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Conversation Nigeriana (5) | The Harmattan News

Professor Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Bishak: Enough of this insulting and arrant nonsense that is ASUU! This is unbecoming! El Rufai’s son has already said ASUU is ‘useless’ and should be ‘scrapped!

Modupe: Like father like son! They are both diminutive basket mouths! They talk before they think and that is why part of his state is under the control of bandits!

Bankole: Hehehehehe! Yes, unbecoming. Very unbecoming. But in the words of Dr Kingsley Mbadiwe, the come has become the come and unbecoming in an unbecoming manner!

Bishak: Stop jesting my friend. This is a serious matter. The whole educational system is under threat! ASUU has declared an indefinite strike!

Bankole: Jesting? Do you think I’m just jesting?

Anayo: Our elders say that when you want to say something serious, we use laughter to reduce tension.

Bankole: If we all were to carry the sorrows of the land in our faces and hearts, we would die before our time. Let’s allow all the jokes jor! After all, the federal government under Buhari is a joke, joking with the lives of two hundred million people!

Professor: Back to the real issues Mallam Bishak. What is new in all this that is unbecoming my friend? Is it the prolonged strike or the government’s lukewarm response? We should be used to the government’s penchant for allowing ASUU strikes to go on and on!

Amakiri: I don’t care what you say. We cannot afford to keep our undergraduate children at home because some cantankerous and irascible lecturers are in love with strikes, forgetting that their first duty is to impart knowledge. The world is laughing at us. Can our kids compete with their counterparts from other countries?

Anayo: If it’s just laughing at us, I won’t lose sleep. We have lost respect as businessmen. They won’t let us into Dubai. Even ‘Chinkos’ treat us like filth in Beijing. In Thailand, Nigerians are arrested and tortured at the drop of a hat.

Bishak: It is unacceptable. ASUU’s stubbornness and unreasonableness are a threat to the nation. The government must proscribe ASUU immediately. Haba!

Professor: Hahahaha! You make me laugh! Do you think proscribing ASUU will solve the crisis in the university system? Let the government go ahead. Proscribe ASUU. ASUU was banned by the military in 1988 when it called out its members on a national strike over wages and university autonomy. It was restored in 1990 and was banned again in August 1992 when it organized another strike. On 3rd September 1992, the ban was lifted after the government met its demands. There were strikes in 1994, 1996, 1999 (5 months) 2001 (3 months) 2002, 2003 (6 months) 2005, 2006, 2007 (3 months), May 2008, 2009 (4 months), 2010 (5 months), 2011. In 2013, there was a five-month strike just as the strikes in 2017, 2018, 2020 and now 2020. The 2020 strike lasted for nine months. Is this not indicative of something fundamentally wrong in the system?

Bankole: This government is known for being highly discriminatory in proscriptions, like it did with IPOB and Miyetti Allah. It is not likely to ban ASUU because of the national spread of the union. Did you read the press release issued by the Bayero University Kano branch of ASUU on the strike?

Anayo: Tell them oo! Tell them. IPOB is banned. Miyetti Allah is walking free supervising AK47-totting herdsmen who are attacking and killing innocent people in the north and the south. See the mess in Southeastern Nigeria now.

Bishak: My friend, don’t mix apples with oranges!

Professor: In Nigeria today, apples could be oranges and oranges apples once the government says so. That’s how degenerate we have become! Is APC an apple or orange? Ditto for PDP. Apple or arrange?

Modupe: They are birds of a feather!

Bankole: You don’t have to be so cynical.

Professor: Cynical you say? Is the country not in a cynical state? Look here, our universities are underfunded. The government does not give them enough funds yet the same government rules out asking students to pay for tuition. Salaries are miserable. If you know how lecturers struggle to make ends meet by developing multiple sources of income, then you will understand the enormity of the problem and appreciate the sacrifices of our eggheads. It’s the reason some teach in three places, pursue grants, and serve as consultants in different places.

Barr. Nyerovwo: Aside from eating pretty, little girls for breakfast before awarding grades?

Professor: Come on! Not everyone is so tainted. That’s the popular myth. We find unacceptable sexual practices in all institutions where there are men and women, including mosques and churches. Let us focus on the real issues. Students must pay fees. In state-owned universities, students pay for tuition. The world has not come to an end.

Modupe: But ASUU is opposed to students paying for education. You know, they are all socialists who believe that education should be free.

Barr. Nyerovwo: There is nowhere in the world where education is free! Someone pays for it. Who pays for it in Nigeria?

Professor: That is exactly the problem. If the government doesn’t want students to pay for tuition enough funds should be given to the universities. But funds are scarce. So the government doesn’t have enough money. It is my view that instead of doling out grants to universities, the fee payable per student should be paid into a National Education Bank from where students can borrow to pay fees. After graduation, they can then repay the loan!

Orezime: See this wicked man o! Students should take loans abi? How will they repay the loans? Did you take a loan when you were in the university? Didn’t you get support through the state bursary funds? Now you want students to take loans whereas you got free money!

Professor: The times have changed my sister; times have changed. Students were fewer, universities were fewer, and oil flowed and brought in money.

Orezime: …and stealing or looting the nation’s treasury was not as rampant as it is now!

Professor: In a sense yes. Those politicians in uniform were interested in ten percent or twenty percent. These days, government officials simply cart away everything!

Bankole: What can the nation do to reopen the universities? Life is already harsh on those long-suffering students. We should not make it harder!

Professor: Meet ASUU halfway on UTAS, new salary scale and release of funds. The way forward is not to award an increase arbitrarily like an emperor. Mr Adamu Adamu is behaving like the Adamu in the butt of jokes about ‘wetin Musa no go see for gate!

Orezime: Hahahaha! Prof! Adamu and Musa are different persons!

Professor: Aboki is Aboki! But seriously, Adamu is streaming a cultural narrative- that of ethnic ignorance! He has become the issue, sadly. He must learn to manage his temper. He is the same man that walked out on representatives of the students’ community because he thought they were rude. Now he has asked the same students he treated with contempt to take ASUU to court!

Anayo: The students know who their enemies are. They know the outrageous allowances and salaries which legislators allocate to themselves, and the stupendous amounts stolen by politicians either directly or by proxies.

Bankole: We need to adopt a new model for funding education. As a nation, we allocate less than 10% of our resources to education. Yet, we know that education is key to building a new Nigeria. We shouldn’t allocate anything less than 25% to education.

Bishak: You are right. I don’t know why my Oga at the top is more interested in building ranches than building schools!

Modupe: GBAM!

Prof. Eghagha writes from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka Lagos.

Education

Obi Vows To Stop ASUU Strikes If Elected President

Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi has said that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will not embark on industrial action if he is elected president.

Obi spoke at a campaign rally in Owerri, the Imo state capital city, on Tuesday.

The former governor of Anambra said the future of any serious country is dependent on education and health, adding that he would invest in the two sectors.

“If you make me your president and Datti my vice, ASUU won’t go on strike. We will dialogue with them.We will work with the student

“The future of any serious country is dependent on their education and health sectors. I will invest hugely in those sectors if you elect us”, he said.

 

 

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Education

“We Were Not Part Of Strike”, CONUA Vows To Sue F.G Over Withheld Salaries

Rival Academic union, Congress of University Academics has expressed its disappointment with the Federal Government, especially the Ministry of Labour and Employment, over the non-payment of its members’ withheld salaries “even when the government knew that the union did not call for strike action and its members were not involved in the strike action that lasted for eight months and which shut down the university system nationwide.”

In statement on Tuesday by its National President, Secretary and Publicity Secretary, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, Dr Henry Oripeloye and Dr Ernest Nwoke, respectively, CONIA  argued that it was wrong for the FG to lump CONUA with members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities who went on eight months strike between February and October, 2022.

The new union of lecturers thereby viewed to sue FG for withholding its members’ salaries.

The statement partly read, “CONUA formally made its non-involvement in the strike known to the Federal Government in a letter addressed to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, in April 2022.

“In the letter, we made it clear that because CONUA constituted a separate and independent union in the university system, our members did not call for any strike. This was followed by a Press Conference in Abuja on August 19, 2022 at which it was categorically stated that CONUA was not part of any ongoing strike, and that the “No Work No Pay” principle ought not to apply to members of the union.

“CONUA’s expectation is that, due to the express and categorical declaration, the government would seamlessly release our members’ outstanding salaries when it resumed the payment of salaries to all university staff in October 2022. But to our dismay, CONUA members were also paid pro-rata salaries in complete disregard to the fact that we were indeed shut out of duties by the strike.

“Subsequently, we wrote to the Accountant-General of the Federatıon and the Ministry of Labour and Employment reminding them that it was an error to lump our members with those that declared and embarked on strike action. It was yet another shock for the outstanding backlog of salaries not to have been paid to our members along with the November 2022 salary.”

CONUA said the non-payment of “our withheld salaries” contravenes Section 43 (1b) of the Trade Disputes Act CAP. T8, which stated that “where any employer locks out his workers, the workers shall be entitled to wages and any other applicable remunerations for the period of the lock-out and the period of the lock-out shall not prejudicially affect any rights of the workers being rights dependent on the continuity of period of employment.”

“This provision is consistent with global best practices,” it added.

“From the foregoing and as a law-abiding union that pledged to do things differently, we have resolved to seek legal redress of the illegal withholding of our legitimate salaries by taking the matter to court in consonance with the rights enshrined in our laws,” the union said.

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Education

Again, ASUU Berates FG Over “Half-Salary”

The Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) has again slammed the federal government over non-implementation of its demands.

ASUU has been at loggerheads with the government over its decision to pay members half of their salaries after the union’s eight-month strike ended.

The national executive council (NEC) of the union held a two-day meeting at the University of Calabar (UNICAL) in Cross River state to review the development and other issues affecting members.

The national president, Emmanuel Osodeke in a statement said ASUU faulted the federal government’s policies on education including the proposed introduction of education loans.

The union said such policies are indication that the government is not ready to fund public varsities.

“NEC observed with concern the systematic disengagement of government from funding of Public Universities through the proposed introduction of education loan which has proven to be a monumental failure in our nation and some other countries where it was introduced,” the statement reads.

“We find it troubling that the proponents of the policy are so eager to foist it down the throat of Nigerians when they have done more to push the working people of this country into poverty through sheer incompetence in handling the economic fortunes of our nation.

“ASUU calls on Nigerians of goodwill to, in the interest of our students and the nation, prevail on the Nigerian government to urgently address all outstanding issues contained in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action.

“NEC rejects with vehemence, the current attempts to impose master-slave treatment as a mechanism for relating with Nigerian scholars under whatever guise by the ruling class. ASUU members are citizens, not slaves.

“Finally, NEC appreciates the resilience of our members and their families. Their understanding and perseverance, in the face of hardship and provocation occasioned by the government’s intransigence and insensitivity shall be rewarded by posterity.”

On half salaries paid to members, ASUU said: “As reflected in the pro-rated salaries paid to our members for the month of October 2022, as well as the continued withholding of our member’s salaries for the preceding eight months, even when the backlog of the work is being covered by our members in various universities.”

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