ASUU-FG Crisis A Slow Death To Nigeria University Education’s
ASUU-FG Crisis A Slow Death To Nigeria University Education’s.
ASUU is riddled with half-promises, empty promises, and broken promises. As the two parties met last Monday, it was apparent that little or nothing would be accomplished at the end of the day. Yet, it was learnt, representatives of ASUU went into that meeting with some hope.
The four hours of intense discussion, the ASUU party came out of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment office, wearing long faces, an ominous sign that the ‘warring’ parties could not reach a conclusion that will put an end to a strike that began in November 2018 – which has kept thousands of Nigerian students at home idling away.
The federal government gave us a reaction to our proposals. But there are still grey areas that we are trying to sort out,” the ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, told journalists as he stepped out of the meeting.
“Before the strike can be suspended, the most critical area that federal government must address is revitalization. It is central to our academic work. Unless that area is addressed, our members will still have issues (with the government). We are not demanding N50 billion. We are saying that the minimum that the federal government can release to reactivate revitalization fund is N50 billion.”
“We did not take a long time than we anticipated. We have other commitments. But the important thing is that we have made substantial progress. We have reached some agreements in seven areas. Most of the issues have been resolved. But ASUU will need to consult its members and come with what they think,” Chris Ngige, explained.
The ASUU president had pointed out that the N200 billion released by the federal government in September 2018 was not an issue but that sum ought to have been released in October 2017 as part of the 2013 agreement.
“It would be recalled that the federal government had agreed to inject N1.3 trillion to fund universities at N220 billion yearly for five years. If the government fails to fund public universities the situation on campuses may degenerate, worse than the already poor quality teaching and learning environment,” he explained.
Often regarded as the union’s nemesis, the Dr. Wale Babalakin-led renegotiation team did not agree with Ogunyemi.“Should the federal government make available the sum of N1trillion every year to fund university education, which is equal to 70 percent of the total capital released for 2017, which was N1.3 billion? In our opinion, this is not realistic in a country that has other competing needs such as infrastructure, defence, security, health and other needs that require government’s urgent attention,” the team argued.
Babalakin also pointed out that the government was only able to fund 22.5 percent of university needs and proposed what his team believe is a more sustainable method of funding as the renegotiation team wants an increase in the number of scholarships available to university students providing 30 percent of students with such opportunities. For the remaining 70 percent, the team said an education bank can provide an annual loan of N1 million to cover their tuition and other costs.
For almost 10 years ASUU and the government have held each other by the jugular until a moment of truce came when Babalakin was appointed in 2017 to renegotiate an agreement reached between the two parties.
It is important to note that after the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, there was a provision for the renegotiation of the agreement every three years. It was in March 2017 that the first renegotiation was held. Yet, that meeting, according to ASUU, broke down since May 2018 because of “deliberate tactics adopted by the leader of the government’s team to scuttle the renegotiation.”
The issues for renegotiation are non-implementation of components of the 2017 memorandum of action, non-release of over N1 trillion arrears or revitalization fund owed public universities from 2014 to 2018. Others include non-release of the forensic audit report on earned academic allowances and non-payment of arrears for 2009 to 2017, failure to mainstream the payment of earned academic allowances into the annual budget.
ASUU also wants the government to resolve the issue regarding the unpaid arrears of shortfall in salaries in universities that have been verified under the presidential initiative, on continuous auditing.On July 1, 2013, ASUU embarked on a nationwide industrial strike over federal government’s refusal to implement some components of the 2009 agreement with the union, which include the academic earned allowance, funding, and development of infrastructure.
Public analysts are of the opinion that the government is using delay tactics to renege on its promises on the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement and September 2017 MoA. The 2019 general election is around the corner. It is not clear how an ASUU strike can adversely affect the chance of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chance in the forthcoming presidential election.
Less than 30 days to the February 16 presidential poll, it is yet to be seen how the crisis will be finally resolved. But in the meantime, students, their parents, and guardians are the worst-hit as ASUU and the government spar over an agreement that is a decade-long.