Finally! ASUU gives updates on when strike will be called off.
Just when we think the ongoing ASUU Strike is a warning strike, ASUU has made it clear that the current strike is not a warning strike, but totally comprehensive and indefinite and will remain like that until the government meets its demands.
National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Abiodun Ogunyemi, in this exclusive interview by Tribune’s TUNBOSUN OGUNDARE, speaks on reasons the ongoing industrial action by the union is inevitable and the union’s refusal to call it off until the Federal Government yields to its demands.
In September, the Federal Government claimed to have released N20 billion funding for universities, what is your reaction to that?
The N200 billion is not an issue at all. The government ought to have released that money latest by October last year and the amount served as a mark of commitment towards the implementation of the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with ASUU in that year. In that MoU, government agreed to massively inject funds into the public university system in the country. This is as a way of re-vitalising the system. That is why we called that fund, which is a total sum of N1.3 trillion, a re-vitalisation fund. Between 2013 and 2017, government released only N200 billion, leaving out N1.1 trillion. So, when ASUU engaged them last year and we told them that they had abandoned the agreement, they said no. And that to show that they had not abandoned it, they would release N20 billion immediately while looking into a way of mobilising fund for the balance. That was the N20 billion they were making noise about that they released many months after. So towards raising the N1.1 trillion, government raised a seven-man team and they worked for about two months or submitted their report. But up till now, government has kept the report in the cooler. In October last year, if government had released N20 billion, we expect them to release a stretch of N220 billion on yearly basis and will do that for five years.
At times, people get confused on various terminologies used concerning this FG\ASUU faceoff. Sometimes, you say 2009 agreement, at another time, we hear 2013 MoU and yet another, you refer to the 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoA), what are the differences?
The 2009 agreement is the originating document. That is where we have four major issues outlined. They are centred on funding, academic freedom and university autonomy, conditions of service, and other related issues. In implementing the 2009 agreement which was signed in that year, the government agreed to inject N1.3 trillion into the system.
We dragged this for about three years before they finally agreed and raised a panel in 2012 that went out on visitations to virtually all the public universities to assess their needs. To be specific, a total of 73 universities were visited. And what the panel came up with was worse than the picture ASUU painted. They found out that many of them have pipes but with no running safe water, no conducive classrooms, no laboratories and all that. And that was what gave birth to what we call the 2012 Needs Assessment Report. ASUU engaged them again. After six months, the Federal Government agreed to implement that report. When we met, the government said it was okay. They said we should give them a six-year plan on how we were going to address all the issues at stake. And that was what informed the signing of the memorandum of understanding in 2013.
In that MoU, government was to release N200 billion immediately which I had mentioned earlier and then releasing N220 billion every year and for the next five years, all totalling N1.3 trillion, which I had also mentioned earlier.
But here we are. So, you can see that both the MoU of 2013 and the MoA of 2017 originated from the 2009 agreement. The failure to implement the 2009 agreement gave birth to the 2013 MoU and in turn to the 2017 MoA. That is the link.