Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday decried the statement credited to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, that lecturers are sitting at home playing Ludo game, describing it as reckless and uncharitable.
The union also said the arrogance of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration is manifested through the ‘unclipped mouths of his ministers’.
Ngige had reportedly asked ASUU to suspend its ongoing strike as precondition for renegotiating ASUU/federal government agreements, stating that the lecturers were sitting at home playing Ludo games when they are supposed to be doing research on how to solve COVID-19 pandemic.
But ASUU in a statement signed by its Ibadan Zonal Coordinator, Prof. Ade Adejumo, and made available to THISDAY, said in a clime of responsible governance and leadership, the government will be making moves to meet the demands of the union to get the strike suspended.
He said members of the union have been making giant inventions and playing frontline role in the fight against COVID-19 even when they have to contribute their money to develop ventilators because they have “irresponsible government that has refused to fund and invest in research.”
Adejumo added that in a saner clime, people like Ngige would have resigned or become ex-minister as a conciliator general of a government that lacks the will to honour Memorandum of Actions (MoAs) signed with the union, maintaining that the pandemic has exposed the wickedness of the leadership of Nigeria that voted eight per cent of its 2020 budget to education as against 26 per cent prescribed by UNICEF.
On the accusation against ASUU by the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF), Adejumo said the AGF should be bold enough to account for the corruption surrounding the IIPIS as exposed by the union, stating that the AGF is boasting on trampling on the university autonomy act by forcefully enrolling its members into the fraudulent platform.
He maintained that the AGF should invite Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) to arrest those who supplied fictitious names to the IPPIS, stating that members of the union do not prepare salaries nor work in the bursary department of institutions.
According to him, “We are also constrained to respond to the minister’s uncharitable claim that Nigerian academics have been sitting down “at home playing Ludo and drafts and other games instead of conducting research for the discovery of new drugs and equipment to combat COVID-19, which is least expected of someone who wears the garb of conciliator-general of Nigeria. Such reckless statement has made him unqualified to stand as third party neutral in labour matters in Nigeria. In saner climes, he would have been advised to resign from his position or be removed in ignominy. Records are available everywhere to show that most meaningful interventions on combating the coronavirus in Nigeria today are still being led by academics in many states with the support of ASUU, even in the face of the general strike. We do this because we are aware of our responsibilities to the society as contained in our principles and laws. Ngige should tell Nigerians how committed is
the government to funding research activities in our universities.”
“Is funding not at the centre of ASUU’s agitation over the years? A government that allocates less than eight percent of its national budget to education instead of the universally agreed 26 percent benchmark for developing nation has lost the moral fibre to challenge its academics of not conducting research.
“Also, the AGF should tell Nigerians why he has turned deaf ears to all the well documented sharp practices and brazen corruption associated with IPPIS that he is stoutly defending. The latest vituperations of the AGF against ASUU are akin to the desperation of a drowning man who clutches at anything to stay afloat. Now that his gross incompetence has been exposed to the whole world over the tragic collapse of his pet project (IPPIS), he thinks the best option for him is to start throwing blind punches at ASUU whom he considers responsible for his woes.”