By Musa Gada, Sokoto
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has decried the reduction of the Federal Government’s allocation to the education sector from 11 per cent in 2015 to 8 per cent in 2016.The ASUU Sokoto Zonal Coordinator, Dr Lawal Argungu, made this known at a Press Conference in Sokoto on Saturday.
“The way FGN treats the funding of education in this country makes it difficult for ASUU to believe the sincerity of the government in reforming the education sector in Nigeria. It is certainly quite possible for us to reposition our educational sector appropriately if we put our priorities right in this country in spite of the apparent economic hardship.
”The union is willing to use every legitimate instrument at its disposal to ensure government fund universities as contained in the valid agreements, Argungu said.
He expressed regrets that out of the over N1.3 trillion earmarked for the revitalisation of the Nigerian universities in 2013, there was still an arrears of N605 billion.
Argungu said that the revitalisation was part of the agreement reached between the union and the Federal Government to be accomplished between 2013 and 2018.
According to him, the union is grossly disappointed with the way the FGN breached this fundamental agreement.
He said the only time it was implemented was in 2013, leaving the arrears of N605 billion as at the third quarter of 2016.
Argungu attributed the decay, rot and inadequate training facilities in Nigerian universities to inability of over 100 universities to be among the best 1000 in the world.
“It also explains why a good number of Nigerian graduates are not marketable in the critical sectors of the Nigerian economy,” he added.
He further said that precarious situation necessitated the Federal Government to carry out a Needs Assessment of Public Universities in July,2012.
Argungu urged government to respect the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement, describing it as the only panacea to improve and support research activities in the university system.
He said that the agreement made provision that deserving academic staff should be entitled to Earned Academic Allowances.
“The payment of these important allowances could not commence until 2013 after a series of struggles by the union. Out of the N30 billion released at that time, only N13 billion was used to partially address the claims of the affected academic staff for the period between 2009 and 2012.
”Since then, no additional release has been made to settle the balance and attend to the claims of the subsequent years despite adequate submission made by the union
”The refusal of the government to pay these entitlements has generated unprecedented tension in Nigerian universities which could degenerate into a big crisis if government continues to remain adamant on the matter. ”
He also said that the union 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement provides that, ASUU could establish Nigerian University Pension Management Company.
Argungu said the National Pension Commission had frustrated the licensing of the company, and urged the government to intervene on the issue
He also claimed that government had unilaterally created shortfalls in the personnel emoluments of workers of the Federal Universities.
The ASUU zonal chairman said the falls were in arrears of salaries, excess workload allowances, earned academic allowances and general funding.
Argungu also said that the problem also affected some of the union’s members in some state universities.
He said that the union would “never accept this lawless behaviour”’ from both Federal and affected state governments because it was in conflict with the 2009 ASUU/FGN agreement.
Argungu decried the manner Kebbi Government was handling the issue of its Science and Technology University in Aliero, noting that it showed how education in the state was relegated to the background.
”With the monthly overhead of N5 million only, since inception to date, the university can be considered abandoned by the government.
”The state government has left the university without a governing council for over one year. This is a university where all the principal officers are on acting capacity, including the vice chancellor, due to the absence of the governing council.”
Argungu said that on convocation had held in spite of the five sets of students graduated by the institution.
He noted that ASUU had an understanding with Gov. Atiku Bagudu, on the issue of the council as well as procedures to address the contentious issues as presented by ASUU/KSUSTA.
”As a union, we believe any University without a Governing Council is just like a ship without a Captain. KSUSTA has been a peaceful campus since inception. It has never had any course to embark on indefinite strike action. We appeal to the Kebbi State Government not to force the campus to industrial restiveness unnecessarily.