By Akinwande Soji-Ojo
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said the N52.5bn (N30bn Revitalisation Fund and N22.5bn Earned Academic Allowance) released by the Federal Government is not enough to deal with the challenges facing the university system.
ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, stated this in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, noting that there was a possibility that the union would still go on strike, unless the government addressed its demands, including the 2009 agreement.
The Federal Government had said it paid lecturers N30bn Revitalisation Fund and N22.5bn Earned Academic Allowance, adding that it had made some progress in implementing the Memorandum of Understanding the government reached with the union.
Osodeke, however, described the fund released by the government as a “token”, adding that it was not enough for lecturers to change their minds on the looming strike.
He asked the Federal Government to address the issues concerning the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System(IPPIS), which the union rejected and asked to be replaced with the University Transparency Accountability Solution(UTAS). The ASUU president also said renegotiation and resuscitation of universities had not been addressed.
The union suspended its nine months strike on December 24, 2020, after its National Executive Council met over the agreement the union had with the Federal Government. The union commenced the strike over the non-payment of salaries of its members who failed to enroll on IPPIS and some other agreements the union had with the government.
The union gave deadlines and threatened that it would not hesitate to withdraw its services if the government reneged on its promises. The ASUU president at the time, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said: “What we have done is to give the government the benefit of doubt and that is why we have added the caveat. Should the government renege, our members are not tired of withdrawing their services.”
Speaking on the N52.5bn fund, Osodeke said: “There is an agreement and we want them to implement the agreement. The issue is not about money. There is the issue of renegotiation, there is the issue of resuscitation of the universities, and there is the issue of UTAS. So, you don’t just come and throw a little money and think the challenge has been resolved.
“This is what our political class is doing. They believe that once they throw a little money, everybody will run back. That is the problem. So, it is not about the token they have given. There are more fundamental issues.”
Osodeke stated that the planned strike in the new year was a possibility, adding that the union decided to shelve the strike earlier because the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council intervened and promised to prevail on the Federal Government to implement the agreement.
“Our going on strike is a possibility. The only reason we relaxed is because a group, Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, intervened. We respect the group so much. The group told us they would intervene and they would ensure that the government implements our agreement. That is why we agreed to the benefit of the Federal Government.
“So, we decided we will give the Federal Government till the end of 2021 and see what it will do. Other groups also intervened. That explained why we relaxed going on strike, so that they will not say ASUU likes going on strike.
“The Federal Government should do the needful by embracing the agreement to prevent ASUU from going on strike. Nigeria as a whole will suffer the brunt of ASUU going on strike,” Osodeke added.