ASUU berates low education budget, threatens strike

Universities across the country may witness strikes in 2024 due to the small budget allotted to the education sector and poor remuneration, the Academic Staff Union of Universities has said.

Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, Prof. Emmanuel Oshodeke, explained that during the campaign and election earlier this year, President Bola Tinubu promised to increase the Education sector to at least 15 per cent or over.

Similarly, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation also recommended for member states, a 26 per cent benchmark allocation for the education sector.

He complained that Nigeria was the country with the least remuneration for professors, globally.

Oshodeke, however, said that ASUU was dejected when the 2024  education budget was announced to be N2.18tr or 7.9 per cent of the budget.

He reiterated that it was the same figure during the Buhari government, adding that not much progress would be made in the sector; if the budget was not increased.

Oshodeke advised the government to meet with the cabinet members and increase the budget to 15 or more.

“With this seven per cent education budget,  nothing will change in the sector, it is just as we had during Buhari’s time. Tinubu during his campaign promised to increase the education budget but nothing.

“However, there is still a chance for him, to change. But if no improvement on this and our other demands, by next year, we will mobilise our people and we can’t stay like this because Oyo State has 15 per cent and Enugu State budgeted 32 per cent for education, but FG is giving less than eight per cent.

“He can still increase it, they should liaise with the executives and come out with a budget that is not less than 15 per cent as he promised during the election.”

National president, The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Dr Anderson Ezeibe, also told The PUNCH “It is demoralising to see the allocation follow the same trend as in the past.

“The sectoral allocation for education is less than eight per cent and can barely provide solutions to the multifaceted problems in the sector. The allocation is inadequate and falls short of the expectations.”

While speaking on the japa syndrome, which he said had led to an overwhelming brain drain in the university system, he advised the government to increase the salaries of lecturers, pay the backlog of Earned Allowance and withheld salaries.

Osohodeke added, “They should increase lecturers’ salaries, and the increment of retirement age, will enable lecturers to produce more PhDs, but the government is not interested in the system. They should separate lecturers from civil servants.”

He also complained about the lack of international lecturers in the tertiary institutions in Nigeria, saying, “For you to be well-ranked, you have to get lecturers all over the world to come lecture in your system. We pay the least remuneration to professors, globally.

“Professors in Nigeria earn between $200 to $300 a month but when such a professor moves to Rwanda, he earns $3000.

“The government should allow universities to run on its own, they should sign the agreement with Nimi Briggs. They can do all these if there is willpower.”

Ezeibe, added, “The only way to stop the japa syndrome and save our sector from brain drain is to improve funding for the education sector, improve the wage structure to meet at least the African average, and restore governance in the sector to global standards. By doing these, our academics who are leaving will stay back as they will be better motivated.”

(Punch)

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ASUU decries lecturer shortage, infrastructure decay in varsities

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, on Tuesday, raised the alarm that most departments in Nigeria’s public universities were short-staffed due to the resignation of lecturers in search of greener pastures.

The academic body further lamented that the establishment of more universities had not solved admission problems.

It called on the government to improve the carrying capacity of existing universities to be able to admit more students.

The Chairman of the University of Ibadan Chapter of ASUU, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, who disclosed this in Ibadan, Oyo State, said Nigeria’s public universities were in a very pitiable condition with stress and frustration visible on the faces of poorly-remunerated lecturers.

He said, “Except President Bola Tinubu arrests the situation by reviewing the conditions of service in terms and salaries, allowances, and infrastructure, many good hands will continue to resign and leave the country. Unfortunately, the same government that is not funding education has a National Assembly proposing to establish 32 more universities.”

The ASUU chairman said poor and delayed salaries, unpaid allowances, poor infrastructure, lack of respect for the academic community, and the seeming dwindling hope were some of the factors responsible for the resignation of lecturers in the past few months.

Akinwole said, “The union has received reports on how colleagues resign every month because of the way lecturers are treated and poorly remunerated in Nigeria. Universities around the world are poaching more quality hands, and if not halted by the government, through intentional reviewing of upward conditions of service, it will be difficult to retain the best hands.

“Vice Chancellors can not single-handedly employ to replace staff as urgent as it is needed again. They have to contact Abuja for approval, which may take six months to a year, if not more, before they get approval. By this time, the best candidate has gone to a more serious country that respects quality. Sadly, people from higher up there from the Ministry of Education to legislators themselves want to dictate who the universities should employ,” he said.

(Punch)

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40% IGR deduction will ruin varsity operations, says ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said the Federal Government’s plan to automatically deduct 40 per cent from universities’ Internally Generated Revenue will impoverish the university system.

In October, the Ministry of Finance notified academic institutions across the country of its plan to automatically deduct 40 per cent from their IGR.

ASUU, in a statement signed by its National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, on Tuesday after its National Executive Council meeting at the Kaduna State University, Kaduna, explained that universities were not revenue-generating agencies, saying that the obligatory fees paid by students were to provide the necessary tools for them to be properly educated.

The statement said the NEC meeting took place from Saturday 11th to Sunday 12th November 2023, and deliberated on several issues affecting the Nigerian University System and country.

Osodeke advised the FG to remove universities from the list of agencies expected to remit 40 per cent from its IGR.

It read, “NEC reviewed the implications of the recent directive to Federal Universities to remit 40 per cent of their Internally Generated Funds to the coffers of government. NEC condemns the directive in its entirety because it would further impoverish and emasculate the Nigerian university system.

“For the avoidance of doubt, universities are not revenue-generating agencies because the obligatory fees paid by students are to provide the necessary tools for them to be properly educated. NEC calls on the relevant institutions of state to remove universities from this category of government ministries, departments, and agencies regarded as revenue-generating centres because of its implications for affordability and accessibility of education in the country.”

ASUU, during the meeting, lamented the deliberate attempt by the Accountant General’s office to further impoverish its members by the refusal to pay their promotion arrears of majority since 2018.

“NEC also reviewed the unsatisfactory reports on payment of the withheld eight months’ salaries by the government on account of the patriotic strike action of our members in 2022.

NEC calls on the Federal Government to unconditionally release all the withheld salaries as a demonstration of the new administration’s desire to permanently resolve all outstanding issues related to the last strike action of our union,” the statement added.

ASUU also decried the continued victimisation and onslaught against its members at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Ambrose Alli University Ekpoma, Kogi State University, Anyigba, Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki, Lagos State University, Ojo, and others.

(Punch)

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