ASUU Strike, Insincere Govt And The Public That Refused To Be schooled By Abdelghaffar Amoka - THE DAILY CRUCIBLE

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Tuesday, November 3, 2020

ASUU Strike, Insincere Govt And The Public That Refused To Be schooled By Abdelghaffar Amoka


What interest me about our people is the fact that it is so easy for us to take side with our oppressors depending on where our loyalty lies at that moment. They asked why ASUU is on strike but never asked why education is never a priority of the government and why the government refused to honour an agreement they willingly signed. A lot have been written about ASUU and the current strike action but same questions that have already been addressed are still popping up on the same issues. Should we just give up on those that have refused to be schooled? As Teachers, we can’t just give up on you. We’ll still assume that you genuinely don’t know and still asking the questions to know. Even though IPPIS seems to have taking the centre stage of the struggle, some of the reasons why ASUU is on strike at the moment are:

- Implementation of 2019 MoA,
- The release of the 1.1 trillion naira Revitalization funds as agreed in 2013 MoU,
- The release of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA),
- Renegotiation of 2009 agreement. This renegotiation include the salary package of Lecturers,
Then, the added distraction called IPPIS and the payment of the withheld salaries.

There are lots of questions on the “University Autonomy” and the funding of public universities. There was a question that “How can you claim to be autonomous when you are funded by FG?” It is called “public university” because it is funded with PUBLIC FUNDS and it is autonomous because University is a system that need to be shielded from external political influence and interference. That is why NASS find it necessary to enact the Universities Autonomy Act No. 1, 2007. "The Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2003 (otherwise called the Universities Autonomy Act No. 1, 2007) enacted by the National Assembly and signed into law on 10th July 2003 and later gazetted by the Federal Republic of Nigerian Official Gazette No. 10, Volume 94 of 12th January 2007 as Act No. 1 of 2000, has vested the powers of managing personnel and payroll system issues in the hands of each university’s governing council".

That means that by this Act and Nigerian law, the University's Governing Council, the managers of personnel and payroll system of the university, chaired by an appointee of Federal Government are empowered by law to hire Adjunct and Visiting Professors if the need arises but Buhari's government policy want to abolish it.

Meanwhile, the university has different management levels to checkmate the excesses in the system if properly utilized by the government who retains the ultimate power of control over the Universities. The management headed by the VC oversees the affairs of the university.  The University Council hire the VC after due process, oversees the activities of the university management, vested with the powers of managing personnel and payroll system and can fire the VC if the need arises. The Visitor (President) hire the University Council Chairman, frequently send visitation panels to the universities to check the activities of the management and council and can fire the council chairman or even dissolve the entire council members if the need arises.

So, public university draws its funding from public funds and autonomous (freedom to govern self) to liberate the Universities from the bureaucracy of the Civil Service and to enable the Council exercise its powers and perform its functions without undue external interference or influence.

There was also this question that “How can ASUU be dictating to his employer on how they should be paid?” In the University Autonomy Act; Section 2AA states that: “The powers of the Council shall be exercised, as in the Law and Statutes of each University and to this extent ESTABLISHMENT CIRCULARS THAT ARE INCONSISTENT WITH THE LAWS AND STATUTES OF THE UNIVERSITY SHALL NOT APPLY TO THE UNIVERSITIES.” and Section 2AAA states that: “The Governing Council of a University shall be free in the discharge of its functions and exercise of its responsibilities for the good management, growth and development of the university.”

ASUU happen to be a group of intellectuals who don’t just follow but find reasons to follow. IPPIS is a policy that is against University Autonomy Act and INCONSISTENT WITH THE LAWS AND STATUTES OF THE UNIVERSITY and SHOULD NOT APPLY TO THE UNIVERSITIES. That is why ASUU is against IPPIS. ASUU made it clear in 2013 when IPPIS for universities was first mentioned that it cannot work in the university and will kill the system. The Accountant General of the Federation in 2014 realize and wanted to setup a committee to develop alternative solution for the universities that will achieve the objective of IPPIS. ASUU submitted names of their members for the committee and OAGF never responded till 2019 when the Office decided to force everyone into IPPIS. A government policy cannot override an Act of the National Assembly, somebody need to challenge that. Meanwhile, tell us of a country around the world that use a platform like IPPIS for their universities? Tell us of a country around the world with university payment system that close the door for Visiting and Adjunct Professors in their universities? Tell us of a University in the world that shut its door to international scholars but wish to attract international students? Tell us of a university around the world that introduce new programs in their universities without the help of Adjunct and Visiting Professors to nurture it to maturity? You can decide to choose to be a Zombie but any country whose intellectuals are Zombies is doomed.

ASUU has requested that the withheld salaries should be paid with GIFMIS which government is still using but the government rep still insisted ASUU members should enroll in IPPIS and migrate to UTAS later. And the ASUU President asked if that makes economic sense. I have not seen an answer to that question. You can't trick the Dons. As unanimously echoed by ASUU members across all Federal Universities, we are not in a rush to get paid the withheld salary. If they don’t want to use GIFMIS, they can keep the salary as savings and pay us when UTAS is ready. But that means the students will have to stay at home till then.

There was also a question of what is the university doing with students’ tuition? Why can’t university pay Visiting and Adjunct professors from students’ tuition? Unfortunately some of our students and graduates asking this question still don’t know that our university is tuition free. The N21,000 registration fee paid once in a year in ABU for example is not tuition but charges for medical fees, ICT fees, library fees, municipal services, sports, Examinations, faculty charges, registration, etc. For university to be able to pay the Adjunct and Visiting Professors from students fees, students may have to pay a minimum of N300,000 per annum. I am not sure of the percentage of Nigerians that can afford that under the unrealistic average salary structure and harsh economic reality.
Festus Keyamo on the 29 Oct 2018 tweeted “At the time Obasanjo and Atiku were building their Universities whilst in office, other Nigerian public Universities were constantly going on strike because of poor infrastructure and funding. Yet, they heartlessly carried on. May we never see their type in power again!” During PDP era, ASUU strike was every 4 years. And strike is now on yearly basis. Is this government handling of education better that OBJ/Atiku that improved the salary of Lecturers through strike after several years? Is this government handling of education better than Yar'adua's government that signed 2009 ASUU-FG agreement that was suppose to be renegotiated after 3 years? Is this government handling of education better than GEJ’s government that set up a committee for the NEEDS ASSESSMENT of public universities, recommended 1.3 trillion naira to revitalize all public universities (federal and state), and released the first tranche of 200 billion naira after 2013 ASUU strike?

During the FEC’s Special Retreat on Education that was held on the 13th November 2017 at the old Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja, the Minister of Education, Mall. Adamu Adamu said, “Mr. President, to achieve the desired CHANGE that education needs, there is the need for improved funding and a measure of political will in national governance. Such is the weight of the problems that beset our education and the deleterious effect it has had on our national development efforts that I believe that this Retreat should end with a declaration of a STATE OF EMERGENCY IN EDUCATION so that we can face the challenges frontally and squarely". The president, Muhammadu Buhari in his speech responded that "We cannot progress beyond the level and standard of our education. Today, it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical know-how that are leading the rest. We cannot afford to continue lagging behind. Education is our launch-pad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future. This administration is committed to REVITALIZING the country’s education system and making it more responsive and globally competitive. We must get it right in this country. To get it right means setting our education sector on the right path. No nation can achieve economic, social, political and cultural prosperity without a sound and functional education system".

This is 2020 and about 2 years to the end of his government and it is still no clear how President intend to REVITALIZE EDUCATION to achieve economic, social, political and cultural prosperity. The government policy on education is still shrouded with uncertainty after 5 years. Can the IPPIS policy for Universities, a policy against University Act, all we need to get education right? They can't declare state of emergency in education like it was done for COVID-19 because quality and affordable education for the people is not their priority.

Meanwhile, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as APC Interim National Publicity Secretary in August 21, 2013 said; "What we are saying is that if the Federal Government would reduce its profligacy and cut waste, there will be enough money to pay teachers in public universities, as well as fund research and upgrade infrastructure in such institutions. Hungry teachers can neither teach well nor carry out research. And poorly-taught students can neither excel nor propel their nation to great heights." I agreed with him then and still agree with him now. If we set our priorities right, there is enough money to fund quality education at all levels in Nigeria”.

People wonder why ASUU members are so stubborn to go on for months without salary just to prove a point. As University Lecturers, the University is our immediate constituency and we have a responsibility to protect it from collapse for several reasons. We are ready to go back to work by tomorrow if the government play its part. If you want students to get back to school after these months of staying at home, tell the government to drop their ego and do the needful and we’ll all be happy.

To my colleagues in the struggle that have gone for at least 4 months without the payment of their legitimate salary, it is an ideological fight and a fight to finish so that we don’t have to go on another strike in few months. The weapon of starvation and hunger that the Elitists think they've got cannot break us. We have to be resolute and continue with the sacrifice. Victory is very near.

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