The National Universities Commission (NUC) just put out its advisory that universities in Nigeria should resume for academic activities on the 18th of January 2021. That was well-said and happily absorbed by impatient student-scholars who have realized that one full academic session will be chalked off from their schooling progression. I had a couple of phone calls from my assigned thesis advisees, just “calling to say hello” but I knew what they wanted to be sure of.

Over here at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, it is known that my enthusiasm for supervising undergraduate theses knows no bound and I am the one who would go the extra length to commit my personal resources to offset the costs of field trips and data processing. At the end of the session, I usually set a target to get germane materials from the supervised theses efforts published before the students are done with the one year national youth service scheme; that is surely a very optimistic target as different academic journals are constraints by varied administrative and paper-inputs circumstances that impact on their stated timelines of publications. Nonetheless, at some time soon enough, the students get a call from me that such and such papers have been published in such and such local journal. That is my little confidence-boosting contribution to students’ quest for further graduate studies and it has helped some of them in their pursuits.

Thus, when the calls came in wondering about the 18th January resumption date I was honest and blunt in my characteristic way, informing them that the federal government has reduced us to the status of local government education departments’ primary school teachers with backlog of months-long salary owed whilst the government in their “magnanimity” progressively reduces the deficits in one or two-months installments. I wondered how I was going to take them out to the bush at the Gidan Kwano Campus to execute the work-format that I have designed for them before the combo ASUU strike/COVID-19 lockdown shut universities down for one full academic year. My students know me and they know that if I feel financial pain it’d impact heavily on a negative sense on them because gifted lunch packs and drinks from me, not to talk of transport subsidy plus cost-saving contributions to field trip charges will suffer. It is 9th of January 2021 as I pen this piece and December 2020 salary has not been paid to ASUU non-IPPIS enrollees faithful; there is a backlog of withheld three-month pay still pending, not to mention January 2021 pay.

On paper, the federal government “promised” to offset all claims by month-end of January 2021. That is the catch, this “promise” that the federal government reneges on without a prick of conscience. I rightly informed my thesis advisees that university lecturers are still “hungry” and it is inconceivable to see how we’d happily welcome students back to classes and the laboratories plus the outdoors when landlords and landladies are menacing us and we are unable to send school fees over to the accounts of our charges. The NUC should impress it of the federal government to pay up all pending ASUU financial claims before the 18th of January. The idea that the NUC is “battle-ready” to take on ASUU on behalf of Muhammadu Buhari is, simply put, a non-academic stance.

Sunday Adole Jonah,

Department of Physics, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State

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