The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is gradually losing sympathy from the general public. Reason: The union’s perceived “un-implementable” agreement with the Federal Government in 2009, which has ground operations in the nation’s universities since July 1 is causing ripples. Last week, the Senate expressed grave concern on the protracted strike by ASUU and urged the university lecturers to return to the classroom while effort is being made to meet their demands.
However, a number of Nigerians were angered last week by the revelation of details of ASUU’s agreement with the government in 2009. For many, the demands were not only outrageous but that such demands were neither made nor paid to lecturers in any part of the world. It was alleged that those who negotiated and signed the agreement on behalf of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government at the time had thought that it would be immediately implemented and hoped to benefit from it.
Otherwise, it has been alleged that hardly would anyone in his right senses agree to such demands. Against this background, Senate President David Mark expressed shock on the content of the agreement during a motion on the strike on Wednesday. According to him, those who signed that agreement with ASUU were not only unfair to the nation but were also a bunch of ignorant persons, “who did not know their right from their left.”
Details of ASUU demands as contained in the agreement and read on the floor of the Senate last Wednesday showed that the lecturers were asking for maternity leave, housing loan, sick leave, injury pension, vehicle loan/car refurbishing loan, postgraduate supervision allowance, teaching practice/industrial supervision/ field trip allowances and honoraria for external moderation of undergraduate and postgraduate examinations.
Other demands were postgraduate study grants, external assessment of readers or professors, call duty/clinical hazard, responsibility allowance, excess workload allowance, staff schools, provision of office accommodation and facilities, pension of academic staff, compulsory retirement age, formation of university pension fund administrator, National Health Insurance Scheme and funding of the universities.
In all, ASUU demanded for a whopping N1.5 trillion expected to be paid within three years of 2009 to 2011. A breakdown of the proposed payment plan is as follows: N472,031,575,919 in 2009; N497,331,778,701 in 2010 and N548,768,190,681 in 2011. ASUU also demanded that each state university shall require N3,680,018 per student for the period between 2009 and 2011.
To underscore the level of the perceived outrageous demand, Senator Sola Adeyeye (Osun Central), who is also a former lecturer, said he almost wept when he saw the agreement signed by the Federal Government with ASUU, saying there is nowhere in the world where such allowances demanded are paid to lecturers.
Adeyeye, a professor of Molecular Biology and senator on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC), who ordinarily was expected to be sentimental in his submission, having been a one-time member of ASUU and simultaneously an opposition lawmaker, opted to put sentiment aside and hit the nail on the head. According to him, there is nowhere in the world where the central government is asked to fund state universities. He also added that it was whimsical for professors to be asking for allowances before supervising postgraduate students.
“I asked ASUU during one of our meetings: is there any nation where any of such allowances is paid according to international standard? A typical teacher teaches two courses in a semester for three hours a week. You are paid salaries, why should you be paid again for these other things? Where in the world are lecturers paid examination allowances? Where is a professor paid allowances for supervising postgraduate students? Why is he a professor in the first place? What you cannot ask for in other spheres ought not be asked for here.
“The standard practice in the United States is that if you go on sabbatical, you ‘ll be paid for six months; if you spend more than that, you have to fund it yourself. Where in the world do you say the Federal Government should be involved in the funding of state universities?” Adeyeye queried.
Still expressing shock on the content of the agreement, Mark said: “I was really wondering whether this was signed or it was just a proposal. But when he concluded, he said it was signed. It only shows the level of people the executive sent to go and negotiate on its behalf because ab initio, people must be told the truth, what can be accomplished and what cannot be accomplished…ASUU took advantage of the ignorance of those who were sent and simply just allowed this agreement to go on because it is obvious that this is going to be a very difficult piece of paper to implement.”
At any rate, a number of people have argued that if the quality of education will improve upon the implementation of the agreement, the federal government would have been encouraged to shift ground. But some educational consultants have alleged high level of negligence of duty by ASUU and submitted that the demand is in contrast with what obtains in the universities as there are allegations that lecturers are absent in most classes and busy consulting for foreign organisations while project supervision is haphazardly done. The end result –half-baked graduates are produced.
Posted by SirVic for wetopup(News Laboratry)