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ASUU ruffles JAMB, Pantami as it fires four-week warning shot

By Iyabo Lawal (Lagos), John Akubo (Abuja) and Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi (Jos)
15 February 2022   |   4:12 am
Students and parents are in for tough times as members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) made good their threat to down tools.

National President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke

• Asks exams board to hands off admissions, reduce fees
• Rejects minister’s professorial appointment
• ‘Why former VCs should mediate in face-off between FG, union’
• Parents accuse lecturers of insensitivity, urge govt to resolve issues

Students and parents are in for tough times as members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) made good their threat to down tools.

The union, yesterday, began a one-month strike to protest non-implementation of a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached with the Federal Government.

Rising from its two-day National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), the union said though the decision to disrupt the academic calendar, at this time, is painful, it has no other choice because government has failed to fully meet its demands.

ASUU national president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, who was supported by past and current officials of the union, also faulted the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and its registrar, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, for meddling in admissions, saying only the Senate of universities are legally empowered to do so.

On the strike, Osodeke said given the Federal Government’s failure to fully implement the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed with the union, since December 23, 2020, it has no option but to embark on strike.

He noted: “Government has failed to fully implement the MoA signed with ASUU; the draft report of the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement has been submitted for finalisation for more than nine months; the forced payment of ASUU members’ salaries and emoluments with the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and non-adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) have continued to shortchange members.

“Subsequently, NEC resolved to embark on a four-week roll-over total and comprehensive strike effective yesterday (Monday).”

He explained: “It was a painful decision for NEC to arrive at. Contrary to the views canvassed in some quarters, ASUU loathes disrupting academic activities on our campuses. We love our students and respect their parents and guardians. We are also not insensitive to the genuine concerns about stable academic calendars in public universities expressed by patriotic Nigerians. But the blame should be squarely put at the doorsteps of those who have ignored our yearnings for a development-oriented education in Nigeria.”

Osodeke said the patience of the union has been tasked beyond tolerable limits. He also noted that the greatest assets of any nation is its human capital, warning that any nation that pays lip service to education, as currently done in Nigeria, would only grow in age and not experience genuine development.

While expressing concern over the ‘meddlesomeness’ of JAMB in admission processes and regulation of academic activities, ASUU maintained that the action negates the principle of university autonomy.

Osodeke pointed out that the examination body was established to conduct matriculation examinations for admissions into tertiary institutions and dissemination of information on all matters relating to such, while it is the prerogative of each university senate to superintend all academic matters in the institutions.

“These include setting the admission requirements and approval of university undergraduate and postgraduate programmes. JAMB has no powers to decide qualification for admission and does not have powers to give admission or delist programmes of universities. At best, JAMB is an examination body and clearing house for admission. Giving admission to candidates is the duty of senate, while accreditation of programmes is the prerogative of National Universities Commission.”

The ASUU chief also faulted the examination body on fees being charged candidates for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to ‘impress’ the Federal Government, stressing that JAMB is not a revenue generation agency.

ASUU called on the body and registrar to desist from overstepping its original mandate and allow universities decide admission policies and processes.

ASUU also rejected the appointment of Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, as a professor of cyber security.

Osodeke said, besides the fact that the minister is not qualified, the appointment violated established procedure for appointment of professors in the university system.

MEANWHILE, as ASUU begins its four-week strike, former vice chancellor, Federal University, Oye Ekiti (FUOYE), Prof. Kayode Soremekun, has called for intervention of the committee of former vice chancellors towards finding a solution to the perennial face-of between government and lecturers.

Soremekun, in an interview with journalists, against the backdrop of the strike, said it is imperative for former vice chancellors to mediate.

He said two issues are germane: “The first one has to do with IPPIS. The government might mean well on this, but IPPIS has done a lot of damage to the autonomous capacity of university managements. This is why Federal Government should adopt ASUU’s alternative – UTAS.

“The equally important issue is the reward system. Ours is a dollarised economy. And as such, it is scandalous that a professor currently earns something in the region of $800. In naira terms, this comes to something in the region of N420,000.”

Soremekun, who is currently chairman of the Editorial Board of BusinessDay, said the real problem, however, is that since 2009, salaries of university lecturers have not been revised, contrary to agreements signed between the union and government.

“Indeed, the stipulation is that salaries should be reviewed every three years. On this note, ASUU itself appeared to have slept on its rights. But this is not the time to blame the victim. Rather, the current impasse should be resolved quickly with a view to ensuring that the academic calendar is not jeopardised,” he said.

The Professor of International Relations said it is instructive to note that other countries, such as Ghana, Kenya and United Kingdom, are also battling their own university teachers on issues relating to welfare, while authorities in those countries try to address the problems.

ALSO, a parent of three undergraduate students in three Nigerian universities has accused ASUU of insensitivity.

Speaking with The Guardian on the strike, Mrs. Caroline Emeka said declaring a four-week strike is uncalled for and inhuman. She appealed to the lecturers to consider the plight of students.

“My question is: why do they always have problems with government? Strike has been turned into a trade union affair, where they bargain. This is very unfair,” she said.

SIMILARLY, a presidential aspirant, Adewole Adebayo, urged the Federal Government to resolve its face-off with the lecturers.

Adebayo indicated that a similar strike cost him three extra years in his educational quest. He said government and all stakeholders must understand that industrial harmony impacts on students and their families.

“We need to know that education is the cornerstone of civilisation, and our future depends on it. We need to work hard to see that there is industrial harmony and educational quality for the children,” he said.

He called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the minister of education and labour to take urgent actions, adding: “We need to think hard that the future of these young people is at stake.”