It will not be too far from the truth if one says the fear of ASUU is the beginning of wisdom for every government that has set a standard for itself in Nigeria especially in the attainment of laudable goals. Kuni Tyessi in this report takes a look at the agreement between the federal government and ASUU.
It is exactly one month today when the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, called of its indefinite strike action which lasted for 60 days.
The National Executive Council, NEC, of the union had on the 31st of January held an emergency meeting at the University of Abuja after several meetings with the federal government on the matter which is not just the concern of the stake holders but every Nigeria’s.
It is on record that the chairman, House Committee on Education, Hon Farouk Lawan had emphatically stated that the federal government went to sleep after it signed agreements with the union which in turn led to incessant strikes which every right thinking individual will know is not in the interest of the country.
He seemed to have spoken the minds of many who will not ordinarily have the guts to say so publicly even though Nigeria is a democratic country.
The union stated that its NEC’s decision was adequately taken in the interest of the revitalization of Nigerian universities, both federal and state as well as private, and the need to vastly improve the quality of teaching and research and as such, it is expected that government will fulfill its obligation in respect of funding and all other matters contained in its offers.
The union is not joking and it has warned and drawn the attention of the government to the renegotiation of the agreement which will be due for review in June later in the year, even though, the minister of education, Prof Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa’i, has stated that the government is determined that the last industrial action by the union would be the last as issues that led to it will not only be addressed but attended to.
She said ‘government will be proactive in constantly addressing challenges in our institutions before they become issues of contention with staff unions’ and called on the union, civil society and stakeholders to be involved in determining priorities, applying resources and monitoring implementation.
The minister stressed that detailed appraisal of existing physical facilities for teaching and learning in the universities, particularly their capacity and functionality, will be critically assessed while detailed inventory of learning resources, with particular reference to their relevance will also be addressed.
With these in mind, one might say that the government is up and doing its task as promised. However, Nigerians will always want a detailed and comprehensive report concerning every meeting.
The union which has stated that it will continue to go on indefinite and comprehensive strike in order to prevail on government to sincerely and judiciously implement the 2009 agreement it freely entered into with the union is as a matter of fact, asking for the funding requirements for revitalizing Nigerian universities.
On this, the national president of the union, Prof Ukachukwu Awuzie said government would immediately stimulate the process with the sum of one billion naira and build up the said amount to a yearly sum of 400 billion naira in the next three years, even though, the interventions will be based on identified prioritized needs.
For federal government’s assistance to state universities and also a progressive increase on annual budgetary allocation to education which is expected to be 26% as approved by UNESCO, the government, he said, will improve significantly the budgetary allocation from 2013 to 2020 and will also accept in principle the payment of the Earned Academic Allowance, EEA. Although, there will be need to work on practical and sustainable ways to achieve this.
Others include the amendment of the pension and retirement age of academics on the professorial cadre form 65 to 70 years.
This will be done ‘as soon as the legislative procedures for the bill on the 70 years retirement age are concluded. The president shall assent to it not later that the end of February 2012’.
The union revealed that government has directed the Implementation Monitoring Committee IMT to take all necessary steps to register NUPEMCO within three months, and where it has difficulties, it should refer the matter to the government for necessary action.
To ensure effective monitoring of the implementation of the agreement, government is expected to meet with what the union describes as the expanded IMC on a quarterly basis to assess progress.
The federal government also undertook to reinstate governing councils of the various universities on or before the 12th of February 2012 but may make changes in external membership where it deems necessary with their end of tenure slated for February 2013.
Among others is the transfer of government landed properties to universities as they shall form a University Holding Company which shall, among other things, participate in the acquisition, management and concession of government properties.
Concerning the setting up of research and development units by companies operating in Nigeria and teaching research equipment, adequate provision to laboratories and classrooms, the union revealed that the federal government will encourage companies operating in Nigeria to collaborate closely with Nigerian universities in setting up research and development units, among others.