• Thursday, April 25, 2024
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EXPLAINER: Here are ASUU’s demands from govt since 2009

ASUU strike: When will it be over? (2)

Since 2009, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked on at least eight strike actions, leaving a debilitating impact on the tertiary education system and the quality of students it churns out annually.

ASUU strike is largely due to the failure of the Nigerian government to implement agreements it entered into with the union.

The Federal Government has since signed several other agreements with the union which all borders on the agreement reached with the union in 2009.

In 2009, the Federal Government signed an agreement with the union after a four-month strike. The October 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement has been the reason for subsequent industrial actions.

Subsequent agreements include the 2017 Memoranda of Action, the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding, and the 2020 Memorandum of Action.

The issue of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, which is not in the initial agreement, does not sit well with the union. Below are the major demands of ASUU.

Funding for revitalisation of tertiary institutions

This dates back to the 2009 and 2013 agreements. The Federal Government agreed to inject a total of N1.3 trillion into public universities, both state and federal, in six tranches, starting from 2013, after the union decried the deplorable state of the institutions.

In 2013, the government was to release N200 billion, and for the five subsequent years, government was to release N220 billion each year.

After releasing the first tranche, the government stopped releasing the funds. In 2017, the government released N20 billion. In 2020, it promised to release N25 billion.

ASUU rejected the offer, insisting on N110 billion, which is 50 percent of a tranche of N220 billion that it had demanded, but the government declined, citing paucity of funds.

The Federal Government had also asked ASUU to suggest other sources of funding. The union recommended value added tax and stamp duty, but decried that the government activated these sources and abandoned its agreement.

Payment of outstanding earned academic allowances (EAA)

In 2009, the Federal Government agreed to pay lecturers EAA, but the issue has lingered for years over the failure to implement it.

The government finally agreed to pay the first tranche of the backlog of allowances in November 2019 and the second instalment by August 2020.

But nothing was paid. The union also demanded mainstreaming payments of EAA into the annual budgets, beginning from the 2019 budget.

In 2020, the Federal Government agreed to pay N40 billion. The government recently said it had released N22.127 billion earned allowances of both academic and non-academic workers of universities to 38 universities.

Renegotiation of 2009 agreements

The Federal Government agreed to renegotiate the 2009 agreement to review university’s conditions of service, funding, university autonomy and academic freedom.

The conditions of service included a separate salary structure for university lectures to be known as ‘Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure’.

Thirteen years later, the government recently inaugurated a seven-man committee, but ASUU has since refused to recognise the committee, and this could be seen prolonging the strike action.

Review of NUC 2004 Act to tackle the proliferation of universities

The union is calling for the review of the Nigeria Universities Commission (2004) Act to tackle the proliferation of universities. The union decried that proliferation has become almost the order of the day as it appears that both federal and state governments have turned universities to constituency projects. This, it notes, is turning universities into glorified secondary schools while standards continue to deteriorate.

26 percent budgetary allocation to education sector

In a bid to improve the education sector, the union demanded 26 percent of Nigeria’s annual budget was allocated to education, and half of that allocation to universities.

Implementation of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

Since the introduction of the IPPIS, ASUU has been kicking against it for many reasons. It said the system would make university operations difficult and inefficient, adding that universities operate a flexible payroll system to ensure flexible recruitment of lectures, to attract scholars from across the world, among others.

To this end, it deployed its own ‘UTAS,’ which it said passed the integrity test by the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) but the Federal Government has rejected it, insisting that UTAS failed the integrity test.

Constitution of visitation panels

This is one prayer that is finally being implemented by the Federal Government. According to the law, the government ought to visit its universities every five years, but the last visit was conducted in January 2011.

After several meetings with government and strike actions, the Nigerian government finally inaugurated 10 panels for 36 universities; six for 25 polytechnics, and five for 21 colleges of education.

Withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues of unions

Another lingering issue is the release of withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues of unions, which were all contained on December 22, 2020 Memorandum of Action.

ASUU accused the Federal Government of deducting check-off dues on behalf of the union and refused to remit the same between February and June 2020.

Salary shortfall

Since December 2015, lecturers in both federal and state universities in Nigeria had been experiencing a shortfall in their salaries as certain percentages were allegedly being deducted from their salaries by the government while the deductions were allegedly not being remitted to the appropriate quarters.

However, the union confirmed that issues around salary shortfall have been addressed by the Federal Government.