From Maurice Okafor,Enugu
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has embarked on a two weeks warning strike over non compliance of the Federal Government to meet its outstanding demands.
ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi declared the strike action yesterday in Enugu at press conference after the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the union at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Agbani.
Ogunyemi said having discussed the provisions in the 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement, the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and the 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoA), which have not been implemented, the NEC resolved to embark on two-week warning strike action with effect from Monday, 9th March, 2020 to compel the Federal Government to implement the agreement and resolution of Memorandum of Action.
He warned that the Federal Government’s attempt to dictate what happens in Nigerian university system erodes the autonomy of our universities, making them incapable of delivering on respective mandates in teaching, research and service.
The ASUU helmsman cited as a case in point, the imposition of the obnoxious integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) on universities, despite its demonstrated shortcomings.
He said the refusal by the Federal Government to accept the alternative platform, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), which is being developed by the union and offered to the government calls for serious concern.
“ASUU has pointed out apparent deficiencies inherent in IPPIS. We have talked of the widely reported fraud being perpetrated by operatives of IPPIS within and outside the Auditor General for the Federation (AGF).
“The National Assembly has acknowledged the monumental fraud in IPPIS when AGF appeared before its Public Accounts Committee and could defend the auditor’s query. However, Government through its agents remain adamant on compelling ASUU members to enroll in IPPIS. Government has threatened to stop salaries of our members on account on non enrollment in IPPIS platform. For the avoidance of doubt, the resistance of ASUU to the deployment of IPPIS in universities is a patriotic action. IPPIS runs foul of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act (as amended). It is a bastion of fraud and permits the enrollment of ghost workers and constitutes a financial drain on the scarce resources of Nigeria,” he said.
The ASUU boss, who was flanked by other leaders of the union, equally lamented the alarming security situation in the country, disheartening state of the economy, aggravated infrastructure decay, deficiency and decay in the university system and attempt by the Federal Government to dictate what happens in the citadels of learning.
He said as a union of intellectuals driven by the patriotic quest for national development, based on the principles of equity, probity and fairness, they took a critical look at the state of the Nigerian universities, the increasing parlous state of the polity with attendant adverse consequences for the ordinary Nigerians, the mindless betrayal of Nigerians by the ruling class, which has resulted in crippling poverty across the nation, and the state of Nigerian public universities.
On the state of the nation, the ASUU helmsman described the state of insecurity in the country as alarming, stressing that armed robbery, kidnapping, hostage taking of all kinds, banditry, militancy, herdsmen/farmers clashes, and insurgency had become so rife that they appear to have overwhelmed our security agencies, despite huge budgetary allocations to security.
“ASUU calls on the Federal Government to a matter of urgency overhaul the nation’s security architecture. The failure of the Federal Government to ensure the security of Nigerian citizens had led to the emergence of sporadic security outfits. This is a sign that the Federal Government has failed to protect Nigerian citizens as stipulated in the Constitution of Nigeria.
“The failure of Government to ensure social justice, wealth and employment creation and accountable, responsive and responsible governance at all levels, is no doubt, at the root of pervasive insecurity problems. We call on the Federal Government to give attention to this dimension of the solution.
“The state of the Nigerian economy is disheartening. This is hardly surprising given the subjection of the nation’s economy to the dictates of neo-liberalism. The destructive implications of market fundamentals resonate in the nation’s chronic economic crisis, hyperinflation, de-investment, poverty and unproductive accumulation.
‘This ugly condition has been aggravated by infrastructure decay, devaluation of the nation’s currency, inadequate but increasing cost of power, ill-conceived and inconsistent policies and transformation of Nigeria to a “cargo economy”.
“If nothing, decades of obedience to neo-liberal orthodoxies have proved beyond any iota of doubt that the market oriented policies of neoliberalism are recipes for backwardness, illiteracy and dis-empowerment of our people. Rather than promote efficiency, privatization of our power sector has institutionalized inefficiency, corruption and exploitation of Nigerians,” Ogunyemi said.
According to him, “it is time that Nigerians reclaimed our national life and their living conditions from the stranglehold of the neo-liberal masters of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank.”
He said going by the Nigerian constitution, the nation’s commanding heights should be controlled by the state.
Ogunyemi called for concerted efforts at all levels of government to empower underprivileged Nigerians, put back to work the nation’s moribund industries that were shut as a result of the implementation of retrogressive, suffocating and anti-people liberal policies, tackle inefficiency and corruption as well as promote development based on production in Nigeria.
He maintained that Nigeria’s economy must be people centred and work for the overall empowerment of Nigerians, not for private capital or for market forces.
On the state of the Nigerian university system, he noted that ASUU always focused attention on the minimal conditions for their working and living conditions as university scholars and they were fully aware of their responsibilities towards their students who are the most valuable partners in the knowledge seeking enterprise.
He said the union condemns in totality, all forms of sexual harassment no matter its origin as well as abuse of power in any form.
He said the union recognizes the fact that sexual harassment can occur in all forms of human relations-in religious, in legislative houses, among security agents, and in all work places.
Ogunyemi however faulted the attempt by the National Assembly to enact a law that seeks to criminalise a section of the society and targeted against tertiary institutions, pointing out that it violates the rule of jurisprudence that law should not be targeted at specific persons or groups.
He said the union was also concerned about the emerging trend of arbitrariness, abuse of power and privileges, aristocracy, meddlesomeness and manipulation of extant laws, financial recklessness and impropriety in the governance of public universities.
“A case in point is the overbearing and autocratic posture exhibited by the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the University of Lagos Governing Council, Dr Wale Babalakin (SAN) which resulted in the unfortunate, wasteful, insensitive and unjustifiable postmen of the 51st convocation of the university,” he said.
He also urged the Federal Government to look into the development in Federal University Dustinma where in less than two years, three acting Vice Chancellors were appointed with full entitlements whereas it would have saved money to appoint a substantive Vice Chancellor for a five-year tenure.
He traced the woes of the nation to the subversion of the nation’s constitution, which is a welfarist and people oriented constitution, saying the subversion now places power in the hands of a few political rulers, who use same for their selfish class interest.
He said the only way out of the present situation is for the Nigerian people to organize and take the power back to the real owners of the resources, that is the working people of Nigeria.