ASUU Strike: The Untold Story of Greedy, Covetous Demands, Pain, Agony of Parents, Students, Social Imbalance of Action and FG’s Ultimatum By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
In the words of a South African living Legend and an enigma of democracy, Sir Nelson Mandela, “the only powerful weapon which you can use to change the world is EDUCATION”. To Mandela, education is the major weapon needed to wage war against all forms ignorance, illiteracy, arrogance, economic oppression and mal-administration. With education, change, the most sacrostant thing in the world, is achievable with a marvelous ease.
Compatriots, to affirm that public education in Nigeria, is at the moment in perpetual shamble is an understatement. The rout bedeviling the educational system of the nation of Nigeria has gotten to the stage that no one could doubt if it is prophesized that Nigeria is jinxed. As I write, public education in Nigeria has gone awry. Sub-standard private schools have submerged the public owned ones while public secondary schools are in a state of disrepair as parents across all social status have discarded them for privately owned ones.
The Colleges of Education are daily moulding quantity teachers at will. The Polytechnics have been relegated into dustbin while most of the public universities are blot on the landscape. Corruption and Embezzlement of public fund pervades the whips and caprices of the educational sector of Nigeria. The most heart-broken part of the unfortunate scenario is that no one is willing to accept blames. As proponents of the political class are accusing the professional class, the sub-structure, of being the architect of Nigeria’s catastrophes, same way the professionals are casting aspersions on the bourgoersies otherwise known as the super-structure. Affirmatively, Nigeria is in a sorry state today because her educational system is in total mess and shamble.
In Nigeria today, the academic staff union of universities (ASUU) is known to everyone. ASUU is popular not because it’s the beautiful bride of Nigeria but because it is an association that government at all levels and universities students fear with pleasure. Categirically, ASUU is one of the stakeholders in the Nigerian project. As a union, just like other labour unions, ASUU possesses constitutional rights to go on industrial action, hence the one the union has started since the 2nd of July 2013. However, all efforts made by government to ensure that all the issues raised by ASUU were resolved seems not to be acceptable to the union. Many government representatives have met with ASUU without recording positive results. The Federal Ministry of Education has met with ASUU, secretary General of the federation, Senator Ayim Pius Ayim, Vice President, Namadi Sambo, Senate President of Nigeria, David Mark, Senate Committee on education and the House of Reps Committee on Education have all met with ASUU leaders but the union refused to suspend the ongoing strike. Expectedly, the President of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, despite his tight schedule, on Monday 4th November, personally met with ASUU for 13 hours. At the of the meeting with President Jonathan, all the demands of ASUU were reportedly met.
After the meeting, ASUU leaders expressed satisfaction. ASUU expressed hope that the ongoing strike will soon be suspended. As the union was planing to hold its national executive meeting to formally table the issues discuused with the President before its members, one of its leaders, Professor Festus Iyayi died on a ghastly car accident. However, the union secretly met ten days after Iyayi’s death to take decisions that up till now, have not been made to the general public, though already exposed by the media.
On the cause of the strike, ASUU members wants FG to be paying them what they called earned and responsibilities allowances. Apparently to gain public support, ASUU said FG should, in the next four year, invest a whooping sum of N1.6trn on the university education in Nigeria. FG has agreed to invest N1.2trn and ASUU objected not to the offer.
Anyway, i coined this piece to expose some facts. I wrote this piece because it is obviuos that most Nigerians are not aware of the real demands of ASUU. To many Nigerians, ASUU is at home because of the poor state of infrastructures in public universities across the country but to me, that far from truth. I am a realist hence, I dislike being deceived and cajoled.
Country people, It is necessary I coin this piece because lies are currently triumphing over truth, while Propaganda is presently wining over reality, and most pitifully, misinformation is at the moment, singing victory song in the media against accuracy and sacredness of facts. Let me assert that one of our major problems in Nigeria is the fact that we don’t take time to analyse issues for ourselves. Rather, we flow with the tide of public opinion which is most often defined by a few opinion shapers.
Nonetheless, for the sake of the already wheedled, coaxed and cajoled general public, the analysis of the real ASUU’s demands from federal government (FG) goes as thus:
Duty free importation of education materials: If this is approved, Nigerian custom Service will stop collecting duty from those importing education materials into nigeria. However, I wish to tell the public one thing that they have never heard: ASUU want FG to recognize her company called ASUU Holdings as the only organization that will be importing educatiion materials into the country. Can you see greediness? ASUU Holdings want to be importing education materials without paying duty to the Nigerian Custom Service. Can you see selfishness? Is that what will turn Bayero University, Kano to Oxford?
Post graduate supervision allowances: ASUU is demanding for the payment of one hundred and fifty seven thousand Naira (N157, 000) from the federal government on each of the post graduate student’s research project supervised. I.e. Post graduate diploma, masters and doctorate degrees’ students. It has been confirmed that this has never happened in the world. However, If this is approved, a lecturer with five research students go home with N800, 000 per session.
Teaching practice and industrial allowances: according to the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), ASUU is demanding for the payment of fifty thousand on each student on teaching practice supervised. A lecturer that supervises forty students per session go home with N2million. Same goes to those on industrial attachment. It is commonsensical for Transportation allowance to be paid to Lecturers in this regard but I doubt if FG can pay the amount being demanded by ASUU as teaching practice allowance. In addition, as I write, education students are not being paid allowance by varsities management whose most members are part of ASUU.
Transfer of landed property: ASUU want federal government to transfer all the landed properties in public varsities to ASUU holdings. The man who own a land own the building(s) erected on it. Lawfully, giving all the landed properties in public varsities to ASUU is like FG dashing out all the buildings in public varsities to ASUU. That is the constitutional interpretation. That will never happen till Jesus Christ comes back. It has also been revealed by NANS that FG has given ASUU national leaders two hundred and fifty million Naira (N250million) as the take off grant of ASUU holdings. ASUU want government landed properties so that by the time their allowances are paid, her members will start building hostels accommodation on the lands and rent them out to students. What a lucrative business!
Honorarium for external moderation of undergraduate and postgraduate examination system: ASUU is demanding for the payment of twenty thousand Naira (N20, 000) per each examination paper supervised. That was what they told the federal government.
Execution of NEEDs projects: ASUU is demanding that the one hundred billion Naira (N100billion) already made available by the FG for infrastructure development in public varsities should be managed by ASUU holdings. Please were lecturers employed to serve as contractors to government? How does that benefit Nigerian Students?
Study grants; external assessment of readers or professors, Call duty and clinical duty and hazard allowance and excess workload allowance: A lecturer could be paid excess workload allowance. That is tenable. Hazard allowance could also be paid. That is justifiable. However,study grant, external assessment of readers or professors, call and clinical duty, if approved, are privilege, not the rights of ASUU.
Non-salary condition of service, which includes clinical loan, car refurbishing and housing loan: All these are privilege if approved. They are not the rights of ASUU. Aren’t lecturers being paid monthly salaries?
Research leave, sabbatical leave, sick leave, maternity leave and injury pension: sabbatical leave is already in place. The rules say a lecturer on sabbatical leave should be paid for the first six months. Anything after six month doesn’t attract payment. Double payment is wrong. Take for an example, a lecturer employed by the University of Calabar (UNICAL) but presently on leave of absence at the University of Ibadan (UI) will be collecting salaries from UNICAL for the first six months and also from UI from the first day he got there. ASUU is demanding for the payment of salary from both institutions throughout the period of sabbatical leave. That is impossible. Research leave is a just one. Very necessary. However, I make bold to say that shutting down of universities for more than four months because of such demands is height of heartlessness.
Provision of office accommodation and facilities: No sane mind will counter this demand. The present state of office accommodation in most of our campuses is a blot on the landscape. I support this demand without any reservation.
Pension of university academic staff and compulsory retirement age, National Health Insurance Scheme: the retirement age of professors has already Been increased from 65 to 70 years. To me, this demand ought not to have been approved because Considering the alarming rate of youths unemployment in Nigeria, approving this kind of demand is like delaying the breakthrough of Nigerian youths. I consider the students that supported ASUU over this as being naive.
Patronage of university services: this is not by force. It is not a right. Patronizing varsities services is necessary and good for encouragement but it is not compulsory. Shutting down of classrooms over this was wrong.
Funds from alumni associations: please how does this concern government?
Private Sectors Contribution: A right is different from a privilege. No government can force a corporate organization to do what it doesn’t want to do once he’s paying it’s tax accordingly. Take for an example, the government of Ekiti state cannot force Coca-Cola to donate classrooms to Ekiti State University. The company can only be lobbied. This is not a military reign, democracy has taken over.
Last on the list of the demands is the one that ASUU sold to the media to gain public sympathy: the release of N1.5trn within four years for infrastructure development in public varsities. FG has approved N1.2trn.
May I also ask that why are lecturers in states-owned varsities on strike? Is it the FG that will offer them all the allowances listed above? I believe we are still having federalism as a system of government in Nigeria. Furthermore, the general public should note that ASUU has never had it so good like this since the union was founded in 1978. The 25% of what the Jonathan led government has offered the Dr. Issa Fagge led ASUU have never been offered ASUU since the advent of democratic rule in Nigeria.
Agony of parents, Students and social imbalance of the strike action:
Furthermore, let me state without any fear of favour that ASUU members are no longer on strike because of Nigerian Students and the reviving of the Nigerian Universities as they told the public. If truly ASUU went on strike because of Students, the ongoing strike ought to have been suspended since August while negotiation continues. The strike ought to have been suspended since governmmet offered to be pumping N100bn annually as special intervention fund for infrastructures development in public universities coupled with the sum of N40billion released for the payment of ASUU’s earned and responsibilities allowances out of the N87bilion the union is demanding for.
It is disheartning that after meeting ASUU’s demands, the union is demanding from FG, the salaries and allowances for the months they were out of work. ASUU wants FG to pay its members the salaries for the months of August, September, October and November that they didn’t work. Country people, let me state that i consider the latest demands from ASUU are disservice to all the Nigerian varsity students whose destinies are being delayed and future ruined by the ongoing strike.
The Nigerian Labour Act 2004 is unambiguous. It states that labour unions can go on strike but no payment for the time outside work. Why is ASUU now demanding for salaries for the work not done? Who will the pay for the house rents of Nigerian Students for the period ASUU members were out of work? Who will compensate our needy and poor parents for the impending double money they will be paying when ASUU finaly resumes? Who will compensate those whose Mobilisation for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) ought to have been perfected since July for them to be mobilized for November? Who will compesate the thousands of students that missed the batch C Mobilisation as a result of ASUU strike? Who will pay for the wasted time, delayed destinies and ruined future of students?
As it is now, those due for NYSC Mobilisation may miss February mobilization as ASUU seems not to be ready for resumption until January 2014. Our parents are presently wailing because of the debt the ongoing strike has plung them into. When the strike is suspended, parents will be paying double money for pocket money, house rents, shelter etc. The social effects of the ongoing strike is the most pitiable. Many female students are now into prostitution in order to earn a living. Many students have lost their lives on the deadly Nigeria roads while traveling from one one place to another. According to the information released last month by the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA), the prevailing rate of Hiv/AIDS amongst Studnets has increased by 3% due to the ongoing strike strike. students are redundant as many are presently living in hopelessness and penury.
Expectedly, the general public that were showing symphaty for ASUU when the ongoing strike started are those mostly crying at the moment as it is obvious to them that they have been fooled, wheedled and deceived by ASUU.
Flabagastedly, When ASUU was told to go back to classroom by the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), many kicked. Many values-eroded Nigerians alleged that NANS has been bribed. The students kicked against their leaders. All the excuses told by NANS were not welcomed by the students. Then, the hypocrisy of ASUU was mesmerizing their brain and thinking faculty but today, the students that kicked against NANS yesterday are the most critics of ASUU.
It is without being hypocritical that I assert that the statement issued on the 1st november by the national executive councils of the Senior Staff association of nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities ( NASU) in respect of the ongoing strike embarked on by ASUU was an outright vindication of my humble self in relation to my earlier position which says that ASUU is greedy and selfish.
For record purpose, the SSANU and NASU’s Statement goes as thus:
“The three Non-Teaching Staff Unions of NAAT, SSANU and NASU are opposed to any extraneous demands by either ASUU or any group in the university which are prejudicial to the welfare of our members. Our stand is that government should jettison the so called ASUU’s Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU being referred to by ASUU is for their selfish end and it is bound to generate more crises in the university sub-sector. The Non-Teaching Staff Unions in the universities will stoutly resist any attempt to ‘sell’ the universities to ASUU.”
Now, assuming without conceding that myself and NANS had been bribed by FG as some ASUU Activists had been alleging without evidence, were SSANU and NASU also bribed? Compatriots, it is an affirmation of reality that the only thing that is sacrostant in life is truth. Truth hurt pass lies.
Lastly, let me state unequivocally that the latest order issued to the striking ASUU members by FG to resume on, or before 4th november is in order. The order may be somehow tyrannical but it is in order. He who hire can fire? FG should sack any lecturer that fail to resume duty before the stated date. And for those who care to listen, what the latest directive issued to ASUU by FG will achieve is enormous. Firstly, it will weaken the support base of ASUU, break its ranks, and for the fear of the unknown, a lot of lecturers will resume before the December 4th government gave to ASUU members to go back to work or be fired. The majority of lecturers that wants to resume will return to classes while the adamant, stubborn and stiff-necked top echelons amomgst them might be the ones to pay. Most importantly, the centre will not hold any longer for ASUU. And with factions already brewing among ASUU leadership, it is a perfect game plan by the government to get back at them. More also, the public should remember with nostalgia, the story of the 49 Lecturers sacked by the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) in 2002. It was the same threat that Government used that later materialized and it took them 11 years before they were re-instated (some died in the process). It is worth mentioning that today, ASUU has been decimated in UNILORIN.
ASUU…..go back to classroom!!!
Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye, Magodo, Lagos.
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