The Nigerian university system may experience soon another round of strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over allegation that the Federal Government and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation have been victimising lecturers through refusal to pay them salaries running between two and 10 months, despite suspending the last industrial action on ‘no victimisation clause.’
The Chairman of ASUU, University of Ibadan, Prof Ayo Akinwole, raised the alarm on Sunday in a statement he made available to journalists in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, saying members of the public should rather blame the Federal Government and not ASUU, peradventure the union resumed the strike it suspended barely three months ago.
According Akinwole, “On December 23, 2020 ASUU conditionally suspended (with effect from 12:01 am on Thursday, 24th December, 2020) its 9-months old strike action which it began in March 23rd 2020 owing to the failure of the Nigerian Government to address the outstanding issues as outlined in the collective bargaining agreements of 2009,2013,2017 and 2019 freely reached and signed between the Government and ASUU. The suspension of the strike was based on an agreement reached and a ‘Memorandum of Action’ signed in good faith between the Government and the ASUU at the stakeholders’ meeting held on the Tuesday, 22nd December, 2020.
“A major common position agreed to (and expected to be respected) by the Government and ASUU was that ‘Nobody shall be victimised in any way whatsoever for his/her role in the process leading to the Memorandum of Action.’ The agreement reached on the 22nd December 2020 imposed some obligations on both the Government and ASUU. On the part of ASUU, the union undertake to go back to the classrooms, laboratories, workshops, workstations and so on, to do the best for the students and the country.
“The Governments, both Federal and State, are to sincerely fulfil their own part of the bargain, a major part which is the No Victimisation clause. While ASUU as a union, and her members as individuals in various branches have remained faithful to this agreement by returning to classes and performing their respective duties, the Federal Government, true to type, has renege on its part.
“Contrary to FGN affirmation of its commitment to pay all withheld salaries of ASUU members who have not enrolled in the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information system (IPPIS), three months after the suspension of strike, thousands of ASUU members across various branch are still being owed salaries. While confirming that government is defraying the generally withheld five months salaries at an agonisingly slow rate of one outstanding salary per month, the salaries of some members, running to hundreds have been permanently and consistently withheld by the office of Accountant general of the federation (OAGF).
“Officials of the OAGF keep adducing flimsy untenable reasons for the perpetual non- payment of salaries, demanding loads of paperwork and documents both from the union and the bursary unit of the various universities as well as the university administration. The requested documents have consistently been provided on a monthly basis yet the salaries remain unpaid.
“In the university of Ibadan, March 10, 2021, 67 ASUU members that are on regular nominal payroll have their salaries ranging from two to ten months still unpaid as at March 10, 2020, over 80 ASUU-UI members in the faculty of veterinary medicine have their medical allowances of over eight months still unpaid. Ten sabbatical lecturers, including an expatriate from Europe are being owed salaries of between two to twelve months. Fifteen lecturers who resumed duty in the University of Ibadan on fresh appointment early last year are yet to be paid a dime for 13 months after taking up and discharging their duties. All these are fallouts of the union members not enrolling on the government IPPIS.
“This government has again reneged on its agreement with ASUU and can no longer be trusted. Since the suspension of strike, three months ago, none of the issues in contention has been completely attended to. Despite the non-subscription, nor registration of most ASUU members on the national housing fund (NHF) scheme, the OAGF has failed not only to refund the illegally deducted NHF contribution from ASUU members salaries since February 2020,the NHF deductions is still being made from the salaries of members.
“ASUU as a union is not spared from the victimisation and surreptitious undermining by the Federal Government .The government, through the OAGF has continued to withhold the union’s check-off dues it deducted from members’ salaries since February 2020. Federal Government till date has withheld over 77 per cent union dues it ought to remit into the account of ASUU, University of Ibadan branch. This, in the view of the union, is a direct attack to cripple the union, a grand plan of the Federal Government.
“Instead of deploying the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) software developed by ASUU, which has been adjudged effective for payment of salaries, some of our members, who are still being denied their salaries and others are being coerced by agents of government to register on the repressive IPPIS for payment of salaries.
“The ASUU and her members are made to suffer from all the aforementioned attacks by the Federal Government, while the public expects our members, some of who now live on the charity of family members and colleagues for survival to use their personal resources to discharge their duties diligently in the universities
“These harsh conditions would have terrible consequences on public tertiary education in Nigeria and when push eventually comes to shove, as it definitely will, in no distant future, the Nigerian public should accordingly blame the Federal Government for its insincerity, blame the Federal Government of Nigeria if the universities are shut down again.”