieldy size of functionaries and aides of all kinds.
“The government must take its contractual obligation to pay workers salaries much more seriously and we as a union will not fold our hands and allow this trend to continue,” Sese fumed.
ASUU also called for the payment of salaries of university staff primary schools since December 2015, stressing that the government unilaterally took the decision to stop payment without involving the union.
He expressed dissatisfaction with the agreement of the NDU chapter of the union with the Bayelsa State Government, but added that the strike action was suspended in the interest of the students and the public.