…says no Nigerian university rated among first one thousand universities in the world
Raymond Ozoji, Awka
The Academic Staff Union of Universities in Nigeria (ASUU) has declared that the nation will not be free until the academia is free from the tutelage and strangleholds of the powers that be.
This was contained in the 60th independence anniversary felicitations of ASUU national president Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi.
The independence anniversary message which was made available to our correspondent by the ASUU chairperson of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh, stated that the Nigerian flag was 60 years old but Nigerian academics who hold the keys to its true freedom are in chains.
The message has it that the Accountant-General of the federation has declared total war on ASUU members in federal universities by withholding their salaries while some state governors have not funded universities for years.
Corroborating the position of the national president, ASUU NAU chairperson noted that there was absolutely nothing to celebrate at 60 because no Nigerian university was rated among the first ten in Africa nor the first one thousand universities in the world.
He also noted that there were no good roads, no healthcare facilities, acute unemployment and worst still the nation was perceived as the poverty headquarters of the world yet regarded as the giant of Africa.
According to him, lecturers grapple with the harsh realities of between three and eight months unpaid salary arrears amidst the devastating and excruciating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet the federal government stands aloof and watches them groan and gnash their teeth in agony.
Ufoaroh also pointed out that unpaid salaries were not the only demand of ASUU from the federal government. He said some of the demands include knowing how vice chancellors spent monies allocated to universities through their offices, revitalization of universities amongst others even as he also debunked the claim by the labour minister Dr. Chris Ngige that ASUU members were receiving salaries and enrolling in the federal government’s Integrated Personnel Payroll System (IPPIS). He said such were arrant falsehood and that the labour minister was misinforming members of the public.
His counterpart in the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Dr. Christian Opata, disclosed that ASUU would not resort to carrying placards because it was currently negotiating with the federal government on the possibility of UTAS being a suitable replacement for IPPIS.
Opata emphasized that ASUU was unperturbed by the confiscation of members’ salaries and allowances but stressed that the federal government will definitely offset the arrears of salaries owed to ASUU members as the union will not surrender nor concede defeat in its struggle for better welfare packages for academic staff and the university system at large.
The ASUU UNN boss however dissociated the union from the claim of the minister of labour and employment Dr. Chris Ngige that ASUU members were being paid salaries, describing it as false.
Also, the ASUU chairperson of the Federal University of Technology Owerri Imo state Dr. Christopher Echereobia recalled that ASUU embarked on an indefinite and comprehensive strike on 23rd March this year because of government inability to honour and respect agreement reached with the union in 2009 as well as the memorandum of action of 2017 and 2019 respectively.
Echereobia also explained that part of the reasons was the rejection of IPPIS by ASUU because the union felt that the scheme would not address the peculiarities of its members.
The ASUU FUTO chairperson noted that rather than have an understanding with the union, government unfortunately decided to withhold salaries of lecturers across the country.
He said some ASUU members have not received a dime as salary since February this year till date in spite of the ravaging effects of COVID-19, as if ASUU members were not Nigerian citizens.
According to him, ASUU was resolute and determined to engage government until it became responsive to its responsibilities.
Although he noted that the major challenge facing the union was the withholding of members’ salaries, he emphasized also that it was the sacrifice they would pay to liberate the nation’s university system from neo-colonialism.
Echereobia said Dr. Chris Ngige has decided to mislead the public with false information. He said it was rather unfortunate that a one-time governor, senator of the Federal Republic and honourable minister would stoop so low to tell lies on a national television.
He emphasized that ASUU was tired of being deceived by memorandum of understanding that government would not implement, adding that this time government must show practical commitments to the demands of ASUU; else members were ready to starve to death to get the federal government to ameliorate the plight of the academia and the university system in Nigeria.
The minister of labour and employment Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige had said on a national television that ASUU strike would end soon because government was currently negotiating with the union.
Ngige had also stated that government would hold a crucial meeting with ASUU after the 60th independence anniversary celebrations to resolve the industrial action embarked upon by the union.