• Nigerian scholars don’t have the enabling environment to work
• Blames low ranking of Nigerian varsities on government
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the Federal Government of forcefully migrating its members to the controversial integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Already, the union said the government had obtained the Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) of members and has been paying them under the new template in the last four months.
The union also deplored the poor state of infrastructure in the nation’s tertiary institutions, saying this is responsible for the unimpressive ranking of Nigerian universities.
ASUU national president, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi alleged that government has continued to pay university teachers distorted salaries.
“Members are very displeased with forceful migration to IPPIS because some inexplicable deductions are forcefully been made from their salaries. For instance, we cannot understand why anybody will tell us they have started deducting contributions for mortgage when people have not filled any form for such. We find this awkward and we see it as an attempt to forcefully bring down the income of our members, because we all know the history of mortgage banking in this country, and whether there is law or not, people’s consent must be sought.
“They must know what you are doing with their funds before you take them, therefore for five months the government has deducted from our salaries, where is the money? I can assure you that it is going to become a big issue sooner or later. We know the history of a federal mortgage bank in this country and anybody that is fully knowledgeable about this would think twice before enlisting in such.
“Many of the lecturers being forcefully migrated to mortgage have already taken loans from cooperative societies in their various institutions and they are paying back. Some have even applied to take loans to build their own houses. We know what happened last year when President Muhammadu Buhari refused to assent to the law for this mortgage contribution, why are they forcing people to it? We have reasons to suspect the real motives for it. What we have done on our own part is to intensify efforts in developing our alternative to IPPIS, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
“Since government has challenged us, we shall soon prove that we can do better by providing an alternative that is more sensitive to the peculiarities of the university system.”
While the union is not expecting universities to be reopened at this time following the COVID-19 pandemic, Ogunyemi said ASUU expects the government to use the period of the lockdown to address the challenges in the universities.
“When we were going on strike on March 21, we called on the government to use the opportunity to address the problems in the sector, but nothing has happened, that is why today, we are talking about what to do with our schools in order to go back and start learning. It is part of our inability to act proactively; in other climes, what we said earlier would have been taking more seriously. The government would have used the opportunity of the lockdown to address basic things that should be put in place before schools are reopened. “
“Our members can train themselves to even contribute in the production of ventilators and others, the facilities for them to work, invest and contribute towards the fabrication of those things are not there.
“Government is now talking of emergency fund for research on COVID-19. This is part of what we have been talking about if our universities are properly funded, supported with research for funds, by now, many of those things we are looking for where to source them would have been produced locally.”
Ogunyemi added, “University teachers are struggling to showcase what we are capable of doing, we do not lack skills, knowledge or competence but we don’t have the enabling environment. That is why you will continue to see that our ranking is going lower and lower. These are issues we have been talking about and that is why we said now that they have the opportunity, let us sort out these issues; let us satisfactorily address issues of morale, how can you negotiate with the government for more than three years and you cannot agree on new working conditions for staff? It is ridiculous. It means that our welfare and conditions of service is not their priority.
“The issue of morale is very important. What we are saying, in essence, is that we are open for discussion but the government must come to the realisation that there are no options order than to engage academics, talk to ASUU so that we can fix the problems of our universities. We are not saying everything can be fixed at once but at least let us go back to where we stopped in 2013 because then, we had a memorandum of understanding where we arrived at the amount we would need to revitalise our universities, but the government only cooperated for one year on that fund after which he abandoned it and that is why we are still where we are.”
Citing the recent ranking of Nigerian universities by the Centre for World University and the poor showing, ASUU blamed the development on the failure of the Federal Government to make education its priority. The union said if the government had heeded its numerous calls to provide the enabling environment for education especially in tertiary institutions across the country, they would have fared better. Only two Nigerian institutions, the University of Ibadan (UI), and the University of Nigeria (UNN made the world’s best 2,000. But the chairman, ASUU UI chapter, Prof Ayo Akinwole, lamented that the two universities which presently hold national rankings of first and second in Nigeria could not make top 1,000.
Making allusion to other universities in Africa, the union stated that the first 13 institutions in South Africa made the best 2,000, while seven of them made the best one thousand varsities in the world. By this ranking, UI is 8th in Africa followed by the University of Western Cape, South Africa (1,158) that is ranked 9th on the continent. ASUU stated that the ranking had vindicated the struggle by the union to make the government commit not less than 26 per cent of her national budget to education, lamenting that the best the present administration has done is to reduce the budgetary allocation to about six per cent.
According to him, ASUU has been drawing government and Nigerians’ attention to the rot in the tertiary education system and was proven right by the 2012 Needs Assessment conducted by the Federal Government. As revealed in the ranking, Akinwole said it has taken personal dogged efforts of research output of academics in UI and UNN to position Nigeria on the global map. Prof Akinwole noted that the only variable that made two Nigerian universities to be ranked among the best 2000 universities is in relation to the research performance where the University of Ibadan had 1,101 with a total score of 69.4 while Nsukka had 1805 and a total score of 66.2. ASUU has been on strike to make government address issues of revitalisation fund, earned academic allowances, visitation panel to universities, the proliferation of state varsities, issues of governance, and speedy conclusion of the renegotiation of 2009 agreement.
He urged Nigerians to join ASUU in ensuring that Federal Government injects more funds for the revitalisation of public varsities so that our universities will be able to compete effectively globally and our graduates respected across the world with their certificates. “Although one may have things to say about the indices used in the ranking the truth of the matter is that Nigeria academics are using their blood to still make our varsities run because the government has become irresponsible and wicked. “They don’t have stakes in it again as they send their children abroad. A government that is serious will not cut from the education budget and leave untouched the budget of the National Assembly to renovate their complex that has no direct impact on the country.
Although one may have things to say about the indices used in the ranking of varsities, the truth is that Nigeria academics are using their blood to still make our varsities to run because the government has become irresponsible and wicked. A government that is serious will not cut from the education budget and leave untouched the budget of the National Assembly to renovate their complex that has no direct impact on the country.