THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Tuesday stated that it being pushed to the wall, and that until it bites, meaning until it embarks on strike; government will remain unconcerned with respect to agreement it reached with the university lecturers.

The declaration is contained in the text of a press conference of the ASUU-Lagos Zone delivered by Comrade Adelaja Odukoya, Zonal Coordinator, ASUU-Lagos Zone held at the ASUU-UNILAG Secretariat, University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, Lagos.

In the text of the press conference held at the all zonal levels of the union across the country, entitled; “The Storm is Gathering Fast: Let The Government Honour Its Pact Before it is Too Late,” ASUU said it is using the forum to plead on well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the government to do honour Memorandum of Action (MoA) it agreed with the union.

“We are using this forum to urge all well-meaning Nigerians, to prevail on the government to do the needful by honouring the MoA agreed upon. The continued delay in fulfilling the terms of our MoA is tantamount to toying with the education and future of the youth of this country as well as the nation’s development.”

ASUU said if the government “continues on this retrogressive path of indifference, contemptuous attitude and failure to honour its obligations to our Union as contained in our MoA, our Union would be left with no other option than to resuscitate our struggle to get the government to live up to its responsibilities.”

Below is the full text of the press conference:

ACADEMIC STAFF UNION OF UNIVERSITIES (ASUU) ASUU SECRETARIAT, P.M.B. 1, UNIVERSITY OF LAGOS, AKOKA, LAGOS

THE STORM IS GARTHERING FAST: LET THE GOVERNMENT HONOUR ITS PACT BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE

Being the Text of the ASUU-Lagos Zone Press Conference delivered by Comrade Adelaja Odukoya, Zonal Coordinator, ASUU-Lagos Zone, on Tuesday, 14th September, 2021, at the ASUU-UNILAG Secretariat, University of Lagos, Akoka-Yaba, Lagos.

Greetings respected comrades of the press and compatriots.

I bring you fraternal greetings from the leadership and members of our great Union, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). 

PREAMBLE

Our gathering here today for this press conference, which is also being held across all zones of our Union nationwide, should, ordinarily, be unnecessary if we have a government that takes its obligations as it concerns the education of Nigerian youth seriously. Unfortunately, our country has in place a representative of the ruling class that continues to demonstrate, without any iota of remorse, the penchant not to honour agreements reached with our Union, and indeed their overall pledge to the Nigerian people. You would recall that our Union had been at loggerheads with the present government on the necessity to reverse the avoidable decadence and calamity that the unpardonable neglect and unconscionable actions of successive governments in the country have irresponsibly brought on public university education in Nigeria.

STATUS OF IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 2009 AGREEMENT AND ENSUING MEMORANDA

That our Union was compelled to embark on a nine (9) months strike action to force the government to comprehensively implement the ASUU-FGN 2009 Agreement; which it had fulfilled in the breech and the several MoUs and MoAs after our strike actions in 2013, 2017 and 2019. To be on the consistent side of history, we are again expressing our frustration at the depressing arrogance with which Government has continued to wish away the collective sacrifice of our members, our students and their parents on these struggles. That the government after six months; true to character, has again failed to fulfil most of what was agreed upon well after the timelines have expired, is scandalous and underscores this government contempt to the Nigerian academics and its pathological hatred for knowledge and the educational development of Nigerians.

We should list the areas that have not been fully implemented, e.g.

  1. The condition of service was reviewed as captured in 2009 Agreement. The review was to be made in 2012 but was commenced in 2017 after series of strikes and when it started it lasted over four years and even at this, it has not been processed for implementation.
  2. The government continues to violate the University Autonomy by ramming down the throat our members the obnoxious and exploitative IPPIS. Our members are being paid haphazardly with some receiving ridiculous fractions of their emoluments without any reason.
  • Funding of Universities has become criminally low compared to the developmental vision enshrined in the 2009 Agreement. In the last few years, government consistently budget less than 7% to education. This is not a sign of hope, and presents government as anti- progress, etc.

THE 2017, 2020 MEMORANDA OF ACTION

Recall that seven issues formed the core of our last MoA with the government, when on patriotic ground our last strike action was suspended. These issues were (and still are):  Funding and revitalization of Public Universities; Earned Academic Allowances (EAA); State Universities; University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS); IPPIS; Promotion Arrears; Renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement.

For the records, it must be stated that the Renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement which fell due since 2012 has been the longest and most protracted.  This exemplifies the insincerity of the government about the welfare of academics and the development of the Nigerian university system as well as national development.  Government’s failure to ensure prompt renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement has consciously sentenced our members to agonizing poverty, encouraged brain drain and criminally promoted falling standard of education in the country.

While the job of a University lecturer is the only one in the country that requires a Master degree as the minimum entry qualification and career advancement is premised on having a PhD, lecturers are remunerated with poverty wage. Tragically, despite the rising cost of living, untoward economic hardship and terrible devaluation of the national currency, our members have not had a kobo increase to their salaries since 2009. In 2009, the naira exchange to a dollar was N149.88K. Sadly today, the naira exchange stands at N546 to $1, yet the best brains in the country still earn the salary they earned in 2009, how criminally wicked. Yet after a nine-month strike action which culminated in the signing of an MoA, as well as months after the conclusion of Renegotiation between our Union and the government, the government has failed to do the needful by signing the Agreement and rescue our University lecturers from a slow death and our public Universities from unwarranted Golgotha.

UNIVERSITY TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY SOLUTION (UTAS)

All the other issues in our MoA with the government has not fared any better. The IPPIS, despite its systemic failure and demonstrated inability to stem corruption and paradoxically a promoter of corruption and confusion, continued to be used for the payment of our salaries.  There is a determined attempt to ensure that the IPPIS vultures, with their contractors and bureaucratic cronies in government, continue to feed on the salaries and welfare of Nigerian academics. Despite UTAS passing all tests, challenges, roadblocks and inquisitions on its path, the government has refused and failed to deploy UTAS which has demonstrated most robustly and comprehensively its qualitative superiority to the imperialist inspired, inefficient and corruption-prone IPPIS. What is clear to us as a Union is that it is just a matter of time, UTAS is the ultimate nemesis of the IPPIS.

ILLEGAL AND ANTI-LABOUR WITHHELDING OF OUR UNION CHECK-OFF DUES

For over one year now, the government through the IPPIS has implemented a deliberate policy of systematically strangulating our great Union by denying us our check-off dues which payment is now at the whims and caprices of the IPPIS. Our Union is being owed billions in unremitted check-off dues, in addition to third party deductions like cooperative contributions. It is important to point out that government more than anyone else should know that the non-remittance of deducted check-off dues according to the Trade Union Act is a criminal act.

STRIKE ACTIONS AND OUR PAINS

Comrades and compatriots, like our students we suffer tremendously as a consequence of any strike action. Industrial actions, affect us in more ways than one: as parents who have our children in the Nigerian public universities; as lecturers who cannot ply their trade, denied their salaries during  strikes while they continue doing their non-teaching duties of research and community development; stalled promotions; disruption of their planned professional activities such as workshops, seminars, conferences, etc, indispensable for their career advancement; and extended semesters to make up for lost time which makes annual vacation impossible and imposes stress on our members. It is for these reasons, that strike is a patriotic act and the last resort to save the Nigerian public Universities arising from the uncaring and irresponsible attitude of the government. Despite these unwarranted pains, our Union is determined to continue in this chosen path of salvaging the Nigerian public Universities. But for our sacrifices, the Nigerian public Universities would have become historical relics like the public primary and secondary schools that were criminally ruined by government insensitivity and conspiracy with vested private interests.

ALUTA CONTINUA

Comrades, government is at it again. We are being pushed to the wall. Government as a legitimate enterprise is otherwise expected to be honourable. The first test of integrity and honour is respecting and honouring agreements freely entered into. The government must be told in unmistakable terms that it needs to change its odious attitude of not honouring agreements, not just with our Union, but with all parties to whom it entered into a pact. The toxic effects of its penchants not to honour agreements approximate governance by fraudulent tactics which is highly destructive of the nation’s development.

OUR PLEA

We are using this forum to urge all well-meaning Nigerians, to prevail on the government to do the needful by honouring the MoA agreed upon. The continued delay in fulfilling the terms of our MoA is tantamount to toying with the education and future of the youth of this country as well as the nation’s development.

Finally, let me reiterate the fact that our Union is being pushed to the wall. The history of our past struggles to salvage our public Universities has equipped us to know that until we bite, government will remain unconcerned. As a patriotic Union, if this government continues on this retrogressive path of indifference, contemptuous attitude and failure to honour its obligations to our Union as contained in our MoA , our Union would be left with no other option than to resuscitate our struggle to get the government to live up to its responsibilities.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Solidarity without compromise.

Adelaja ODUKOYA, PhD.

Zonal Coordinator

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