ASUU Strike: We Receive Same Salary For 13 Years, Despite Promotions – Chairperson
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) embarked on a national protest in solidarity with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to press home their long overdue demand to the federal government for the effective running of Nigerian Universities. The Uniuyo ASUU Chairperson, Dr. Happiness Uduk (Associate Professor) in this interview with Century Newsfront Newspapers, explained in detail the reasons ASUU frequently embarks on strike as well as other issues relating to Nigeria Tertiary Institutions. EXCERPTS.
ASUU Strike And The Government Next Step of Action
Essentially about what do we think the government is going to do, I don’t know, we wouldn’t be able to get into their minds as regards what they think but I think one thing we are showing off is that we’ve made a bold statement, and NLC has made the statement as well. And then truly, the cliché of the union that ‘injury to one is injury to all’ has actually been front burned. And NLC taking up this struggle doesn’t mean that we have handed over everything to NLC. It was a solidarity protest. And this, ASUU struggle, essentially, is not a struggle that should be left for only ASUU, or other university-based unions to struggle. It’s a struggle that touches everybody because I don’t think there’s any family where there is no student in the Tertiary Institution. Even the military would have people who are doing programs in universities, the police would have, the DSS would have, and then other military and paramilitary units, who have people whose academic pursuits have been truncated as a result of the strike, and then everyone is supposed to carry the message, not just being borne by ASUU only. So what the federal government should essentially do is that the federal government should see this as a wake-up call. The federal government should see this, as the reverberations of what they said that enough is actually, enough. So for us enough is enough as regards waiting for 13 years, before renegotiating; enough is enough, Government reneging after having a series of memoranda of action, Memoranda of Understanding, agreements. So enough is enough for the government not sponsoring, and catering to federal universities that they set up. Sometimes one imagines if ASUU were not to be in the picture, what would have happened to public tertiary education, because this struggle, the first struggle was in 1986. And that’s over 30-something years now. You know, for the people who have been struggling, when we say that there is nothing we have had, that has not been a product of struggle, we actually are not exaggerating it. For our students to have good classrooms for lectures, ASUU must struggle; for our students to have up-to-date facilities, in laboratories and libraries ASUU must struggle; for there to be infrastructures within the university, ASUU must struggle; for government to set up visitation panels, ASUU needs to go and struggle; for the federal government to make public the white paper of this visitation panels ASUU must go and struggle. So government should sit up. That’s essentially what we are thinking government should do. But if it’s about what government should do, we actually don’t know that within their domain, not within our domain to talk about, so they should do the needful, essentially, as a matter of fact.
ASUU Demands Too Big For Government To Resolve
Well, I don’t know what the government is essentially doing. But I think that essentially it’s the government’s insincerity. Government is insincere. Government is insensitive. Any government that is sensitive would not wait until people go on strike to do anything. And also, maybe because their children don’t school in public universities, so it wouldn’t bother them, whether the facilities are there, whether things are moving on well or not. So they have their reasons. But we are thinking that it’s because they’re insensitive and because they are insincere. That’s why each time ASUU is on strike or any other union, right now is not only about ASUU because ASUU is at home, NAT is at home, SANU equality is at home. So it’s not only the Battle of ASUU but every union in the Tertiary Institution, including ASUP of polytechnics and even COEASU of Colleges of Education. So is a total collapse of the entire education system.
Well, it’s about the disposition of governments. It’s not about the bigness of the issue. We’re all in this country, and in this world, and we know that there are certain things that have happened, inflation, etc. So largely is the fact that government does not have the willpower to resolve this matter. I remember our Comrade President Osodeke saying that he couldn’t take the government more than a day to resolve this issue if they want to. The Aviation union, some time ago said that they will not fly beginning from a certain Saturday, but the evening of Friday, government bail them out, it is just about priority, is not about that the issues are big, I think that we need to state the issues. One is the fact that we need to renegotiate our agreement with the government that was last renegotiated in 2009, which is more than 13 years. What this translates to, is the fact that we’ve been on the same salary for more than 13 years, there’s been no improvement. And for us to be earning the salary of more than 13 years ago, with the current realities, the government is not fair to us. And as a matter of fact, I’m thinking that government is doing this in bad faith because they know that we buy from the same market where every other set of people are buying, but our salaries have still remained the same. Even if you have been promoted, you still earn the same salary. Meaning that a professor who was earning 415,000, in 2000, assuming you were promoted, let’s say before 2009, on 2009, any other person who’s been promoted, will still earn the same salary. That’s the point we saying. So there’s not been any increase, no review of the salary. It doesn’t mean that I was a senior lecturer, so I’m still earning the salary I’ve moved, for instance, I’m an Associate Professor, back dated to 2019, I am earning what associate professors earned then today, that’s the whole idea about what we are seeing that the same salary, nothing has essentially changed. And I must state that we are not on any new things. We are essentially on strike because what we agreed with government in December 23rd 2020, have not all been met. That is why this renewed strike. And I’d like us to know that when this strike started, we, as a matter of fact, did not have to give government any notice, because we told them that this strike will only resume without recourse to them. Two, the second reason, why ASUU is on strike, is the fact that the government is allowing the proliferation of state universities. This means that every state governor has the freedom to create any number of universities without recourse to NUC. Meanwhile, the ones they already have, are unable to fund. For instance, a university in our zone like Abia State University, they’ve been owed salary for more than 11 months. It’s a state university. The last time they got paid was in September last year. ASUU is not only made up of federal universities, our membership runs across both state and federal. So ASUU was saying that NUC should come up with some documents that will help regulate the number of universities that state governors can establish. Some states can cater for more than the one you see the governor because the other one was not in his vicinity, he wants to have one in his own community. For example, Ebonyi State has currently University of Medicine that makes it the third University, which is situated where the governor himself comes from. And that’s one governor that has given the union so much trouble in that state. Three, in 1996, the government brought up the idea of a system of payments called IPPIS. And since then, ASUU has been kicking against it, because IPPIS erodes University autonomy. University workers are not core civil servants and therefore, cannot be placed on a platform as if we were core civil servants. For instance, every university has a council, that doesn’t operate in the core civil service establishment, these councils are supposed to be responsible for day-to-day running, they employ and can fire. But with the introduction of the IPPIS it erodes, it takes this away. For instance, since the IPPIS came on board, universities have not been able to employ people themselves such that even our graduates who are good, cannot be retained by universities. IPPIS does employment and then we are still wondering how IPPIS is going to follow through with the procedure of punishing staff who have erred, so ASUU said no since then. In 2019, about December, the current Minister for Finance came up with a directive that was purportedly to have come from Mr. President, said that all MDAs must key into IPPIS, ASUU said, No. And then, in 2020, when we embarked on that strike, we had our salaries paid using another payment system. From February, we were told that our salaries will be paid using IPPIS. Even though ASUU had said no to it, they looked for some ways, that was when we were stuck for nine months. And our salaries were not paid. So we told them we weren’t keen to IPPIS, to look for any other alternative and pay our salary. And I like to state here that there are about 12 members of this institution who have not been paid salaries since February 2020. Yes, that’s more than two years. Because of IPPIS, there’s no other reason they are here, you go there you write to them all they tell you they must come to Abuja and enroll, and we say we have not enrolled, the way you pay us, pay them. So we need to hype on this for more than 12, here in the University of Uyo, Since February 2020 two years Plus. How are they surviving with their families, etc, and those who depend on them? So when we got talking in 2021, the government said we should come up with an alternative platform. We needed that go-ahead from the government. And we did. They asked us the duration we told them to give us about nine months, but we’re done in three months. That’s what it’s called the University Transparency, And Accountability Solution, (UTAS). UTAS has gone through several phases of tests, both integrity tests, and acceptability tests, etc. More than three times the first time it came with 77.8% pass from NITDA. I must note that until some two or three weeks ago, the IPPIS did not undergo any test. No test at all was done. It was just deployed because government agents are feeding fat on it. It takes 18,000 Naira to enroll a member on IPPIS, that’s what it cost government to enroll one person on IPPIS. So by the time we were done and gave UTAS some 77.8%, the union asked why, and they said that there were some observations, we said, Okay, can we remedy those ones and come back to you? And they said, no, they have to test it all over again. So the union said you won’t take it to the office of the NITDA, we have to have our team there as well. Now we appealed to the Minister for labour to also have people as observers. They tested it again, this time around, it had 99.3% Pass, that was what NITDA gave us still deploy it, government wouldn’t deploy it. And then again, the agitations came up from within other units that they’ve come up with the U3PS, that’s from the non-teaching. And government said it needs to be tested again, up till now we still await the result. That was like the third time that UTAS was being tested. So whatever they’re saying in the government quarters that the UTAS has failed. I don’t know how you will rate a child. I think, if it was a child that was being tested, who had 77.8% and had 99.3%, that is exceeding pass, as far as I’m concerned. So another issue is the Earned Academic Allowance (EAA), which the Minister of Labour prefers to call, Earned Allowance. These allowances that should come to us as academic staff, for instance, within that EAA is a component called excess workload. Normally, after teaching a certain number of students are supposed to be paid for the other students that you teach. The minister of Labour, when we got to a certain point said that it will not be right and that for the sake of industrial harmony within universities, other unions should be part of that. That was when we conceded some percent, and said that ASUU was on strike for that and shall have majority of the percentage, government still owes some backlogs. After the strike of 2020, government mainstreamed it into the budget, which actually was the agreement because government was saying they can’t be paying arrears, why don’t we look for a lasting solution. So it was mainstreamed into the 2021 budget. So for the year 2021, we got it but government still owes two tranches that they haven’t paid. So, this is essentially the reason for which ASUU is on strike. And finally, as I said earlier on, ASUU went on strike for government to set up visitation panels, this strike also ASUU is saying, the government should release the white paper, the white paper, as far as each universities visitation panel has submitted, so these are essentially, the reasons for which we, as a matter of fact, are on strike.
A Lecturer Teaching In More Than One Varsity
As I said earlier, we are not core civil servants, all over the world, Lecturers go on sabbatical. I like to tell us that there are lecturers who went on sabbatical in 2020, up till now, they have not been paid. Two, lectures go on adjuncts. You can never be on full appointment in those places, never. The only time you can be on one appointment in two places, the other is on sabbatical and one year, at the end of that one year, you’re supposed to return unless there is that lack and I must note that is not only academic staff in universities that go on sabbatical. Non-teaching staff equally go on sabbatical. Yes. It’s not just academic staff. You can find this out from the other unions. When universities lack expertise in certain areas, they call on people who are experts in those areas from other universities to come and assist them. That’s when you can go on sabbatical, or you can go on adjunct, I must state that it is not every academic staff that goes on sabbatical, some may stay and retire without going on sabbatical. Two, you don’t go on sabbatical every year; I can only go on sabbatical once in seven years. That’s how it’s done. As post Ph.D., you go on sabbatical once, when you get to 6th, the 7th is possible on sabbatical. When you go and return, you don’t go again, until after six years, the seventh year you go again. So it’s not as if it’s something that people just go yearly. Just that one year that you’re on sabbatical, that’s the only time it happens and is best practice everywhere in the world. That’s what happens. When it’s adjuncts, you don’t get paid your full salary. It’s about 40% or so that you get paid for, for instance, AKSU can invite me, says come and teach the courses you teach as adjunct staff and I go there and teach, is still one year, and you return unless there is a lack. But then one person does not stay there indefinitely. So it was ASUU who drew attention to the fact that IPPIS can even allow such things to happen. And we saw that when we were shouting, the corruption resides within the Office of the accountant General of the Federation. They took us lightly but we’ve seen that now we’re pursuing about a 107 billion from him. ASUU that I know, we can never pursue a course that is not just, never, we keep saying that, where you find any of our members erring, let us know, and prosecute such a person.
ASUU Demands That Will Both Benefit Staff And Students
We don’t have enough classrooms. We are taking students more students now, we have influx of students right now, we may be in a quagmire because we have two sets that have written JAMB, but are not yet in school. Because we don’t have the facility to even take those, so some universities may crash, maybe a year and if they do that, it means that they will take students, maybe half in this year and a half in that year. For the JAMB they’ve written, may just be a waste, for them. So infrastructure, if you go to any university, whether state or federal and you don’t find TETFUND, come back and tell me or you don’t find the NEED Assessment label on the building come back and tell me. These are the struggles of ASUU. TETFUND is a brainchild of ASUU, NEED Assessment is also what ASUU requested from the government. So when we talk about whether it will benefit us, yes, it will, when we talk about revitalization fund. I’ve heard Ngige say, ASUU is asking for 1.1 trillion. It is not ASUU not a dime of that money that goes to ASUU. The 1.1 trillion that the government was in debt as far as the public tertiary institution is concerned is because, during Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration, ASUU told the government to declare a state of emergency on the education sector for five years, we went to government with a proposal, they sat and agreed government said they will give universities, it has absolutely nothing to do with ASUU; they agreed to give universities 220 Billion Naira yearly for five years. Government did that only once. All universities will benefit from a 220 Billion Naira, ASUU also showed government how to raise the money. Before our government created TETFUND, it was ASUU that told government what to do. What exactly makes up TETFUND is what they get taxes from some places. And they put it there. So government said, and we told them how to do that government only gave 200 billion once. After that, it has taken ASUU two strikes to get the first 20 billion or the next 30 billion. So out of 1.3 trillion, government has only given 250 billion and none goes to ASUU. It goes to the management of universities, no ASUU member is a contractor for any of these and none goes to any ASUU branch. I’m telling you that go and find out. So that’s the issue about the revitalization decision. Why revitalization? So that we can have libraries, hostels, laboratories, etc. There’s no internally generated money that goes to the university directly. There is no tuition, yes, there may be sundry charges but if you check your receipt, even when we went to school, there is no tuition, tuition is dash because there’s a policy on education in this country that says that public education from primary to tertiary is free. That is why ASUU is saying, government cannot collect tuition, from students of tertiary institutions. Because there’s a policy that says it is free. What the government wants to do is to destroy public tertiary education as it has done to primary and secondary. I went to a primary school, I went to a public secondary school, but I don’t think I can send my child, I didn’t send them. My children are here in UNIUYO, the last one is currently writing NECO. None of them apart from my first child who went to a federal government school has gone to any of these. I went to Uyo High School on Oron Road, so right now, what ASUU is trying to say, is don’t destroy public tertiary institutions the way you’ve done these other ones. But we know that those in government have private universities all over. And they are actually, establishing more where children of the poor will definitely not have access.
Election Year And Students As Ready Political Tools
Well, that is the business of government to worry over. So if it worries government, they should resolve the matter. This matter is not too difficult for government to handle. It is not, the same government a few days ago gave 400 billion to the school feeding programme. Where is that money coming from? Someone made an analogy, which I think is representative of the President of NLC. He said the issue is this. A father came back home from work and called members of his family and said let’s talk, I can’t provide three square meals anymore. Let’s eat one, but then you see the father outside drinking and eating and isewu and will come back home to tell you that there’s no money, that’s the point. You had done bailout to other areas. When the pandemic was on government did no bailout to whether this matter is too difficult to handle, meanwhile, we were on strike. What he did to other sectors, Agric, Health etc. He didn’t do to education. We were not paid a salary during the pandemic. We started receiving salaries in December of 2020. So I think that it is not our business to worry about that. If they are the ones who are standing election, they are the ones who bought form, some political parties sold their form at 100 million for the presidential and I can tell us that, we are about 200 million in this country, only two peoples form money would give each of us a million Naira. And for a certain political party, they were more than 20 something. 100 million multiplied by 20, how much is that? Well, yet the same country will tell us there’s no money.