The Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities may be preparing for another showdown as the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has insisted the government will not pay full salaries to lecturers despite their ongoing nationwide protest.
ASUU had on Monday begun protests across the country to press home their demand for full pay after the Federal Government failed to pay them for the eight-month period the lecturers were on strike.
However, Adamu, who spoke with State House correspondents in Abuja on Wednesday, insisted the protesting lecturers would not be paid for work not done in line with ‘No work no pay’ policy.
GOGAN TV reports that ASUU, which embarked on strike in February, called off the industrial action in October, after a Court of Appeal order them to do so.
Following the development, the government paid the lecturers half salaries for the month of October while insisting that it would not pay for the eight months they were on strike.
In response, ASUU began protests across the country. But the education minister declared on Wednesday that the lecturers “would not be paid for work not done.”
The minister also reacted to the allegation made by the President of ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodoke, that paying the lecturers on pro-rata basis was a ploy to make them casual workers.
“Nobody can make university lecturers casual workers,” he said. When told that the lecturers were threatening a one-day action to protest government’s action, Adamu said he was not aware.
Meanwhile, Bayero University, Kano, has rescheduled all academic activities including its first semester examination slated for November 7, 2022, following the ongoing nationwide protests declared by ASUU
A statement by the Secretary, Information and Publication Unit of the university on behalf of the Registrar, Bala Abdullahi, said academic activities had been postponed to a later date.
The Vice-Chairman, ASUU, BUK branch, Dr. Sagir Saleh, told reporters that the union decided to protest to show their “total rejection” of the “amputated” salary paid to members for the month of October 2022.
Also, the University of Benin chapter of ASUU has carpeted the Federal Government over its alleged attempt to criminalise the union’s strike action.
In a statement titled, “The onslaught against intellectualism,” read by the union chairman of the chapter, Ray Chikogu, at its secretariat in UNIBEN, the lecturers condemned government’s decision to withhold their salaries.
Also, the ASUU chairman for the University of Ilorin, Professor Moyosore Ajao, called on the Federal Government to pay the backlog of salaries owed members of ASUU during the strike period.
Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondents, Ajao said, “My question back to them is if the work is going to be done, will the money be paid or not? If they are saying no payment for work not done, ASUU is not asking them to pay us for work not done. We are asking them to pay us because the work is going to be done.”
Meanwhile, the President, ASUU, Osodeke, on Wednesday alleged that politicians were planning to privatise federal universities across the country. Speaking at a special congress of the ASUU of the Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University, formerly known as Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, in honour of the outgoing Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Richard Kimbir, Osodeke said the two options were being considered by the presidential candidates of some parties in the forthcoming general elections.
He said, “If you don’t know, they are planning to sell the universities (federal universities) through public-private partnership, this is being planned by two presidential candidates and the other plan is to initiate student loan at five per cent interest rate.
According to him, contrary to what is obtainable in USA, where student can easily get job and repay the loan, the situation in the country is more difficult due to the lack of jobs for graduates.
“In Nigeria where you have graduates that cannot get a job for several years and by the time you spend 30 years, the loan will run to N40m,” he observed.
Meanwhile, the Chairperson, ASUU, ATBU, Bauchi Branch, Dr. Ibrahim Inuwa, has alleged that the Federal Government is deliberately underfunding public universities to deny the masses access to education through exorbitant fees.
He spoke at a press conference held at the ASUU secretariat, shortly after staging a peaceful protest with ASUU members.
He said, “After suspending the eight months strike due to a court order and interventions of well-meaning Nigerians, the government went so low to withhold the salaries of ASUU members and only paid pro-rata for the October salary. The union rejects the casualisation of Nigerian academics.
Meanwhile, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, on Wednesday said the recently suspended industrial action by ASUU was avoidable if continuous dialogue approach had been adopted.
Abubakar spoke in Osogbo at the inauguration and handover of 25-bedroom guest house donated by the Babalakin family to Fountain University.
He described the strike as unfortunate, saying being part of the Federal Government negotiation team with ASUU, made him realised that honesty by parties would have prevented the industrial action.
He then commended the Babalakin family for the kind gesture, saying since the government could not singlehandedly fund education, well-meaning Nigerians should come forward to assist in improving the condition of learning, especially in universities.
Abubakar said, “We just came out of an unfortunate ASUU crisis. I believe we have come out of it. For eight months, our children were at home, very sad and frustrating. These are things that we could have avoided by continuously talking because it is not today that ASUU started having problems with the government and they will never stop having problem with the government.
“The best thing is that anytime there is a problem, you sit down and discuss to find a way out. So, when you have a problem with anyone, what you should do is to sit down and dialogue in an honest way and once you have agreed on any terms, please try to implement your agreement.
“But if you think you cannot, come back to the table again and discuss more, then you have other alternatives to solve the problem – but not embarking on strike that will affect the children. I know how more of our children have been affected psychologically and emotionally by the eight months strike, I think that is not good for us,” the religious leader said.
Speaking on behalf of the Babalakin family, Dr. Wale Babalakin, SAN, said his late father, Justice Bola Babalakin, led an honest life and that the building was donated to Fountain University on the understanding that the institution would continue to maintain probity and discipline in its affairs.
In his goodwill message, Osun State Governor, Adeboyega Oyetola, assured stakeholders that his administration would continue to provide conducive environment for the university to operate.