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FG, NASU renegotiation deadlocked

By Collins Olayinka, Abuja
23 April 2022   |   4:04 am
The uncertainty facing university education in Nigeria may have just begun, as the Federal Government and Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU) failed to agree on the renegotiation of their 2009 agreement.

Peters Adeyemi

Why Varsity Autonomy Is Jinxed, By Adeyemi
The uncertainty facing university education in Nigeria may have just begun, as the Federal Government and Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU) failed to agree on the renegotiation of their 2009 agreement.

A meeting of the renegotiation committee of the FGN/NASU 2009 Agreement in the Universities and Inter-university Centres, in Abuja, yesterday, did not produce any result, as the NASU team staged a walk-out.

The alleged that the government team led by the Pro-Chancellor of Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Prof. Nimi Briggs, was not ready for any renegotiation.

Meanwhile, the General Secretary of NASU, Peters Adeyemi, blamed the unwillingness of the government to stay off the appointment of vice chancellors and other high-ranking officials of universities for the quasi-autonomy of the system.

Adeyemi said the first item on the report of the sub-committee of the renegotiation committee indicated that the government was not ready to engender industrial harmony in the university system.

Providing a background to developments on the matter in the last 13 years, Adeyemi said: “The meeting of the FGN/NASU Renegotiation Committee chaired by Dr. Wale Babalakin, the then Pro-Chancellor of the University of Lagos, held on Friday, August 10, 2018 set up a sub-committee comprising NASU and government teams in the Renegotiation Committee to examine the Memorandum of Demand (MoD) of NASU and identify issues that were contentious, non-contentious and those that required further clarification to facilitate the renegotiation of the issues involved.”

According to him, on resumption of the renegotiation, yesterday, the government’s side did everything possible to set aside the report of the sub-committee, which was chaired by Prof. Olufemi Bamiro, with Prof. Briggs as a member.

He alleged that the government’s side was only ready to disagree on all items on the MoD, as if that was a pre-determined position before the meeting.

“It is obvious that the government side of the renegotiation committee lacks the capacity to commit their principals on any issue of the negotiation. This we found to be strange and not in line with the principles of collective bargaining.

“It is surprising to the union that at this time when all hands should be on deck to resolve the lingering crisis in the university system to enable our children to return to the classroom, the government side of the will show non-commitment and nonchalant attitude to the renegotiation, which is aimed at resolving the crisis. We came to the conclusion that the meeting called was just a window dressing and aimed at playing to the gallery,” he stated.

As the disagreement degenerated, Adeyemi said the NASU team had no option but to walk out of the meeting.

“NASU members, therefore, had no option but to inform the government side that they have to go back to their principals, i.e. NASU members in the universities and inter-university centres, to inform them of the development and get their directives on further steps to take,” he added.

Adeyemi noted that universities could not be granted full autonomy for the following reasons. “There is no way universities can be granted full autonomy when the government selects vice chancellors and other principal officers of the universities. Government still funds the sector, which makes payment of different wages in the university impossible. The wage system is centralised. How can universities negotiate wages of their staff separately?

“Since government is in charge, it must ensure it pays living wages to the staff as well as ensure that the infrastructure is improved upon. Improving on the infrastructure and neglecting the workers will not yield any positive result. The two must go together. How can we compete with our counterparts abroad or even in some parts of Africa? It is when we are well remunerated and have conducive environment to work.”