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OPEN LETTER TO ASUU

THIS missive is to appeal to members of
Academic Staffs Union of Universities,
ASUU, individually and collectively, to
consider the plight of innocent students
and their helpless parents and return to
work.
Since July 2, 2013 when they declared a
“total and indefinite strike” over issues
they claim have remained unresolved
pertaining to 2009 agreement, innocent
students and their poor parents have been
at the receiving end of the stalemate.
While some government officials are lousy
and combatant in their approach to
resolving the face-off over the strike, it is
difficult to fault their arguments and the
statistics they reel out over the level of
government’s intervention and
implementation of the contentious 2009
agreement.
It is, therefore, a welcome development
the recent disbursement of N100 billion by
the government for the implementation of
the first phase projects listed in the Needs
Assessment Report of Universities and
another N30 billion to support Federal
university councils in the payment of
arrears of Earned Allowances to deserving
staff.
As I wrote in an article on the problems of
public and private universities in Nigeria in
October 2011, the deregulation of
education in Nigeria is a deliberate effort
to break government’s monopoly on
education and by allowing the
establishment of private universities to
check the incessant strikes by lecturers in
public institutions.
I then pointed out that that most of the
current leaders attended public universities
that were well-funded. Our leaders,
including some of the current activist-lecturers, enjoyed scholarships and crisis-free academic sessions which unfortunately
the current students could not enjoy.
While we accuse political leaders of
selfishness, there is no difference between
them and some of the lecturers in their
seeming connivance in the promotion of
private universities and patronage of
foreign institutions at the expense of our
public universities.
It is regrettable that while attempting to
register their grievances against
inadequate funding from government,
ASUU members take some actions that are
inimical to the progress and development of
their poor students. Yet, the flexibility of
academic environment with job security
and huge severance packages influence the
decision of many lecturers to remain on the
payroll of public universities.
We are also aware that some of the
lecturers provide part-time lecturing to
the private universities in the name of
private practice, PP, while others would
rather lobby or take political appointments
and consultancy jobs than attend to the
needs of their students. Surprisingly too,
some professors are yet to adapt to the
new use of information technology. They
still rely on old books and theories of past
centuries when the internet provides the
theory of reality and practicability.
We must also blame ASUU for indiscipline
and lack of adequate inspection on the
campuses which have caused cultism, drug
addiction, gang rape and other
criminalities on campuses. For instance, the
incessant ASUU strikes influence idle
students to engage in prostitution,
robbery and kidnapping to earn a living and
to occupy their times. It is therefore not
surprising that some of the institutions are
alleged to churn out certificated illiterates
who can barely write their names and place
of origin.
Not every parent can afford or willing to
send their children to expensive private
universities that widen the social gap
between the rich and the poor. The private
institutions, too have their weaknesses
with some of them operating medieval laws
that weaken independence and freedom of
expression on the campuses. Like
regimented garrisons where all forms of
feudal measures are taken, the private
institutions do not treat their students as
adults but pupils in boarding schools who
must observe strict wake-up time and
bedtime light-out.
The option of missionary universities also
have some challenges. Instead of making
the fees affordable, some of them develop
unwritten house-rules that ‘no student will
ever fail to graduate because of spiritual
interventions.’ While worshippers,
occasionally act as part time lecturers,
whose allowances could be paid ‘only in
heaven’, some of the recruited scholars are
actually lecturers from established public
universities within their vicinities.
We know that we have crises in our hands
and it seems the government with recent
moves have demonstrated willingness to
resolve the crisis. After a recent meeting
of key government officials with Vice-Chancellors and Chairmen of Councils of
Public Universities, it was disclosed that
the government had implemented some of
the agreements it entered with the
academic staff. These include
implementations of the Consolidated
Salary Structure for Academics and non-teaching staff; National Health Insurance
Scheme, NHIS, for staff of universities;
amendment of pensionable retirement age
of academics in the professorial cadre as
professors and readers now retire at 70
years, while others now retire at 65
instead of 60 years.
Government has also provided a
counterpart funding of N250 million to help
ASUU meet up with the mandatory deposit
required for registration of Nigerian
Universities Pension Management Company,
NUPEMCO, while it continues to assist
state universities through the Federal
intervention agencies.
There should be a way to resolve demands
pertaining to commercial ventures,
especially the alleged request by ASUU for
the transfer of government landed
properties to universities, which
government resists because ASUU has no
structure to manage or maintain such
property.
Mr. YUSHAU SHUAIB, a commentator on
national issues, wrote from Abuja.

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