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ASUU STRIKE: Employment Embargo, Shortage Of Professors Hits Federal Varsities

ASUU STRIKE: Employment Embargo, Shortage Of Professors Hits Federal Varsities

The ban on employment imposed by the Federal Government has led to a shortage of professors and other academic staff members in federal universities, investigation by Sunday PUNCH has revealed.

Findings showed that some universities, which depend on professors on sabbatical, had lost the accreditation of certain courses, while others were given interim accreditation by the National Universities Commission due to the dearth of professors and enough academics for certain programmes.

It was gathered that the situation was worsened by the insistence of the Federal Government to use the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System as the payment platform for lecturers.

The IPPIS, according to stakeholders, does not recognise adjunct professors and those on sabbatical, which informed the decision of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to develop the University Transparency and Accountability Solution as an alternative payment platform.

Academics, some of whom are management staff members of their respective institutions, affirmed that there was indeed a shortage of professors owing to the ban on fresh employment. They said this had also frustrated the old arrangement of retaining first-class graduates in their departments.

A former Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Prof Charles Uko, said in an interview with one of our correspondents that the ban on employment had frustrated the recruitment of new hands. Uko, a structural engineer, stated that he was the only professor in his department and he would soon retire.

He stated, “I am the only professor in my department and I will be retiring soon. Before, we normally retained our first-class graduates; but for the past six years, we have had a number of first-class graduates, but we have not been able to retain them. One of our best students just got a scholarship to study abroad. I pleaded for many years for the lady to be engaged by the university, because she is an academic material.

 “When these young intellectuals come in, we mentor them and supervise their postgraduate thesis and they take over from us. The IPPIS forced on academics is not helping matters. Departments are short-staffed. Before, we had academics on sabbatical. You teach in the school and you get paid there but sometime ago, it was stopped. Some universities depend on these professors on sabbatical.”

Uko recalled that when he went on sabbatical, he served as the head of department in the school because the department did not have a PhD holder as lecturer.  He noted that a department could not run postgraduate courses successfully without professors.

He added, “For instance, a private university recently graduated PhD students and it achieved this through the adjunct professors. So, if government is saying they are not ready to employ, there is a problem.

“Other times, when they want to employ, it is done from Abuja and they don’t employ the best brains and what the universities need. We focus on our first-class graduates and then those with second-class upper division. In my department, we lost accreditation three years ago. When they came back in November, we were given interim accreditation. We are not happy.”

The ASUU Chairman at the University of Jos, Plateau State, Dr Lazarus Maigoro, said it was an understatement to say there was a shortage of professors. He noted that as professors retire and some die, there are no replacements. He said the challenge should be addressed with all the urgency it required.

In an interview with one of our correspondents, Maigoro stated, “On this issue, if you say scarcity, it is an understatement. That is the current situation across all federal universities because of the introduction of the IPPIS.

“For instance, if a professor retires and there is no replacement, the university will have no choice but to retain him on contract or go to another university to get someone on sabbatical. The IPPIS will not pay the visiting professor or someone who comes on sabbatical; they are usually paid an allowance because as far as the IPPIS is concerned, the person has retired and shouldn’t have anything to do in the university.

“Universities are crumbling at this moment. In UNIJOS, I can tell you that there are lecturers who have not been paid salaries since 2020 even after several complaints were made. The only reason why there is a dearth of professors in our universities is because people are retiring and dying with no replacement.”

He explained that before the vice-chancellor of a federal university could recruit academics, it could take more than a year, because they would have to pass through the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, Budget Office of the Federation, Federal Character Commission and Office of the Head of Service, and each process would take minimum of three months.

Similarly, the ASUU Chairman at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Dr Gbolahan Bolarin, told Sunday PUNCH that most departments of engineering were seriously understaffed and in dire need of senior lecturers.

He said, “At the moment, we don’t have anyone on sabbatical because of the IPPIS and we have some departments that are in need of senior academics. Departments like Material and Metallurgy Engineering, Mechatronics Engineering etc. are seriously under-staffed and are in need of senior academics via tenure appointments or sabbatical, but the IPPIS is making it impossible. “If you check like Computer Science and Cyber Security, they are in need of academics too. The list is endless.”

When asked if the shortage of professors would affect accreditation, Bolarin said, “Yes, this is because you won’t be able to have the required staff mix.” At the University of Ilorin, Kwara State, the ASUU Chairman, Prof Moyosore Ajao, told one of our correspondents that academic staff members were overworked.

Ajao noted, “The first thing you need to know is that universities have their tradition and have their ways of living on their own and this is why you cannot subject a university to a ministry’s bureaucratic principles. It is not going to work.

“I can tell you boldly that there is no faculty at the University of Ilorin that is not short-staffed. We have colleagues who have retired and we can’t replace them. We have those who are dead and we can’t replace them, and the implication of this is that the few available hands are overworked and you know what the consequences are.

“To make matters worse, we can’t employ new ones. The double jeopardy is that the IPPIS does not allow you to bring in professors on sabbatical; they won’t get paid.”

The Secretary of ASUU at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, Osun State, Dr Kayode Atilade, said brain drain was fuelling the dearth of academics. Atilade stated, “I can tell you from information from colleagues and friends that our colleagues are leaving in droves. I know of two in my department, who left recently. Even before the strike, I know of those who were awaiting clearance from the university in terms of resignation. I know of two who are leaving for Canada.

“In terms of professors, there are no replacements. In my department, two professors retired and another one died. There is no replacement for them as we speak. In my department now, we have only one professor. It’s a common thing now.

“There is no employment as far as university recruitment is concerned. I don’t know whether we will call it an embargo or whatever. You can’t recruit until you get to Abuja. The Treasury Single Account and the IPPIS cannot allow vice-chancellors to even recruit, not even on a temporary basis. The university system is different from other systems.”

Atilade recalled that during the last visitation panel, one of the panel members, who visited the OAU, lamented that she visited a department in the Medical Sciences Faculty and there was only one lecturer there. “You can imagine what will happen to the students,” Atilade noted, “In my department, we have three sub-departments. The Departments of French and Portuguese have only one professor each.”

When one of our correspondents contacted the Federal Ministry of Education for comments, the spokesman, Ben Goong, said the question should be directed to the NUC. “The NUC handles matters that have to do with universities,” he noted.

The Executive Secretary of the NUC, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, did not respond to inquiries by Sunday PUNCH. However, the Deputy Executive Secretary, NUC, Chris Miayaki, in an earlier interaction with the Senate, pleaded that the employment ban be lifted to allow the recruitment of academic and non-academic staff members.

Meanwhile, ASUU has been on strike since February owing to the impasse between it and the Federal Government over matters bordering on revitalisation of the universities, payment of earned allowances and adoption of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution as the payment platform for lecturers instead of the IPPIS.

‘Professors below 50%’

From the NUC data, Sunday PUNCH reports that federal universities currently suffer a shortage of full-time professors. According to the data, no federal university scored up to 50 per cent in the ranking of full professors. This implies that no federal university has the required number of full professors they require.

Some of the federal universities ranked in the top 10 are the Usmanu Dan-Fodiyo University, Sokoto, with 36.44 per cent; Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, 35.80 per cent; University of Ibadan, 29.04 per cent; Federal University of Technology, Akure, 27.28 per cent; Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, 27.25 per cent; University of Abuja, 25.33 per cent; University of Benin, 23.26 per cent; University of Port Harcourt, 21.26 per cent; University of Calabar, 21.20 per cent; and University of Ilorin, 21.12 per cent.

The NUC data also puts the number of academic staff in Nigerian universities at 100,000. “The entire system has about 2.1 million students and staff strength of about 170,000 non-teaching and 100,000 academic staff,” the NUC stated.

‘Return to classrooms’

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has insisted that its no-work-no-pay policy for striking university lecturers stands. It said if the lecturers wanted it to do otherwise, they should resume work and then renegotiate with it.

The Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, who spoke when he visited the Federal University, Lokoja, Kogi State, said government had done its best to resolve the impasse. He charged the Vice-Chancellor of the institution, Prof Olayemi Akinwumi, to appeal to the lecturers to resume work.

The minister said, “The Federal Government cannot pay lecturers for what they did not work for. The strike has continued to portray the country in a bad light and has succeeded in causing more pain for parents and students. “The Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has done so much, especially in infrastructural development in our tertiary institutions. Anywhere you go, you will see the presence of Tertiary Education Trust Fund, buildings, vehicles and all manners of institutional assets.

He said contrary to insinuations, “some of us have our children in Nigerian universities and they are also suffering.” Opiah added that it was not in anyone’s interest if the strike continued forever, adding that any dispute could be resolved through dialogue.

He stated, “I know that almost everything ASUU brought forth for discussion with the Federal Government has been resolved, except that ASUU wants to be paid for the six months they were absent from duty and the government is saying no.

“For once, let us activate the principle of no-work-no-pay, which is natural. It is only a thief that goes to eat where he didn’t work. So, if there should be any appeal for the Federal Government to do otherwise, lecturers should come back to the classrooms to beg, appeal and renegotiate. It’s no longer funny.”

He said the government would ensure the provision of perimeter fencing at the institution in view of the security challenges bedevilling the country, while commending the harmonious working relationship between the vice-chancellor and the Governing Board.

The vice-chancellor, while appreciating the minister for the visit, said the present management had sacrificed a lot to bring development to the institution.

Confusion in NANS

There was confusion on Saturday as two factions of the National Association of Nigerian Students announced the emergence of two different candidates as the president.

The two factional presidents are Umar Faruk Lawal of the Department of Library and Information Science, Bayero University, Kano, and Usman Umar of the Federal University, Dutse, Jigawa State.

The union had been enmeshed in internal crisis, which led to the postponement of the election earlier slated for last Saturday. Despite moves for reconciliation, elections were held in two different locations, which led to the emergence of the two factional presidents. Lawal emerged at a convention held at the Old Parade Ground in Abuja, while Umar emerged at another location in Abuja.

Lawal said his tenure would witness a permanent end to lingering industrial actions in Nigerian tertiary institutions. He told journalists in Abuja that he already met with ASUU leadership. He stated, “NANS will no longer be used as a tool. It is time for our students to return to school. We will ensure that we meet with the government.”

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