The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Abiodun Ogunyemi has explained why the strike of university lecturers has continued to linger despite efforts to reach an agreement and call off the strike.
Ogunyemi gave the explanation during a programme on Channels Television on November 9 monitored by Church Times.
ASUU has been on strike since March 2020 just when the covid-19 lockdown began.
But Ogunyemi, who told Channels in the interview that two of his own undergraduate children are also bearing the brunt of the strike; said the strike had lingered for this long because of government’s insincerity and lack of willingness to shift ground even when ASUU had shifted ground severally.
He traced the present impasse to 2012 when ASUU reached an agreement with the then Federal Government to look into the issues of funding of the universities across the country. He pointed out that ASUU is not fighting because the union wants a salary increment.
In the 2012 pact, the then government of President Goodluck Jonathan had agreed to release a sum of N1.3 trillion over a period of six years to address all the infrastructural decay in the then 24 federal universities in the country. The government was expected to release N220 billion each year.
He however regretted that since the first tranche was released in 2013, government has continued to renege on the pact.
Unfortunately, between 2012 of the first pact and now, the universities have grown to 68 across the country including some state universities and yet the issue of infrastructural deficiency has continued unattended.
Ogunyemi explained that when the union embarked on the current strike in March 2020, it was to draw the attention of the government to the lingering funding issues coupled with the need to make government throw away the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS) which had been resisted since it was introduced.
ASUU: The issue of funding has not been addressed
He said the issue of funding has not been addressed. “All we have been hearing from the government are promises which have not been put to practice. We called out strike in March during the lockdown expecting that we could use that period to negotiate and arrive at some solutions.
“But unfortunately, we could not achieve much during the lockdown in terms of dialogue. Now that the issue is still on, we agreed to shift ground for government to pay half of the N220 billion that was supposed to be paid annually for revitalisation of the universities which is N110 billion but the government is saying it could only pay N20 billion. That is for us far below what we expected.”
While insisting that government has not shown enough seriousness about meeting the demands of ASUU middle way, Ogunyemi stated that the IPPIS payment system has also been another problem.
According to him, some lecturers are being owed about eight months salary because they have not been part of the IPPIS payment system adding however that ASUU has evolved another payment platform known as University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) instead of the controversial IPPIS which robs the universities of their autonomy.
The ASUU president noted further that the transition from IPPIS to UTAS is what is also making the strike a protracted one. “What government is saying is that there has to be a transition period from IPPIS to UTAS and that is taking so long again. We are saying the eight-month salary of our members who did not register with IPPIS be paid.”
Ogunyemi regretted that the strike has continued to linger. He said what ASUU is doing to ensure that the public universities are not eroded.
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His words, “We went to public primary schools and secondary schools in our own days. Right now, we don’t have public secondary schools and primary schools. The private sector has taken over making education out of the reach of the common man. We don’t want a similar fate to befall our universities that is why we are asking the government to fund the universities. We need our universities to grow”
He added, “But for the struggles of ASUU over the years, public universities would have become history in this country.
“Ït was through the struggle of ASUU that we have TEFFUND which has been of great help to government schools. We believe there is a need to declare a state of emergency in the education sector. The situation with our schools is appalling and there is a need to fix the problems now.
“It is an investment in the education sector that grows any country. What we are asking for is half of one tranche of N220 billion as a way of watering down our demand. So far all we have heard, are promises. We are tired of promises.” he said