As the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities enters the seventh month, the lecturers have said it will suspend it if the Federal Government pays their withheld salaries and completes the negotiations of what led to the strike.
The union accused the government of trying to use hunger, a weapon of war to suppress its members.
This was disclosed by the Union’s zonal coordinator, Prof Ade Adejumo when speaking with newsmen in the University of Ibadan on Wednesday.
Prof Adejumo was flanked by Professor Moyo Ajao, Professor Ayo Akinwole, Ibadan, Dr Femi Abanikannda from the University of Osun, Dr Dauda Adesola from Kwara State, and Prof Olusiji Showande from Lagos State.
He said, “We are ready to suspend the strike if the government pays our withheld salaries and completes the negotiations that led to the strike. Our children too are tired of staying at home but we cannot work on empty stomachs while politicians’ homes and warehouses are filled with palliative materials that they don’t even need”.
ASUU further accused the Federal Government of trying to make its members commit suicide vowing that it will remain resolute until the current decaying educational system is improved upon.
Despite a long time, it granted the government to see reasons, it lamented that government did not utilise it.
“Government using hunger to suppress us”
“Rather than for Government to utilize the opportunity of the lockdown to address our grievances, it was during that lockdown that our salaries were stopped so that our members could die of hunger in their various homes”.
“It took a high level of intervention before our members were paid amputated salaries for three months after which Government resorted to blackmail by whipping sentiments against us while taking our members as enemies deserving of starvation.”
“The intellectuals are citizens, not enemies but Government appears to have declared war on us using the weapon used during the war against adversaries: hunger.”
“Some people have been wondering why ASUU is on strike again. The simple answer is that ASUU is on strike because of the survival of the university system where many of us still have our children as students since we cannot afford sponsoring our children abroad with our measly salaries as politicians do”.
“ASUU is on strike in order to restore the past glory of public universities and address the infrastructural decay and deficit in our institutions. ASUU is on strike for the legitimate dues of its members who are the least paid in the tertiary education sub-sector. For the sake of emphasis, the truth that will shock many Nigerians, which is available for verification, is that Chief Lecturers in some tertiary institutions, who are not required to supervise postgraduate students or conduct research, earn more than professors in our lopsided education system.”
To the union, there is nothing new ASUU is demanding from the politicians in government than for them to honour their own agreements with the union.
“ASUU is actually tired of having a circus show of talks but in the interest of the students and the Nigerians at large, we still continue to hold meetings upon meetings while the government continues to shift the goal post and dribble the union as it wishes”.
It recalled how the government agreed to inject funds to revitalize our universities in 2019 and nothing has been done about it till this moment.
“The government agreed to do its own obligation of constituting visitation panels to the universities to check their records between April and May 2019 but it has failed to do so. We have the issue of our Earned Academic Allowances which the Government agreed to pay in two tranches in November 2019 and July 2020 is still there”.
“Then, we are still waiting for the renegotiation of our 2009 Agreement that comprehensively addresses all the issues at stake. All that we have before us are words without actions and as our people say, ordinary words do not fill the basket.”
The union corroborated the earlier stance of its President, Comrade Biodun Ogunyemi, that the issue of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) is a distraction to the union.
“Apart from IPPIS being a cesspool of corruption as many Nigerians who are at its receiving end have attested to, there is no serious-minded country in the world where university lecturers and intellectual assets of the country are lumped together in payment with the civil service. We raised this point of order when the system was introduced and there was a joint team constituted to work things out.”
Instead of making the committee work, “Government suddenly hibernated only to wake up and attempt to railroad us into the IPPIS slavery, as if its life depends on it, without any consideration for its own agreement”.
“The alternative University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) that we developed, and which has been successfully demonstrated at least three times to the satisfaction government, is still being subjected to an unending process of integrity tests. We are being played around like ping pong as Government keeps approbating and reprobating at the same time”.
ASUU wonders why it is so difficult for the government in being law-abiding.
“By all intents and purposes, IPPIS is a violation of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2003 (also known as the Universities Autonomy Act No 1 2007 (as amended)) which the National Assembly signed into law on July 30, 2003, and subsequently gazetted by the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette Number 10, Volume 94 of January 12, 2007”.
“Why would the government violate its own law of vesting the power of hiring, paying and firing university staff in the Governing Councils without repealing the law? It is high time we joined hands to end government impunity. Without impunity on the part of the government, there will be no brutality in the rank and file of SARS.”
It called the attention of Nigerians and the international community noting that despite the ongoing negotiations, the government has refused to pay their salaries and allowances.
“It has also callously withheld the check-off dues of some of our members, who were selectively paid amputated salaries, in order to starve the union of the energy needed to sustain the negotiations.”
It urged Nigerians to compel the government to release the withheld salaries of its members, remit the check-off dues of the union to the rightful owner, pay them the same way it had “paid our arbitrarily handpicked members without subjecting them to IPPIS registration and speed up the process of testing the integrity of UTAS so that it may be deployed for payment beginning from January 2021”.