By Adegbite Lateef
The Federal government Negotiating Team with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASSU, may have known that the University Lecturers are not ready to shift ground because of their plan to collapse the nation’s University system that they have agreed to shift ground for normal Academic programme to resume.
The Value News Investigations shows that some of the University Lecturers are teaching in two or three Universities , while some are Consulting for the Oil Companies. This may have informed why they have maintained a very hardline position to force the government to do their biddings or the Universities would remain closed.
While the Private Universities had been session, since the government relaxed the lockdown in the country necessitated by the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, the students of the government owned Universities had been out of school since March 2020. The situation is so worrisome that the Law Students Association of Nigeria, described as baby Lawyers in legal circles, had dragged ASUU to Court, challenging what they described as ’’ incessant Strikes of the Union’’.
The Association which had filed a suit at a Federal High Court in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Friday, November 20, 2020, is ‘’seeking an order to compel the Striking University Lecturers to return to the Classroom’’ as well as’’ order of perpetual injunction to restrain the Union from embarking on further Strikes’’.
Blessing Agbomwere, President of the Association who was said to have filed the Suit on behalf of his members is also asking the Court ’’to Compel ASUU and ‘’to pay N10 billion to Nigerian Students for infringing on their right to Education’’ as enshrined on the 199 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended and Article 17 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
Also included in the Suit were Biodun Ogunyemi, a Professor and Chairman of ASUU ,Mallam Adamu Adamu, minister of Education, Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambara state and now minister of Labour and Employment including Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation and minister of Justice.
The Association are also pushing for ASUU ‘’to pay damages to all Nigerian Students for the Psychological and emotional torture meted out to them as well as the loss of valuable time following the continuous strike’’. Agbomwere, The Law Students Association President who could not hide his feelings had confirmed the news that had been making the rounds over the years that the ASUU members had been short changing the government by teaching in more than one University.
An aggrieved Law studentS Association President, may have further exposed the striking lecturers when he said that most of them were engaging in’’ Consultancy services in oil Companies and collecting multiple salaries at the detriment of Nigerian students’’.
The Agbomwere led Association may have shown that the members also know the Law when they demanded among other things’’ the declaration of the ASUU strike as a breach of the Right of members to Education’’. Indeed, ASUU may have pushed the Nigerian Law students to the wall with the incessant strikes that the students have risen up to the Challenge to force them back to the Classroom. Education analysts believe that the students are the losers, as the Lecturers, no matter how long they stay out of work, would still be paid their salaries and allowances owed them by the government. are the winners. This is because their salaries and allowances for the eight months they have been out of work must be paid by the government.
It is on record that the government and ASUU Negotiating Teams had met several times to resolve the impasse but no luck. President Muhammadu Buhari may have known that the continuous stay at home of the University students at was a bad advertisement to his government that he may have put in a word to the government Team to make some concessions to resolve the impasse.
The source of friction between ASUU and the government had been the later insistence on adopting the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, Which was rejected by the Union. The ASUU leadership and their members which have have the support of the University Authorities may have had at the back of their mind that if the government is allowed to go ahead with the implementation of the PPPIS, it would expose the rot in the nation’s University system. This may have given them the ammunition to down tools to force the government to soft-pedal.
The ASUU leadership, based on agreement with their members and who have the underhand backing of the various University Authorities, were said to have suggested the use of University Transparency Account System, ,UTAS, in settling their monthly Salaries and Allowances. But the government Negotiating Team was not ready to take it .It was not surprising why the various meetings to resolve impasse had ended in a deadlock as each party maintained its position.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the ASUU leadership may have had their way. This is because the government has suspended the IPPIS, based on agreement reached with the ASUU leadership. The government may have agreed to the striking University Lecturers demand to pay them through government Integrated Financial Management Information system, GIFMIS. The GIFMIS, would be used for now, until the ASUU’S University Transparency Solution , UTASA, was ready.
Insiders told The Magazine that the ASUU Leadership may have arm twisted the government Negotiation Team as it forced down their throat to agree for the government to pay them their N65 billion Earned Allowances and revitalisation.
As a prelude to the payment of the earned salaries and allowances, the government was said to have made the initial release of N15 billion from the amount offered , promising to make additional funds available for the revitalization of the Universities. True to its promise , it was said to have made another payment of N20 billion, thus bringing the total payment to N35 billion to the Union.
But the Account General of the Federation , Ngige said, had offered to release N40 billion in the alternative, N35 billion to be shared by the registered Trade Unions in the Universities after providing all the necessary evidence of having earned the allowance.
Perhaps to ensure that there would not be no hitch in the payment exercise, the Labour and Employment minister who could not hide his feelings said all the University Vice Chancellors have been directed ‘’to submit details of the EAA/EA, to the National Universities Commission, NUC, on or before November 30, 2020’’.
The former Anambra state governor who is not ready to allow the Nigerian Universities thrown into another round of endless strike at the instance of the Katsina state born Nigerian President had said that ‘’the ministry will review the issue o ’ no work no pay’’ as stipulated in in section 43 of Trade Disputes Act , Cap 8, Laws of the Fedration of Nigeria, 2004, with a view to getting approval for the upheld AUU members’ salaries and allowance to be paid’’ to the ASUU members.
HIS may have gladdened the heart of the striking Lecturers who had feared that they may not be paid when he said that they would be ‘’paid on the old payment platform pending the time when all the issues raised by ASUU would be resolved. Ogunyemi, the ASUU President may have been impressed with the agreement reached with the government to resolve the impasse and save the nation’s Education system from imminent collapse that he has promised that they ‘’ will take the new offer to the organs’’ and then,’’ report back to the government about the position of their members’’.
He may have given an insight about the reopening of the Universities when he aid ‘’the government has made some new offers to the Union ‘’, noting that ‘’progress has been made in their Negotiations’’. Going by the ASUU President Statement, it is obvious that the Nigerian University students who are still on forced holiday may not resume school until early next year.