• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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BusinessDay

Strike: Government mulls proscription of ASUU among other options

FG’s early breach of agreements with ASUU

Federal Government may proscribe the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for the teachers’ union refusal to call off its over eight months strike, BusinessDay learns.

Lecturers in state and federal universities have been on strike since March 9, 2020, over the government’s insistence that the teachers must register on the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS), which the government says will enable it know the number of university teachers in its employ and the cost of running the university system, and also help it fight corruption.

Lecturers of state-owned universities who are members of ASUU are on strike in solidarity with their federal counterparts, except those in privately owned universities.

Sources close to the office of the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, discloses to BusinessDay that the government is considering several options of making the teachers return to the classrooms, but top among them are proscription of ASUU or “float an online Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS), which is the main object of the strike to allow university lecturers who are interested in registering on IPPIS to do their registration seamlessly.

“Upon completion of their registration, each lecturer will print this form, attach a recent passport photograph to his form and submit to the Vice Chancellor for signature and onward submission to the office of the Accountant General for the Federation, who will do the needful by paying the registered staff.”

BusinessDay learns that while the conservative staff of the ministry and its departments and agencies at a meeting where the decisions on what options available to government to return the teachers to work are pushing for the second option, the hardliners are said to be pushing for the proscription of ASUU.

The parley where the options were laid out, it was learnt, held last week at the Federal Secretariat, Abuja headquarters of the ministry.

A source at the meeting said the officials also agreed that “lecturers who have their registration completed ‘on the IPPIS platform’ will be paid their February salaries only,” while “the next salary will be paid with effect from the date the lecturer registered.” Academic staff members of federal and state universities have not been paid salaries since February this year.

This, according to the source, is to ensure the implementation of the ‘no work, no pay’ rule as contained in the nation’s extant labour laws.

A document seen by BusinessDay detailing the decisions reached at the meeting states, “a lecturer is deemed to have called off the strike only after he/she has registered on IPPIS. There is no doubt that many lecturers are willing to register on IPPIS.”

“Apart from the online registration, the Federal Government has the option of out-rightly proscribing ASUU,” while the document alleges that the ASUU had in the recent past physically assaulted its members who were willing and ready to register on the IPPIS registration platform.

It was learnt that the hardliners at the meeting were of the view that ASUU leadership allegedly resorted to physically assaulting its members who wanted to register on the IPPIS platform to prevent them from doing so, adding that was enough ground to proscribe the over 50,000 – strong – member teachers’ union.

“There are two good reasons why government should ban ASUU as an organisation. First, there were allegations that ASUU officials physically assaulted lecturers from registering on the IPPIS platform. This is enough reason to ban ASUU. The association has no right under any law whatsoever to physically assault its members.

“Secondly, at the time of the national and global pandemic, otherwise called Covid-19, when the entire world is searching for a cure through laboratory research, Nigeria’s ASUU found it very convenient to embark on an indefinite strike when they should be doing research to come up with vaccines to tackle the pandemic,” the document states.

Other options under consideration are for the government to recruit lectures from Eastern Europe, after sacking those who refused to enrol on IPPIS, and “the government can also religiously implement the policy on adequate Graduate Assistant Engagement, where the best three students in any department will be retained as graduate assistants,” in line with the recent President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval that the best brains from each institution be retained as academic staff.”

“Also open to government is the option of retiring all academic staff who have refused to enrol on IPPIS and introduce the system of part-time lecturing as it is being done in the United States of America. In addition, all doctorate students should also take up lecturing as part of their doctorate programme,” the document notes.

Ben Bem Goong, head of media, Federal Ministry of Education, told BusinessDay in Abuja that the options open to the government and ASUU in resolving the crisis were many but declined further comment.

Meanwhile, Oghenekaro Moses Ogbinaka, former University of Lagos branch chairman of ASUU while reacting to the perceived plans by the government to proscribe the activities of the Union, said, “I will not be surprised if the government decides to make attempt at proscribing ASUU. It is not the first time. The government tried it during the military era.” The government cannot prevent a union from fighting for their rights in any given circumstances, he said.

The IPPIS that the government is making effort to implement is not only the reason why ASUU is fighting, instead the government should come clean and honour the numerous agreements successive and the present government have reach to give Nigerian universities the lift it desire to globally compete, he said.

A text message and several calls to the national president, ASUU, Abiodun Ogunyemi, a professor at the University of Abuja, were not responded to as at the time of filing this report.