Ebonyi state Governor David Umahi has called on the federal government to come to an understanding with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to put an end to six months of industrial action embarked upon by the lecturers.
The governor also said the N1.1trillion demand by the union was genuine, especially as it is meant to better the academic situations of the tertiary institutions in the country.
He, however, admitted that borrowing such an amount for the universities would be difficult.
Umahi disclosed this in his office at Centenary City, Abakaliki, the state capital, when he received a delegation of the Board of Trustees of the Nigeria Police Trust Fund, led by Ben Akabueze.
The governor, who expressed worries over the elongation of the industrial action, said students had taken to social vices and idling away.
He said: “Let me say a little in education which is in our public domain and which the ASUU strike is and I think that our education system is not being properly articulated.
“University education is not for everybody and that is the truth. The basic education every country strives to attain is a secondary school and vocational schools. These are the basic schools and when you have these qualifications, you will be able to use them either to start up something or to be able to use it to be employed and while you are in employment, if you don’t have the mercy, you will be able to aspire to university education.
“There is a need to review our educational system, it mustn’t be for everybody. I am not ashamed that I have a first degree and my Deputy is a Ph.D. holder, it doesn’t matter. It is what you bring on board. So, I cannot see how we cannot sit down with our ASUU leaders and iron out this problem about the ASUU strike.
“I have read social media, and newspapers about how students got into trouble just by sitting at home or engaging in means of keeping themselves busy instead of being in schools. There is no way the country Nigeria will go and borrow 1.1trillion to meet ASUU demand, it’s quite unreasonable. Are their demands genuine? Yes, but we can start little by little
“There must be a commitment on the side of both parties that look, this ASUU is not asking this to take to their houses so to say, there are asking it for our children to better the infrastructure, to better the lecturers and the students. Yes, but we can start with a fraction of that and then have a program that will run on the platform of sincerity to address all the lots.
“But let me also say that most of the time, our people have a low appetite for maintenance of public works. No matter how much you deploy to these universities, unless the users, the industry, and the regulators, unless they begin to treat public infrastructure as their own in the various universities, it will continue to go bad no matter how much the federal government deploys to it.
“So, it is important for ASUU to show some understanding and for those who are negotiating on the side of government to also show some understanding. Let’s meet ourselves halfway and open the schools to save the fate of our children.”
ASUU leader to meet splinter CONUA
In a related development, ASUU President Professor Emmanuel Osodeke is scheduled to attend the congress of the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife (OAU) chapter of the union Thursday.
Secretary of the chapter of the union, Kayode Atilade, said this in a statement, noting that Osodeke will address the congress “on the status of its struggles.”
Premium Times said although the statement was silent on the specific issues to be addressed, this may not be unconnected to the raging conflicts between the union and the university management especially over the sharing of the earned academic allowance recently released by the government.
The university’s chapter of ASUU is also at loggerheads with a breakaway faction under the umbrella of the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA), with Osodeke being fingered as a major protagonist in the crisis.
Osodeke versus CONUA
CONUA leadership on the campus has consistently accused the ASUU leader of being a major culprit in the leadership crisis that plagued the union on the campus, which it said, forced some members to form a parallel union in 2018.
CONUA was founded after the expulsion of some ASUU members of the union on the campus over leadership crisis.
Osodeke, before becoming the union’s president, headed a committee set up by the national leadership of ASUU to investigate the crisis rocking the OAU branch at the time.
The crisis had been traced to the selection process of the university’s 11th substantive vice-chancellor in 2016, with members accusing the then leadership of ASUU on the campus of tilting its scale towards a particular candidate.
The crisis had also consumed the then outgoing and 10th substantive vice-chancellor of the university, Bamitale Omole, who was molested by the non-academic staff union members on the campus and chased out of the institution. Mr Omole was unable to successfully complete his term.
Some ASUU members had accused Osodeke of submitting to the union leadership a report “that was completely against the facts on ground.”
“Osodeke in fact is a fundamental factor in the OAU crisis,” said Niyi Sunmonu, National Coordinator of CONUA.
But the ASUU boss has constantly denied this, and accused the aggrieved members of wanting him to “ignore the facts of the matter then, but to write a report that favoured them.”
‘CONUA not on strike’
The leadership of CONUA has also said it is not part of the ongoing strike by ASUU led by Osodeke.
CONUA noted that its members continued to work at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, until other workers’ unions declared industrial action.
ASUU has been on strike since 14 February, demanding better funding for the university system and better remuneration for its members.
ASUU is demanding the implementation of the renegotiated 2009 agreement with the Nigerian government as well as the deployment of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) to replace the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) used by the government for the payment of its members’ emoluments.