The incoming administration of the president-elect, Bola Tinubu will inherit the lingering crisis between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the Federal Government as the union’s demands are yet to be met, DAILY POST gathered.
Recall that the union had in 2022, shut down public universities across the country for at least eight months over the failure of the Federal Government to meet its demands.
The federal government, after several failed attempts to resolve the issues and return the lecturers to class in 2022, dragged ASUU to the National Industrial Court, following a breakdown of negotiations.
Consequently, the Court granted the government’s plea for an injunction for ASUU members to resume work pending the resolution of the case.
The order of the court for ASUU to resume work was also upheld by the appeal court after the union approached it.
The appeal court gave ASUU up till October 14 to obey its order or be charged with contempt. That led to the suspension of the prolonged industrial action on October 14.
Among many other issues, the union is demanding the following:
Funding for revitalisation of tertiary institutions
The Federal Government had in 2009 and 2013, agreed to inject a total of N1.3 trillion into public universities, both state and federal, in six tranches, starting from 2013, following the union’s complaint of deplorable state of Nigerian universities.
According to the agreement, the FG was to release N200 billion in 2013, and N220 billion for the five subsequent years.
After releasing the first tranche, the government stopped releasing the funds, leading to a fresh face-off. In 2017, the federal government released N20 billion while it promised N25 billion in 2020.
The union, however, 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.
In a move to put the issues to rest, the FG had asked ASUU to suggest other sources of funding.
Payment of outstanding earned academic allowances (EAA)
The Federal Government had in 2009 agreed to pay lecturers EAA, but failed to implement the agreement as the issue lingered for years.
However, the FG agreed to pay the first tranche of the backlog of allowances in November 2019 and the second installment by August 2020, but still failed to fulfill the promises.
ASUU also demanded mainstreaming payments of EAA into the annual budgets, beginning from the 2019 budget.
In 2020, the FG agreed to pay N40 billion. The government, however, said it had released N22.127 billion earned allowances of both academic and non-academic workers of universities to 38 universities.
26 percent budgetary allocation to education sector
The union had in its previous struggles demanded that 26 percent of Nigeria’s annual budget should be allocated to education, and half of that allocation should be directed to universities.
Implementation of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
ASUU had rejected the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System IPPIS, a payment platform introduced by the FG over many reasons.
The union had argued that the system would make university operations difficult and inefficient, stating that universities operate a flexible payroll system to ensure flexible recruitment of lectures, to attract scholars from across the world, among others.
This prompted the introduction of University Transparency and Accountability Solution UTAS by ASUU with the claim that it passed the integrity test by the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
The IPPIS was said to be a foreign platform, while UTAS is a locally developed system, which some stakeholders said the government should prioritize in a bid to appreciate local content.
DAILY POST reports that barely two weeks ago, on April 4, President Muhammadu Buhari approved N320,345,040,835 as the 2023 intervention fund for public tertiary educational institutions in the country.
Executive Secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Sonny Echono, disclosed this during the Fund’s yearly strategic planning workshop with all heads of beneficiary institutions.
According to the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) the disbursement of the N320.3 billion as an intervention fund for the institutions remains the biggest in the last 30 years.
But ASUU National President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke told DAILY POST that the current administration does not value education.
He explained that the N320.3 billion was not part of the union’s current demands, saying they struggled for it since 1994.
Taking cognizant of the fact that the President Buhari-led government would elapse in the next few weeks, ASUU president told DAILY POST that the union is keenly looking forward to interacting with the Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration.
He said, “The Federal Government has not met our demands. The N320.3 billion is not part of our demands. This is what we fought for in 1994. It is not Federal Government’s funding. It is funded by the public sectors, by taxpayers.
Our plan is to see how we can interact with the next government with the hope that the next administration will have education as its priority unlike the current government that doesn’t care about education”.
Tinubu, the president-elect who is expected to take over leadership of the country from May 29, 2023, had during his campaigns in 2022, promised to prioritize education if elected president.