FG: We Won’t Pay ASUU Members for Strike Period
* Confirms UTAS, U3PS outscored IPPIS in integrity tests
*Says IPPIS now captures sabbatical
*Puts educational expenditure at N6trn in seven years
*University lecturers reject new salary offer by govt, insist it’s miserly
*Explains why Tuesday’s meeting ended in deadlock
Deji Elumoye, Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
The federal government has declared that the striking public university lecturers would not be paid salaries for as long as they remain on strike, to serve as deterrent to other government workers.
Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, who disclosed this to newsmen yesterday, at the weekly ministerial press briefing at the State House, Abuja, said government refused to give in to the demand by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for their members to be paid backlog of salaries withheld over the ongoing strike, saying it is meant to be the penalty for their needless action.
Adamu said this just as ASUU yesterday advanced reasons why its meeting with the Prof. Nimi Briggs-led committee of the federal government on August 16 ended in deadlock.
In a statement issued yesterday by the union and signed by its President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU accused the government of repudiating a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining during negotiation, just as it rejected what it described as a miserly offer of salary increase by the federal government.
However, Adamu noted that the insistence by ASUU on being paid six months salaries of the strike period was what was stalling the negotiations between the federal government and the lecturers.
He added that other striking tertiary institution-based unions namely – the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Academic Staff Union Polytechnics (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU), have all agreed with the federal government on terms and would be calling their strike actions off within a week.
Adamu stressed that the discussions with ASUU had also gone far, but noted that there was a hitch in the negotiations, saying the university lecturers had been insisting on two other demands, including being paid the salaries for the six months they have been out of the classrooms on strike, a demand he said the federal government was not willing to accept.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari outrightly rejected the lecturers’ proposal when he presented the report to him.
The minister insisted that the strike by the university-based unions came despite the trillions of naira expended on education by the present administration directly as well as by agencies such as TEFFUND and UBEC.
“All contentious issues between the government and ASUU had been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of strike be paid, a demand that Buhari has flatly rejected.
“On the contrary, unions in tertiary institutions in the country especially the ASUU have been engaged in recurring and avoidable strikes that have crippled the university system.
“This is in spite of the huge investments of over N2.5 trillion in tertiary institutions in the last ten years from TETFUND alone. Common knowledge as it were, many Nigerians may not know that the federal government is paying the salaries of every staff in its tertiary institutions, academic and non-academic staff, while these institutions are also in full control of their Internally Generated Revenues (IGR).
“Just recently, we inaugurated a committee to renegotiate the 2009 agreement with ASUU and related unions in tertiary institutions. We are doing everything humanly possible to conclude on the negotiations.
“It is our hope that the outcome of the renegotiations will bring lasting industrial peace to our campuses. In the meantime, I am sure that the current efforts would yield the desired results and return our children back to school.
“I want to use this opportunity to thank all Nigerians, especially those that contributed to our efforts to see to the resolution of the present strike.”
Adamu also disclosed that the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) payment system proposed by ASUU outscored the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) already in use by government and which the lecturers are kicking against.
He also stressed that IPPIS has been updated to now accommodate payment of those on sabbatical.
His words: “Just one thing that I was reminded even the current IPPIS has been made to accommodate sabbatical. I didn’t know this. Somebody just told me.”
Asked if government would compensate the students for the strike period, the Minister said it was the responsibility of ASUU to compensate students for the time wasted from the six-month strike, not the federal government.
According to him, the federal government bears no liability to compensate millions of students grounded for six months over lost time, saying if the students were determined to get compensated, they should take ASUU to court.
The minister also said the Buhari administration has expended a total of N6,003,947,848,237 in capital and recurrent expenditure in the education sector in the last seven years.
The expenditure, he said, was in addition to interventions from TETFUND and UBEC amounting to N2.5 trillion and N553,134,967,498 respectively in capital investment.
“We must also note and appreciate the huge investments from states and the private sector at all levels of our educational system.
“We will continue to improve on the implementation of the Ministerial Strategic Plan, (MSP) all through to 2023 for the overall development of the education sector and the Nigerian Nation.
“We will continue to create the necessary enabling environment to attract more and more private sector investment. We shall hand over a better education sector than we met it,” he added.
Adamu also canvassed for clampdown on perpetrators of examination malpractice, which he said had been discovered to be a cartel and called on the examiners to work closely with law enforcement agencies to “crackdown on examination malpractice”.
According to him, despite efforts to raise the integrity of the examination system in schools nationwide, the ministry still grapples with malpractice perpetrated both at the exams councils and school levels.
He lauded the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board for its efforts at stemming malpractice, saying more works need to be done.
On efforts of the present administration to expand education and learning in the country, the Minister gave figures and facts about milestones covered in the last few years.
His words: “Universities: At the inception of this Administration in 2015, Nigeria had 40 federal universities. The Buhari Administration has established additional nine universities, bringing the total number of federal universities to 49. Similarly, we met a total of 39 state universities, we have licenced additional 16 universities, bringing the total number of state universities to 55. The total number of public universities (federal and states) now stand at 104.
“Similarly, we have licenced a total of 50 private universities more than any other administration has done in the history of Nigeria. As at 2014, the country had 49 private universities. The country now has 111 private universities. Put together, Nigeria now has 215 universities.
“In spite of these laudable efforts at ensuring unfettered access to university education, the challenges posed by illegal universities, “Degree Mills” still persist. As I speak, the NUC has identified approximately 70 illegal universities in the country.
“We will not rest on our oars in cracking down on illegal universities in the country.
“Polytechnics and Allied Institutions: As at 2014, Nigeria had 24 Federal Polytechnics. The Buhari administration has established 12 more, bringing to total, the number of federal polytechnics to 36. In the same vain, we had 41 State polytechnics as at 2014. Seven have been added, bringing to total, the number of states’ polytechnics to 48. We had seven private polytechnics as at 2014.
“This administration has licenced 41 private polytechnics, bringing the number of private polytechnics to 48.
“In terms of carrying capacity, the Federal Polytechnics had 60,800 as at 2014. Today, we have 63,700. The carrying capacity of State polytechnics stood at 52,480 in 2014. We have increased this to 60,880.
“Colleges of Education at the inception of this Administration, the country had 21 Federal Colleges of Education. We have established additional six Federal Colleges of Education in the last six years, bringing to total, the number of Federal Colleges of Education to 27. The process of establishing nine more Colleges of Education has already commenced.
“We also inherited 46 State Colleges of Education in 2014. Between 2014 and now, we have 50 additional State Colleges of Education, bringing to total the number of State Colleges of Education in the country to 96. In the same vein, we met 48 private Colleges of Education when we came in. As I speak, we have a total of 120 private Colleges of Education”.
ASUU Rejects New Salary Offer by FG, Say It’s Miserly Offer
Meanwhile, ASUU has rejected what it described as a miserly offer of salary increase by the federal government.
Osodeke, in a statement stressed that ASUU “firmly rejected and still rejects the ‘award’ of salary by the federal government.”
ASUU said at the resumed meeting with the federal government ‘s 2009 Agreement Re-negotiation Committee on Tuesday, the government team presented a recommended Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS) prepared by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to it which it rejected.
The federal government had in a statement by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, claimed that the proposal made by the Briggs-led committee in relation to the demands of members of ASUU and other unions in universities would gulp N1.12 trillion to implement which it finds difficult to afford.
Although the union did not specify the new salary offer, ASUU said the reason given by the government for abandoning the earlier proposal by the Briggs committee was not tenable.
As a way forward, ASUU said: “Where there is will, there will be way. The federal government, through the Ministry of Education, should return to the New Draft Agreement of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Renegotiation Committee whose work spanned a total of five and half years as a demonstration of good faith.”
The union while rejecting the offer by government said the reason of lack of funds cannot be justified, alleging that the government was engaging in wasteful spending and misappropriation of funds to the detriment of genuine needs of the people.
ASUU said: “This is because of several reasons chief of which is poor management of the economy. This has given rise to leakages in the revenue of governments at all levels. There is wasteful spending, misappropriation of fund and outright stealing of our collective patrimony.
“ASUU believes that if the leakages in the management of the country’s resources are stopped, there will be more than enough to meet the nation’s revenue and expenditure targets without borrowing and plunging the country into a debt crisis as is the case now.
“We believe that if the leakages in the management of the country’s resources are stopped, there will be more than enough to meet the nation’s revenue and expenditure targets without borrowing and plunging the country into a debt crisis as is the case now.
“Rejecting a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining is a repudiation of government’s pronouncements on reversing ‘brain drain.’ It is common knowledge that, more now than in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerian scholars, especially in scarce areas like science and medicine, are migrating in droves to Europe, America and many parts of Africa such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Ghana with supportive environment to ply their trades as well as competitive reward systems for intellectual efforts.
“Does the Nigerian government care about what becomes of public universities in another five or ten years if this trend continues?”
ASUU stated that rejecting a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining amounted to a repudiation of government’s pronouncements on reversing “brain drain”.
It stressed that it was common knowledge that more now than it was in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerian scholars, especially in scarce areas like science and medicine, are migrating in droves to Europe, America and many parts of Africa such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Ghana with supportive environment to ply their trades as well as competitive reward systems for intellectual efforts.
It further said federal government’s repudiation of collective bargaining was in bad faith.
It said it was a retrogressive step for a democratic government to abrogate the collective bargaining principle after more than forty years of its introduction into the Nigerian University System.
“The ILO’s Policy Guide on Collective Bargaining stipulates that “The principle of negotiation in good faith takes the form in practice of various obligations on the parties involved, namely: (i) recognising representative organisations; (ii) endeavouring to reach agreement; (iii) engaging in real and constructive negotiations; (iv) avoiding unjustified delays in negotiation; and (v) mutually respecting the commitments made and the results achieved through bargaining.”
ASUU accused government of imposing the ongoing strike action on the lecturers and had encouraged it to linger because of its provocative indifference.
While making its case further, ASUU said the Munzali Jibril-led renegotiation committee submitted the first Draft Agreement in May 2021, but government’s official response did not come until about one year later.
Furthermore, it stressed that the salary offer presented by the Nimi Briggs-led Team came across in a manner of “take-it-or-leave-it on a sheet of paper.”
The union said it had over the years, particularly since 1992, advocated and negotiated a separate salary structure for academics for obvious reasons.
“ASUU does not accept any awarded salary as was the case in the administration of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar. The separate salary structures in all FGN/ASUU Agreements were usually the outcome of Collective Bargaining processes,” he added.