The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the Federal Government of deliberate plans to prolong the ongoing eight months old strike due to the slow pace of negotiations.
Reacting to comments by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige that government would invite the union for further meeting after collating necessary data to ensure pending issues are bought to the negotiation table, ASUU faulted his position and view it as part of delay tactics.
In a statement signed by the Coordinator, ASUU Lagos Zone, Prof Olusiji Sowande, the union said the minister’s comments is laced with hidden fact that government have no intention of ending the ongoing strike this year.
He said Nigerian would be appalled that government team, having had series of meetings with its leadership, is just collating vital data required to engage the union, adding ”government has deliberately been wasting the time and resources of our union on meetings and engagements it was not prepared for.
”It is therefore not surprising that Dr. Ngige-led government team has not been able to return to negotiating table since the last engagement with our union on November 4, 2020.”
The union urged parents, students and the general public not to be persuaded by the minister’s statement that government cannot afford to pay the conservative N110 billion for revitalization of the public universities.
According to ASUU, only recently, government approved N5 billion bailout fund to operators in the aviation sector to ameliorate the harsh realities of COVID-19 on their business operations, stating ”over the years, Nigerian government has spent over N1.5 trillion to bailout power generation and distribution companies to keep their business afloat despite privatization of the power sector. ”
Prof Sowande explained that trillions of public fund has been expanded on commercial banks as bailout funds to save them from collapsing and asked ”if government could bailout private businesses for “business good” then Nigerian public universities deserved to be bailed out for “public good”.
ASUU observed that the Needs Assessment Report of 2012 provided evidences of the need to save the public universities from imminent collapse.
It said: ”In fact the document stipulated that N1.3 trillion injected over five years would save the public universities from collapsing. Government’s failure to faithfully release the revitalization fund over the years is a deliberate attempt to allow the public Universities to collapse
”In the interest of our students who have been at home for seven months, our union has shifted ground from the initial insistence of a release of one tranche of N220 billion revitalization fund to demand for 50% of one tranche (N110 billion) for government to show its commitment to revitalization of our universities. This is a major reason government has not been able to return to negotiation with our union in the last two weeks.”
Sowande explained that the issues in contention goes beyond its rejection of Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) for which the union have developed an alternative called University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
He reminded Nigerians that members of ASUU are on total, comprehensive and indefinite strike because of failure of government to fully implement the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement and February 2019 Memorandum of Action which stipulated timelines for release of funds for the revitalization of dilapidated infrastructure in public universities.
Other demands include payment of outstanding Earned Academic Allowances, conclusion of renegotiation of 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement, setting up of visitation panels to Federal universities as well as underfunding and proliferation of state universities.