The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, on Tuesday picked holes in allocation to tertiary institutions in the proposed 2016 budget and warned of looming industrial unrest in the Nigerian university system as a result of poor funding, nonpayment of staff salaries and breach of the agreement it reached with the Federal government in 2009.
ASUU also lamented that the Federal Government has failed to keep to the terms of agreement it reached with academic union in 2009 on funding of the universities at a press conference in which it also made public its opinion on contemporary national issues.
Nasir Isa Fagge, the President of the Union who addressed the press conference in company of other officers lamented that the Federal Government has refused to implement many provisions of the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement.
Indeed, the union said some recent actions of Federal Government will indicate a unilateral abrogation of some parts of the agreement, citing the directive of government to Vice Chancellors to remove staff of University Staff Schools from the nominal payroll of their institutions as instances of the violations of the agreement as example.
ASUU said the directive is in contrast to the Section 3.3(ix)a of the FGN/ASUU Agreement of 2009 which states that “The University shall bear the full capital and recurrent costs of University Staff Primary Schools (as in the May 29 Agreement).”
Contrary to this provision of the agreement, ASUU President said at the press conference that the Federal sent an unsigned memo to Vice Chancellors of universities asking them to remove personnel and teachers of the staff schools from their nominal pay rolls with threats to punish any head of institution who refused to heed the directive.
According to Dr Fagge, there are also other aspects of the agreement which have been neglected and which government needs to address urgently to ensure continuous smooth running of the university system.
“Some of these include payment of outstanding Earned Academic Allowances, EAA, establishment of the Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company, and commencement of the negotiation of the agreement,” said the ASUU President.
Failure of government to retrace its steps as regards to implementation of the agreement, he warned, may result in disruption of the academic system.
The ASUU President said the lecturers have so far kept to their side of the bargain.
“But patience of our members are running out. Obviously, insincerity on the part of government, in the light of the MoU it signed with ASUU in November 2013 is beginning to dampen the morale of our members nationwide and may threaten the fragile industrial peace on our university campuses if government fails to act expeditiously,” said Fagge.
On the 2016 budget, ASUU noted that the eight per cent total allocation to the education sector in the N6.08 trillion appropriation plan ran contrary to the agreement of ASUU with government to progressively increase the budgetary allocation to 26 per cent as recommended by UNESCO. The union also noted that the paltry allocation ran contrary to the intent of government to give free higher education to students of science and technology at the tertiary education level.
The union pointed out that this is because the allocation is skewed in favour of Federal Government Secondary Schools and Federal Ministry of Education headquarters.
“The cumulative capital appropriation to Federal Secondary Schools was 230 per cent higher than that of tertiary institutions put together,” Dr Fagge said.
He added that 34 out of 39 universities were allocated the same capital vote of N53.7 irrespective of their varying needs.
In contrast, the ASUU President noted that the sum of N549 million was allocated for the procurement of computers by the headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Education, FME.
In the same vein, the union noted that over N1.255 billion was allocated for procurement of utility vehicles, N273 million for maintenance of FME website while over N1.9 billion was allocated for acquiring 17 Quality Assurance Offices.
ASUU also noted that while over N430 million and N920 million were voted for research and development at FME Headquarters and National Teachers Institute respectively, none of the universities was allocated a single kobo for research.
“The total capital appropriation each to the FMEHQ and 19 select Federal Government Secondary Schools is more than the capital votes of 39 Federal universities, 24 Polytechnics and 21 Federal Colleges of Education put together. Similarly, the capital appropriation to Mass Literacy Agency was approximately equal to that of the 39 Federal Universities,” Dr Fagge said.
On the condition of state universities, ASUU noted that many state governments have abandoned their primary responsibility of payment of salaries of staff and provision of infrastructures for the institutions in recent times.
Dr. Fagge told reporters that many of the universities, including Niger Delta University, Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State University of Science and Technology, Tai Solarin University of Education and Imo State University owe staff salaries and subventions running into between five and 10 months.
He added that other universities including Gombe State University, Kebbi State University, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Adamawa State University, and Osun State University are receiving salary subventions that fall far short of their needs to run properly.
The union noted that the recommendation in the Federal government agreement with ASUU that each state university shall require approximately N3.6 million per student for the period 2009 to 2011 inclusive of recurrent and capital grants has not been complied with.
“Regrettably, Visitors to State Universities have failed to fulfill this expectation. In most cases, funds for payment of salaries, though approved in State Budget are diverted to other uses.
“This unhealthy practice has continued to force university administrators to pay salaries largely with Internally Generated Revenue, IGR which is often not enough. Capital Development has been left at the mercy of Intervention funds from TETFund and the recent Needs Assessment Intervention Funds,” said ASUU.
The Union noted that with the development, industrial action now looms across the State universities.
“Our members at these universities have become restive, not only on matters of non payment of salaries, but also on the consequences of the poor funding for the quality of graduates being pushed into the polity,” the Union warned as it appealed to visitors to state universities to come to terms with the challenge of enormous funds needed to ensure high quality education.
While it recognized that the Federal Government adopted the Treasury Single Account to ensure transparency and elimination of waste of public funds, ASUU said the initiative has become an impediment to smooth functioning of the universities.
According to him, TSA has made it difficult for Federal Universities to discharge their core responsibilities of teaching, research, and community services as well as engaging in international academic networking due to inadequate access to budgeted funds.
The Union added that the implementation of TSA has also made it impossible for universities to buy equipment and consumables.
“It may also interest Nigerians to know that on account of TSA, Federal Universities have experienced shortfalls in their personnel costs in the months of December 2015 and January 2016 and this has caused serious delays in the payment of salaries for the same period, causing suffering for the families of workers who had earned their pay through work,” ASUU said while affirming its rejection of inclusion of the university system in the TSA initiative.
“TSA is incompatible with the autonomy of universities and our Union calls on the Federal Government to exempt the universities from its implementation on account of the peculiarities of the institutions,” said Dr. Isa.
Also, the Union said it is concerned about the recent removal of 12 VCs of the new universities and immediate appointment of new VCs to replace them because of its implications for due process, university growth, development and autonomy.
According to ASUU, this is because going by the University Miscellaneous (Amendment) Act 2003, only the Governing Councils are empowered to appoint and remove VCs. But the Union said the 12 universities have been operating illegally all along as the Jonathan administration which established them did not gazette the laws with which they were established. ASUU therefore advised the Federal Government to toe the path of legality by gazetting the law appointing the Councils and mandating the Councils to commence the process of appointing new VCs for the affected universities.
But the Union said the controversies surrounding the removal of the Vice Chancellor of the National Open Universities of Nigeria were unnecessary as he had completed his statutorily allowed tenure.
ASUU also decried the current economic crises being experienced by the country which it attributed to the failure of successive Nigerian government since 1960 to uphold the economic objectives of the Nigerian state as enshrined in the constitution and surrendering of the nation’s economy to the Bretton Woods’ institutions and privatization of the commanding heights of the nation’s economy.
The Union therefore asked for a re-examination of the privatization of the commanding heights of the economy by setting up a panel of patriotic citizens to re-examine all the privatizations done under the Obasanjo regime.
ASUU also gave its support to the mass protest against the hike in electricity tariffs by labour movements and civil society organizations. The Union said if allowed to stay, the new electricity tariff will worsen the living condition of Nigerians.
In its review of the 2016 budget proposal now before the National Assembly, ASUU warned that the spending plans may return Nigeria to the debt trap with the plans of government to borrow to fund the budget. Instead of borrowing, the Union advised that the N2.2 trillion recovered from the TSA and whatever else is recovered from looters should be ploughed in to finance the 2016 budget.tweet