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Why organised labour should rescue academic institutions

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SIR: The reason why Nigeria’s Organised Labour should not abandon the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU) and the other tertiary academic institutions is that majority of Nigerian workers have no other means of giving tertiary academic education to their children. And now the presidency of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) and some governors are relegating the institutions. GMB started by introducing the so-called Integrated Payroll of Personnel Information System (IPPIS) which he is using to castrate the workers, and he is refusing to do the reversal demanded by all the work forces in all the federal tertiary academic institutions. ASUU is on strike because GMB suspended necessary/ongoing negotiation. The situation is not different with some state universities, where the workers are owed several months of unpaid salary. Federal universities’ teachers have not been paid salary for the third month running. As an editor of an academic journal, I can tell you some university teachers cannot even spend the strike on researching and publishing, because of penury and hunger.

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Recent events have revealed that GMB presidency fears petroleum workers’ unions, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) combined with the Trade Union Congress (TUC), but not unions of academic institutions. Yet the academic institutions belong to common Nigerians, including common members of the congresses and unions that government fear. I am suggesting that the congresses and unions that the government cannot but respect should unite and intervene in matters concerning ASUU and related unions, because it is not only the private interests of these unions that are at stake but the interests of common Nigerians, including the common workers who have no other means of giving tertiary academic education to their children. Such intervention has become necessary if public tertiary academic institutions are not to become extinct or at best go the way of Nigeria’s public primary and secondary schools.

The respected congresses and unions should see the academic institutions as part and parcel of their own core interests, affecting the lives of children of commoners, including common members of their own congresses and unions. It is not about siding with ASUU and related unions, but telling everybody, government and the unions: these institutions are the life of our children and we cannot watch anybody or any union to relegate them, so a joint action, indeed focused and sustained intervention, is necessary, if the institutions are not to suffer further disrepute.

A standing committee should be raised by the powerful congresses and unions as necessary to avoid entrusting the institutions to forces that have no real stakes in them, since some academic union leaders may even sell out, and Nigeria rulers are targeting stealing money to build private universities, polytechnics, and colleges of education. Such a Committee will moderate the excesses and negligence by those (government and the institutions’ unions’ leaders) entrusted with the education of majority of Nigerian children. The earlier the better.
Prof. Ọlọ́jẹ̀ẹ́dé Oyeniran Abíọ́jẹ̀ wrote from University of Ilorin.

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