President Muhammadu Buhari has received the House of Representatives’ report on its intervention in the protracted strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), with a promise to study and meet the legislators again.
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, disclosed this to State House correspondents after the meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the House of Representatives had last Thursday met with the leadership of ASUU and the representatives of the federal government in Abuja in a bid to end the almost eight- month-old industrial action.
According to Gbajabiamila, the president received their report and requested a few days to study it, adding that another meeting would be convened either Thursday or Friday.
He said, “We came here for one reason and one reason only: after a series of engagements with ASUU and with people on the executive side, we’ve been able to come to some kind of decision, on our part, and recommendations to be made to Mr. President for his approval.
“That’s why we’re here because, as you know, what’s on the front burner today, beyond the politics, is our universities, our lecturers, and our children who are out of school, and the House of Representatives decided to step in at that point four weeks ago.
“We’ve had a series of meetings that lasted hours and we came to discuss with Mr. President about our recommendations. That’s why we’re here.
“Mr. President, as usual, had a very good listening ear and he took the report of the House, accepted it, we discussed it at length, the details of the report, and he wanted to go through them himself and he’ll get back to us. We have another meeting on Thursday, between our good selves and Mr. President, for his final decision”, he said.
Asked if he thought there was any hope of succeeding, he answered in the affirmative.
“Oh, absolutely very hopeful. We had a good engagement, very positive response. He asked us a couple of questions in some grey areas, which we clarified, and he accepted the report and he wanted a couple of days to go through it,” he said.
Asked if the House of Representatives had scheduled more meetings with ASUU, he said “no. We’re done with our meetings with ASUU. We’ve done our reports and we’ve made our recommendations.
“All that is left now, as we speak, is for us to come back here on Thursday, maybe Friday, in the next couple of days for Mr. President. He wants to digest the report in detail and we won’t know anything until Thursday or Friday”, he said.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has said corruption in the education sector and frequent strikes by ASUU are undermining the federal government’s investment in the sector.
He said critics downplay funding by focusing only on budgetary allocations and urged a more comprehensive re-evaluation of expenditure.
The president, who said this at the opening of the fourth national summit on “Diminishing Corruption in the Public Sector” at the State House, Abuja, yesterday, said measuring financing of education sector should include total education budget of each year by both federal and state governments and other financial commitments in their totality.
According to a statement by the presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, the Summit was organised by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Office of Secretary to Government of the Federation (OSGF) and Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB).
“This year’s summit will mirror how corruption undermines educational policies, investments and creates an unfriendly learning environment for our youths.
“Incessant strikes, especially by unions in the tertiary education level, often imply that government is grossly underfunding education, but I must say that corruption in the education system from basic level to the tertiary level has been undermining our investment in the sector and those who go on prolonged strikes on flimsy reasons are no less complicit.
“The 1999 Constitution places a premium on education by placing it on the Concurrent List, thereby laying the responsibilities of budgeting and underwriting qualitative education on both the federal and state governments.
“The total education budget for each year is, therefore, a reflection of both federal and state budgets and should be viewed as other financial commitments in their totality.
“The allocation to education in the federal budget should not be considered via allocation to the Federal Ministry of Education and also academic institutions alone, but should include allocation to the Universal Basic Education, transfers to TETFUND and refund from the Education Tax Pool Account to TETFUND,’’ he said.
Buhari further stated that the aggregate education budget in all 36 states of the federation and that of the federal government, combined with the internally generated revenues of the educational institutions themselves were also subjects that require attention of critics of government funding of education.
He expressed concern at the manifestation of various forms of corruption in the education sector.
“I am aware that students in our universities, for example, use different terminologies to describe different forms of corruption they experience on our campuses. There is ‘sorting’ or cash for marks/grades, sex for marks, sex for grade alterations, examination malpractice, and so on.
“Sexual harassment has assumed an alarming proportion. Other forms of corruption include pay-roll padding or ghost workers, lecturers taking up full time appointments in more than one academic institution, including private institutions; lecturers writing seminar papers, projects and dissertations for students for a fee, and admission racketeering, to mention only the most glaring corrupt practices,’’ he said.
President Buhari commended the ICPC for investigating and prosecuting sexual harassment in educational institutions, and encouraged them to continue to do so.
In his remarks, secretary to the government of the federation, Boss Mustapha, said the education sector had steadily assumed a pariah status because of corruption that erodes values and resources, noting that education had become an enabler of corruption, instead of a tool for reforms and moulding character.
According to him, “Corruption is eroding the practical purpose of education at all levels, primary, secondary and tertiary.’’
The SGF urged leaders in the education sector to emulate the JAMB registrar, Prof. Ishaq Olarewaju Oloyede, who had provided “good example of anti-corruption leadership.’’
Minister of education, Malam Adamu Adamu, said “JAMB is without doubt one of the parastatals that has achieved what no other agency has achieved by extending the boundaries of transparency and accountability in public service.’’
He said corruption was a manifestation of educational failure in society.
In his keynote address, former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, said perception of corruption corrodes the nation’s image among nations, adding “corruption stymies development, drains resources and weakens social contract with the people.’’
President Buhari was presented with an award of “Anti-Corruption Icon’’ by the chairman and Board of the ICPC.
FG Approves Certificate Of Operation To ASUU Faction, CONUA
The federal government yesterday approved the certificate of registration for the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA), a factional association to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The federal government equally approved the certificate of registration for the Nigeria Association of Medical and Dental Lecturers in Academics (AMDA).
By these approvals, the minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said both associations will exist side-by-side with ASUU in Nigerian universities in the spirit and tenets of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Core Convention 87 and 98.
LEADERSHIP gathered that CONUA already has branches in Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike; University of Benin; Federal University, Lokoja; Federal University, Oye-Ekiti; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, and University of Jos, among others.
Presenting the certificate of registration in Abuja, Dr Ngige said all efforts at conciliation with ASUU had failed, including the transmission of the trade dispute to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication in line with the statutory trade dispute resolution processes.
According to him, the approval was given in line with their right of freedom of association and their demonstration of willingness to resume academic activities in the universities.
Ngige said, “The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, in the discharge of her mandate in the management of employment relationships and the administration of trade unions to ensure harmonious industrial relations system in the nation, has decided to approve the registration of two more trade unions in the Nigerian university academic sub sector.”
According to him, Section 3(2) of the Trade Unions Act, CAP. T14, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004 gives him powers “to regroup an existing trade union of workers or employers, or registering a new trade union or otherwise howsoever.”
The minister added that the approval for CONUA followed its application for registration since 2018 where the congress members cited irreconcilable differences and disbelief in recurring strikes as the solution to every welfare agitation.
According to Ngige, CONUA also accused the ASUU executive of non-rendition of accounts of incomes and expenditure for years.
He said a committee, which was set up to look into the application, saw merit in their applications and recommended approval for the registration of the association by the Registrar of Trade Unions (RTU) since 2020 but was not done due to the advent of COVID-19 pandemic and the recurring ASUU strike.
On the issue of ASUU non-rendering of audited accounts since 2017, he said it was an infringement on the provisions of the Trade Unions Act, even as he directed the newly registered associations to, as a matter of urgency, resume academic activities.