I just read a new threat from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) informing the federal government of Nigeria that it could resume its suspended 9-month strike if the government does not honour its agreement to pay its members on time. First, the federal government is wrong to have promised what it knew it could not easily do. Secondly, ASUU was naïve to have believed everything in that document.
This is the reality: Nigeria cannot fund our current university system. If you check our national education budget, it is way smaller than what Harvard University spends! In short, Harvard spends close to 3x what Nigeria budgets for the ministry of education, from primary to university levels.
The problem is complicated because the professors are part of the problems. Yes, everyone wants to be a Vice Chancellor and the more schools established, the higher the number of opportunities. So, as politicians mushroom opening new schools (not necessarily for increasing access for students), professors have hailed them. For most politicians, it is simple: locate a university in your local government and be remembered eternally for that achievement.
And for the professors, that is another opportunity for more VCs, DVCs, and all those administrative positions. So, at the end, we are scaling university bureaucracy even when the main academic and research work suffers.
More than 80% of federal universities which have been started since 2000 could have been colleges within existing university systems, under unified administrations. By the time you run the numbers, and if Nigeria followed that model of administrative efficiency, that nation could be saving billions of naira which will then go into actual learning. Today, what do we have? Bureaucratic systems where a former VC of Kwara State University could buy a bulletproof Toyota at the cost of N74 million as an official car, even when the school borrows N400 million monthly to pay salaries!
For decades, ASUU strikes have not achieved much – and there is no certainty that future strikes can have different outcomes. The problem of ASUU is a mirror of Nigeria’s problems: no accountability and responsibility. Yes, how do you expect a governor to pay your salaries and expect him to allow you to run the school in Nigeria? You want autonomy except financial autonomy. None of this generation of political leaders will hand you the cheque books and relinquish power, strike or no strike!
About two months before he was to leave office, in 2019, as vice-chancellor of Kwara State University, Abdulrasheed Na’Allah wrote to then Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed, asking for a N74 million official vehicle; a vehicle he would go away with after he left office. This was despite the institution borrowing almost N400 million monthly to pay salaries, according to a panel that later probed the decision.
The N74 million vehicle was part of the N100 million severance package that the panel indicted the vice-chancellor of going away with under controversial circumstances. The professor was given a chance to defend himself before the panel. He did not.
“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 reneged 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.
“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 are still being denied their salaries and others are being coerced by agents of the government to register on the repressive IPPIS for payment of salaries.
“The Union 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.”---
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