Pw did Keyamo arrive at N1.2trn for ASUU?




It is well known that members of the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU), the umbrella body of academic staff in Nigerian oublic universities, have been on strike for six months. Specifically, the strike began on February 14, 2022. Typical of the union of academics, it made sure that all means of avoiding the strike were exhausted before declaring the industrial action. Other university unions followed suit to avoid being left out in case ASUU emerged successful.

The issues are many and not all of them have to do with money and, in fact, not all the money mentioned in the dispute between ASUU and the federal government goes to the pockets of ASUU members. No money goes to the union at all except the monthly dues it collects from members. It is not the duty of a trade union like ASUU to collect and disburse funds. That is the duty of university administrations.

Let me explain in plain language. But before I do, certain facts are important.

Although licenses have been given by the federal government for the establishment of many private universities in Nigeria, only about six percent of Nigerian university students are currently in private universities. More than 90 per cent of university students are in public universities owned by both states and federal governments.

Another important note is that there are currently more supporting staff in public universities than operational (academic) staff. Consequently, there are three other unions in public universities apart from ASUU. People usually do not differentiate between ASUU and others, largely due to government’s propaganda. All of these unions are now on strike.

Nigerians may also wish to note that undergraduate students in federal universities do not pay a Kobo as tuition fees as long as they are Nigerians. The very little they pay as registration fees are for services like identity cards, games, hostel, etc.

The issues for which members of ASUU are on strike are the same issues for which the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan government commended the union for being patriotic and selfless. One of them is the proliferation of public universities. Does it make sense that the same government that persistently complains of not having enough funds to run its existing universities is continuously establishing new universities in every nook and cranny of the country?

Revitalisation of public universities for which an agreement was reached by the immediate past government to release N1.3 trillion in six installments is what the federal government has been using to misinform the public that ASUU is looking for too much money. Thus, any time the federal government releases some paltry N30 billion, for example, it tells the world that it has given additional money to ASUU. I think that is why some patriotic Nigerians once agreed to “donate N18 billion to ASUU” to call off its strike. This money does not go to ASUU. It is used to carry out projects by contractors appointed by the federal government or its appointee governing councils.

The only other thing that involves cash is the renegotiation of 2009 agreement. In case you do not understand this, it is about the condition of service (SALARY AND ALLOWANCES) of academic staff which the government promised to review every four years and the promise was not fulfilled for 13 years. In 2020, after an ASUU strike, the federal government set up a committee to renegotiate with ASUU and other unions.

The committee finished its work and submitted its report in May 2021. The report was dumped and, despite ASUU’s constant reminders and follow-ups, was only dusted when ASUU began its strike in March, this year. That was when this government realised that it could not pay what was recommended by the committee. The same government set up another committee, the report of which it is not willing to disclose.

As a student or parent, you are aware of all of the above if you have been following engagement of ASUU with the federal government. I am only reminding you, in case, you have forgotten.

I am particularly shocked to hear the Minister of State Labour calling on parents to appeal to ASUU to end the strike. The reason is that they cannot afford N1.2 trillion ASUU is asking for. When did ASUU ask for this amount? Is it the revitalisation fund Keyamo is talking about, which ASUU never requested the federal government to pay in bulk? If that is the case, why does it have to take the federal government six months of ASUU strike to state it? Or is it the result of renegotiation for which the the federal government never called ASUU and stated what it can pay? It just doesn’t make any sense.

What about other issues like the UTAS for which the federal government has been meeting with ASUU and making claims of having conducted tests with xy results? Is Keyamo also appealing to parents to beg ASUU on it?

And who are these parents? Please, let all the government officials involved in this ASUU/FG negotiation mention the number of children they have in public universities and the programmes they are following. Of course, I know the children of Mr President, the person we elected, were schooling in UK. I wrote to advise him against it when his family celebrated the graduation of one of his daughters in December 2019. Whether or not the advice of nonentities like me matters is a different thing. It is the ordinary we that cast the votes anyway.

Finally, let me remind Mr President that he has only less than a year to leave office. Unfortunately, nearly all his die-hard supporters I know have been disappointed. This is largely due to the people he entrusts with very important issues like security and education.

On the particular issue of ASUU and sister unions, Mr President seems to be overconfident in the Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, a South-east politician who was expecting you to anoint him to take over from you next year. When you refused to do it, one of them who is also in your cabinet stood before you in the last convention and accused you and your party of injustice. With that, can you rule out sabotage?

Mr President Sir, please use the little time left to correct the mistakes made and avoid making another regrettable blunder. Nigerians did not elect Ngige, Keyamo, Zainab or any of those. In fact, if not for you these names would have long disappeared into obscurity. Please, remember, Sir, that most of the APC politicians who won 2015 and 2019 elections especially in the North because of you. So, the expectation is high and the performance is dismal.

I hope Mr. President reads this.

Jibia writes via [email protected]

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