The offer made by the Federal Government to lecturers under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities may lead to a reduction in the salaries of entry level lecturers under the graduate assistant cadre, investigations by Sunday PUNCH have revealed.
Punch correspondent also gathered that the Federal Government’s offer had been rejected by the majority of ASUU members, who had held their zonal congresses.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the union leaders met with the Emeritus Professor Nimi-Briggs committee last Tuesday.
ASUU’s President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, while refusing to go into details of the discussion with the government, however, described the proposal as a “miserable offer.”
ASUU had on Monday, February 14, 2022 announced the commencement of a strike due to what it described as “failure” on the part of the government to meet some of the lingering demands of the union.
The union had cited the failure of the government to release revitalisation funds for universities; non-release of earned allowances to lecturers; end the proliferation of universities by politicians and state governments; refusal to deploy the University Transparency Accountability System for the payment of salaries and allowances of lecturers; and refusal to renegotiate the ASUU-FGN 2009 agreement as reasons for its present strike.
In a bid to resolve the strike and other contentious issues, the government had raised a panel led by the pro-chancellor of the Federal University Lokoja, Emeritus Prof Nimi-Briggs, to head its negotiation team with ASUU..
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, while briefing State House correspondent last Thursday, noted that the failure of the government to agree to the payment of six months arrears of salaries of the lecturers was stalling the strike’s call-off.
According to Adamu, ASUU insisted on its members receiving salaries for the period they have been on strike.
However, sources in the union, who confided in our correspondent and were privy to the negotiations, explained that ASUU refused to resume further talks because of “a Greek gift.”
One of the sources, who confided in one of our correspondents on Saturday, noted that while there would be a “meagre” increase in the salaries of professors, there would be a deduction in the take home pay of graduate assistants.
The source explained, “For graduate assistants, the government proposed N1m per annum for starters, while senior graduate assistants will get N1.2m per annum and by the time the necessary deductions will be made in terms of pension, tax and others, some of them may be going home with less than N90,000 monthly.
“At the moment, graduate assistants on step four earn N1,606,380, while they get N133,865.08 as gross monthly salary, and by the time you deduct N3,346.63 National Housing Fund contribution, N10,039.88 as pension and N8,555.83 as tax, the person goes home with N111,922.74.
“For junior professors, the government proposed that a total of N6m per annum, while a professor at bar will be earning N9m yearly. The professors at the bar are the senior professors from step 7 to 10.”
Another source, who is a member of ASUU NEC, confirmed the development to our correspondent.
The NEC member stated, “Yes, it is true; it is more like they removed money from junior lecturers and added the small change to senior ones.
“Now, with the new proposal, GA at the bar will earn N120,000 per month and when you apply deductions, you can imagine what the net will be.”
Commenting on the development, the Coordinator of the Port-Harcourt Zone, ASUU, Stanley Ogoun, said, “The current move by the Federal Government to jettison the principle of collective bargaining and reduce our union’s objective and patriotic struggle to revamp and reposition public universities in Nigeria to mere award of miserly salaries, ranging from N30,000 to N60,000, is unacceptable to us.”
Also, the branch Chairman, ASUU, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Dr Gbolahan Bolarin, said, “The plan is very simple; we are going the long haul. No retreat, no surrender.”
Meanwhile, the Education minister has said the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has invested an estimated N2.5tn in the tertiary education sector.
This was disclosed in a document made available to our correspondent in Abuja.
“The Buhari administration has invested in infrastructural development of the education sector more than any other administration in the history of this nation. It is on record that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund has invested an estimated N2.5tn in tertiary education, thereby exceeding the sum total of N1.2tn contained in the 2009 agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities and we are still counting,” the document stated.
On why the government had not released the result of the visitation panel to universities, Adamu said, “We set up White Paper committees to make recommendations to the government on the reports of the visitation panels, which we received in 2022. Their reports were submitted this year and are being processed.”
Sunday PUNCH reports that one of the demands of ASUU is that the government release the White Paper reports of the visitation panels sent to the various universities across the country.
The strike by the union enters its 188th day today.
The affected students, parents and other stakeholders have continued to call on the government and ASUU to find a common ground for an end to the strike.
End strike – NANS
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students has urged the striking lecturers under the aegis of ASUU to call off the strike.
Speaking on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Friday, ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, stressed that the backlog of salaries must be cleared before lecturers would return to the classroom.
He said, “If we agree on that, therefore, the lectures we should have given to students for 2020/2021 and 2021/2022 sessions should be allowed to go, so we start a new session for 2022/2023 in September.
“Therefore, by July next year, I will go on my leave as we used to have in those days so that the backlog is gone. All the lectures that remain, all the two sets of admissions that JAMB has given that are waiting should become irrelevant.
“Other unions go on strike and come back, all those periods for which you are on strike, you don’t need to do the backlog of work.
“But for ASUU, when we go back today, we are going to start from the 2020/2021 session. For these two sets of students that have been admitted by JAMB, we have to teach them over these periods to ensure that we meet up with the system.
“So, we are going to do the backlog of the work we have left behind. We are not going to start today and say, ‘This session is 2022/2023, therefore, all these two sets of people that have been admitted by JAMB are cancelled’. We have to take another admission for the 2023/2024 session.”
Speaking with one of our correspondents on Saturday, the NANS President, Sunday Asefon, enjoined the union to seek alternative means of resolving issues on payment of salary backlog.
He said, “To our lecturers, by now I think they have to be considerate. We are not saying they should forfeit their six months’ salaries that the Federal Government is saying it will not pay; what we are saying is that they should also have the interest of the students, who are still at home for over six months, at heart. They should consider us.
“They should shift ground at this level and find a means to pursue the struggle on their six-month backlog of salaries. Keeping us at home will not solve it.
“ASUU should not be keeping us at home because of the six months’ salaries that have not been paid, which the Federal Government is saying it is not paying and I know it will definitely pay it.
“ASUU should find other means of pursuing their issues. We are not saying all they are pursuing is not genuine but they should find other means to do so.”
SSANU, NASU strike
Meanwhile, the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Education Institutions, on Saturday, announced the suspension of their ongoing strike for a period of two months.
SSANU’s National President, Muhammed Ibrahim, disclosed this in an interview with one of our correspondents in Abuja.
“Yes, we have suspended the strike for a period of two months,” Ibrahim told Sunday PUNCH via the telephone.
A statement made available and jointly signed by both unions on Saturday said a two-month window had been given to the Federal Government to actualise the agreements that were reached.
The PUNCH had reported that the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU embarked on a national industrial action on March 27, 2022.
The strike entered its 146th day today.
The statement called on members of the unions to resume duties on Wednesday, August 24, 2022.
It read in part, “Today (Saturday), after a series of engagements with the Honourable Minister of Education and having considered the issue that led to the strike, and having satisfied ourselves that the government, this time around, has committed itself to agreeing to respect the agreements that have been reached at the meetings, we believe that it is only honourable that we give the government the benefit of the doubt while the needful is being done at the government’s end.
“To this end, we hereby inform you of a two-month window given to the government to actualise the agreements that have been reached. The two-month window is in the nature of a ceasefire and does not represent a closure on the industrial action.
“It is our sincere prayer, given the assurance made by the Honourable Minister of Education and our commitment to ensure an end to the ongoing impasse that the two-month opportunity will suffice for actions to be taken and the entire matter laid to rest.”
The unions had called for the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, payment of earned allowances, freedom from the usurpation of non-academic career positions by vice-chancellors, the inclusion of university staff school in the university community, payment of minimum wage arrears, and funding of state universities.
A committee set up by the Federal Government and headed by Briggs had engaged in negotiations with the two unions.
It was gathered that the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof Abubakar Rasheed, was also in attendance at the meeting between the minister and the unions’ representatives.
Ibrahim told one of our correspondents, “We suspended the strike for a period of two months. This is to give the government a window of opportunity to meet all the demands. After the two months we will meet again and have a review.”
Though Ibrahim did not disclose the demands of the unions, which had been met, the Minister of Education noted that the government had reached agreements with all the university-based unions except ASUU, which he claimed requested the payment of the backlog of salaries.
The strike by SSANU and NASU led to suspension of the issuance of academic transcripts and mobilisation of graduates for the compulsory one-year service organised by the National Youth Service Corps.