The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) commenced its ongoing strike on February 14, 2022, as the Federal Government failed to meet some of its demands, including the release of revitalisation funds for universities, renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, release of earned allowances for university lecturers, and deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
Adamu Adamu, minister of education, has insisted that all contentious issues between the government and ASUU, have been settled, except the quest for members’ salaries for the period they have been on strike to be paid, which was vehemently rejected by President Muhammadu Buhari, insisting on “No work, No pay” legal provision.
ASUU’s key demands
1. Funding for the revitalisation of public universities. The Federal Government, in its agreement entered with the union in 2009 and 2013, agreed to inject a total of N1.3 trillion into public universities in six tranches, starting from 2013. Only N200 billion has been released since 2013.
2. Payment of earned academic allowances (EEA). The Federal Government had in 2019 agreed to pay lecturers EAA, but failed to implement it. The government finally agreed to pay the first tranche of the backlog of allowances in November 2019 and the second instalment by August 2020, but nothing was paid. In 2020, the Federal Government agreed to pay N40 billion. It also said it has released N22.127 billion earned allowances of both academic and non-academic workers of universities to 38 universities.
3. Reconstitution of the FGN/ASUU 2009 Renegotiation Committee. The Federal Government agreed to renegotiate the 2009 agreement to review university’s conditions of service, funding, university autonomy and academic freedom. The conditions of service included a separate salary structure for university lectures to be known as ‘Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure’. Thirteen years later, the government inaugurated a seven-man committee to renegotiate the 2019 agreement, led by Nimi Briggs.
4. Adoption of UTAS. ASUU kicked against the introduction of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), and wants the government to accept its own UTAS.
5. Constitution of visitation panels. The union is demanding that the government ought to visit its universities every five years, according to the law, but the last visit was conducted in January 2011. The Nigerian government finally inaugurated 10 panels for 36 universities, six for 25 polytechnics, and five for 21 colleges of education.
6. Proliferation of universities.
The union is calling for the review of the Nigeria Universities Commission (2004) Act to tackle the proliferation of universities.
7. Withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues. These are contained on December 22, 2020 Memorandum of Action. ASUU accused the Federal Government of deducting check-off dues on behalf of the union and refused to remit the same between February and June 2020.
8. Twenty-six percent budgetary allocation to the education sector. In a bid to improve the education sector, the union wants 26 percent of Nigeria’s annual budget to be allocated to education, and half of that allocation to universities.
ASUU’s demands not yet met
On August 29 2022, the union embarked on an indefinite strike, explaining that the government had not met most of its demands and was not showing the readiness to do so.
Emmanuel Osodeke, president of ASUU, while announcing the indefinite strike, said that none of the issues that forced the union to resume the suspended strike as listed in the December 2020 FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action had been satisfactorily addressed by the government.
BusinessDay findings highlight the demands that have not met or partially met by the Federal Government.
The draft renegotiated FGN-ASUU Agreement remains unsigned.
Though Federal Government has accepted UTAS, it has not been adopted and deployed to replace the IPPIS.
The government is yet to release the white paper on the reports of the Visitation Panels to Universities. ASUU had demanded a constitution of visitation panels, which the government has done, but the union is now demanding the release of the white paper of the panel.
It has also not yet delivered on the promised balance of one tranche of the Revitalisation Fund more than one year after. The union said the outstanding two tranches of the EAA have not been released.
Again, nothing has happened on the promised support for amendment to the Law of the National Universities Commission to stem the tide of proliferation of universities, especially by the state governments.
Nigeria’s allocation to the education sector still falls below 26 percent as demanded by ASUU. In 2022, budgetary allocation to education was at 5.4 percent.
The education minister said the government can only afford a 23.5 percent salary increase for all categories of the workforce in federal universities, except for the professorial cadre, which will enjoy a 35 percent upward review, but said the union had rejected the offer.
The government said allowances that pertain to ad-hoc duties of the academic and non-academic staff shall henceforth be paid as and when due by the governing councils of universities to which such services are rendered and to the staff who perform them.
The government proposed a sum of N150 billion to be provided for in the 2023 budget as funds for the revitalisation of federal universities, to be disbursed to the institutions in the first quarter of the year.
It also proposed that a sum of N50 billion shall be provided for in the 2023 budget for the payment of outstanding areas of EAA, to be paid in the first quarter of the year.
But ASUU has not accepted the offer on the grounds that it is inadequate to meet their respective demands needed to tackle the challenges confronting the university system. The minister, however, insisted that the Federal Government would not sign any agreement that it would not be able to implement.