The Academic Staff Union Of Universities (ASUU) has explained why it rejected the federal government’s offer of academic salary structure.
In a press statement signed by ASUU president, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, the university body said it rejected the “Award”.
Recall that at the resumed meeting of the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) and ASUU 2009 Agreement Re-negotiation Committee on Tuesday, August 16, 2022, the government team presented an “Award” of a Recommended Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS) prepared by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) to ASUU.
He said the 1981 FGN-ASUU Agreement, under the Shehu Shagari-led administration, established the principle of collective bargaining, based on the Wages Boards and Industrial Council’s Decree No 1 of 1973, the Trade Dispute Act (1976), ILO Conventions 49 (1948), 91(1950), 154 (1988) and recommendation 153 (1981), Udoji Commission Report of 1974, and Cookey Commission Report of 1981.
“It also provided a platform for resolving such important issues as special Salaries and Conditions of Service of University Staff, University Funding, roles of Pro Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors, and National Universities Commission (NUC). A key outcome was a special salary scale for university staff known as University Salary Structure (USS).
“At the commencement of the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement on 16th March 2017, both the Federal Government and ASUU Teams agreed to be guided by the following principles as their terms of reference which includes, reversal of the decay in the Nigerian University System, in order reposition it for its responsibilities in national development.
“Reversal of the brain drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff, but also by disengaging them from the encumbrances of a unified civil service wage structure; (iii) Restoration of Nigerian Universities, through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention; and nursing genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.
“Government’s surreptitious move to set aside the principle of collective bargaining, which is globally in practice, has the potential of damaging lecturers’ psyche and destroying commitment to the university system. This is, no doubt, injurious to Nigeria’s aspiration to become an active player in the global knowledge industry
“Rejecting a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining is a repudiation of government’s pronouncements on reversing “brain drain”. It is common knowledge that, more now than in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerian scholars, especially in scarce areas like science and medicine, are migrating in droves to Europe, America and many parts of Africa such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Ghana with supportive environment to ply their trades as well as competitive reward systems for intellectual efforts. Does the Nigerian government care about what becomes of public universities in another five or ten years if this trend continues?”
Osodeke said federal government’s repudiation of collective bargaining was in bad faith, adding that it’s a retrogressive step for a democratic government to abrogate the collective bargaining principle after more than 40 years of its introduction into the Nigerian University System.
He added, “Government imposed the ongoing strike action on ASUU and it has encouraged it to linger because of its provocative indifference. The Munzali Jibril-led renegotiation committee submitted the first Draft Agreement in May 2021 but government’s official response did not come until about one year later! Again, the “Award” presented by the Nimi Briggs-led Team came across in a manner of take-it-or-leave-it on a sheet of paper. No serious country in the world treats their scholars this way.”
He lamented that it was a wasteful spending, misappropriation of fund and outright stealing of collective patrimony.
“ASUU believes that if the leakages in the management of the country’s resources are stopped, there will be more than enough to meet the nation’s revenue and expenditure targets without borrowing and plunging the country into a debt crisis as is the case now.
“The New Draft Agreement has other major recommendations for the funding of major components of the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement.
“One of such recommendations is the tax on cellphone and communication lines. Ironically, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning recently announced its readiness to implement ASUU’s recommendation, as a revenue source, but not for education, without acknowledging the Union,” he added.
The ASUU president further urged the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, to return to the New Draft Agreement of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Renegotiation Committee whose work spanned a total of five and half years as a demonstration of good faith.