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ASUU: Agreement should be obeyed in performance not in breach

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By Aare Afe Babalola

THE Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, was founded in 1978 principally to demand the rights of academic staff in Federal and state universities in the country. In the exercise of this mandate, the Union had never shied away from embarking on warning and indefinite strike actions or even acting as a watchdog against corruption by its members who hold key positions in its member institutions.

In July 2002 under the presidency of Dr. Oladipo Fashina, the Union petitioned the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, to investigate the management of the University of Ilorin for financial mismanagement and corruption. In May 2008, the Union embarked on a series of warning strikes to press a range of demands, including an improved salary scheme and reinstatement of 49 lecturers who were earlier dismissed.

In June 2009, the Union ordered its members in federal and state universities nationwide to proceed on an indefinite strike over disagreements with the Federal Government on an agreement it reached with the Union about two and a half years earlier.

On July 1, 2013, the Union embarked on another strike which lasted five months and 15 days. By the strike, the Union demanded adequate funding and the revitalisation of the public universities, as well as the payment of their earned allowance which was in arrears of N92 billion. One thing is certain: the Union has always been vocal in resisting whatever it perceives as injustice to its members, and has been at the forefront of the call for the revitalisation of public tertiary institutions.

It would be recalled that the proliferation of universities in Nigeria got the attention of the leadership of ASUU who lent a voice towards criticising what it referred to as ‘constituency projects’. The National President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, had reportedly noted that:  “Our position on that had been that the Federal Government is toying with the future of the society. They are turning universities into constituency projects where every village must have a higher institution; the purpose is not to have good universities and a good environment for academic excellence.

“Every politician wants to have a university in his village. This is not how a system is run. They are establishing a university of medical sciences and other specialised institutions; why not go and fund those old universities so that you can upgrade the faculty of medical sciences to professional standards, so that the Nigerian politician, including the President, who usually go outside the country for medical attention, will have their medical issues solved here.

“But we will not do that; rather, the Federal and state governments are busy establishing mushroom universities. It is very unfortunate. But as a union, we are also thinking of what we can do in the future to compel them to stop this. One of the things we did in the earlier agreement was that we agreed that the National Universities Commission, NUC, law should be reviewed to make it almost impossible for any governor or Federal Government to start a university without adequate preparation for funding for over 10 years. But till now, that resolution has not been implemented. What we are saying is that the law should be reviewed to give NUC power to ensure that before you can start a university, you have to show good evidence that you can fund the system.”

Truly, the establishment of universities by the Nigerian federal and state governments without a sustainable plan of adequate funding is one which calls for concern. To this end, one cannot but agree with the Union that the funding and upgrading of the old universities to international standards is a better call than merely establishing mushroom institutions which will, in the nearest future, suffer the same fate of neglect as the current institutions.

Public perception of the Union’s strike actions: No doubt, the Union has always embarked on warning and/or indefinite strike actions to press home their demands. Naturally, the Union’s strike actions have always fostered divergent opinions and reactions by those affected, directly or indirectly.

Government perceives the Union as being overly critical, and having a surreptitious ambition of portraying government as being unwilling to accord the country’s education system the financial attention it deserves. For the parents, they perceive the Union as constituting a major impediment to the academic growth of their children or wards, and perhaps constituting a delay in their reaping the fruits of their labours.

The students, especially the serious ones, perceive the Union as using them as a leverage and bargaining tools to achieve whatever their demands may be, and that the frequent interruptions in the academic calendar has constituted a clog in the realisation of their pursuits.

Some other reactions gathered from the comments of members of the society is that the incessant strikes by the Union has been an attempt to hoodwink the Federal Government into lining their pockets, and that the Union has majorly contributed to the rot in the nation’s education system. While for some others, the demands of the Union are legitimate, particularly against the backdrop of government’s ineptitude in maintaining the public tertiary institutions and paying the earned salaries and emoluments of the members of the Union.

Regardless of whatever perception is given to the Union’s strike actions, one thing is certain – everyone loses at the end of the day. In fact, Professor Christopher Imumolen of the Global Wealth University, Togo, reportedly noted that the current one-month strike is an “avoidable tragedy resulting from systemic failure and an injury consciously inflicted on the future of youths”.

Ít would be recalled that the #EndSARS campaign received its traction and widespread acceptance due to the simple fact that it coincided with the nine-month strike embarked upon by the Union at the time, thereby driving students who, otherwise should be in their classrooms, to the streets. Certainly, strike actions by ASUU is not one that should be taken lightly by the government.

The current strike action: The recent one-month strike action embarked upon by the Union was announced on Monday, February 14 in reaction to the failure of the government to meet the demands for the revitalisation of public universities, failure to pay earned academic allowances and the University Transparency Accountability Solution, UTAS, promotion arrears, renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, and inconsistencies in Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, payments. It is also in reaction to the non-implementation of the Memorandum of Action earlier signed with the Federal Government.

The current strike action is a continuation of a nine-month strike that grounded academic activities in 2020 for the same reasons. This, therefore, calls to question whether the demands of the Union are being unreasonable or whether the government’s non-implementation of the executed Memorandum of Act is not borne out of a total disregard for the Union.

Regardless, I consider it imperative for the government to negotiate and immediately implement all negotiated terms with the Union. The government should not only listen to ASUU, it must be ready to live up to its end of the bargain. It is indeed said that where two elephants fight, the grass beneath their feet must suffer. Both the federal government and the Union must realise that the interest of students of the tertiary institutions is of paramount consideration at all times.

Rather than fighting to a standstill or continuing to be at loggerheads, all the stakeholders must resolve to settle the imbroglio. Following the commencement of the warning strike, the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, has resolved to block all Federal roads across Nigeria if government and ASUU fail to reach a compromise.

Certainly, there are certainly better ways of causing the parties to reach a compromise rather than worsening the situation by causing a standstill. Nevertheless, stakeholders must be willing to meet each other half-way, rather than sticking to their guns.

As Nelson Mandela once remarked: ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. If, however, the quality of our tertiary education is marred by incessant strike actions, what hope lies for the Nigerian youths in changing the world?

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Education

NLC solidarity rally holds today, police warn hoodlums

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The police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps will deploy personnel in critical infrastructure and facilities in response to the nationwide protest organised by the Nigeria Labour Congress in solidarity with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities taking place on Tuesday (today).

As security agencies moved to deploy their men and officers, the Nigeria Labour Congress on Monday directed workers in state capitals and Abuja to join the protest.

A top source at the Force Headquarters, Abuja, confirmed to The PUNCH on Monday that police operatives would be deployed in all protest venues nationwide to prevent a security breach or attack on the participants by thugs.

The police source said, “Of course, we will deploy our men; that is standard procedure. Our duty is to ensure the safety of lives and property during any public protest or rally. We can’t stop the unions or other Nigerians from holding rallies or peaceful protests.’’

 

The Force Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi, declined comment on the deployment but the Commissioners of Police in Ebonyi and Gombe and the police spokespersons in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Plateau, Ogun, Osun and Gombe confirmed to our correspondents that their men would be at the rally grounds.

Also, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence spokesperson, Shola Odumosu, said armed and unarmed personnel would be on the ground to protect the protesters and Nigerians.

He said, “We understand that at times like this, thugs would want to take advantage and launch their attacks. Among those we will be deploying apart from the armed and unarmed personnel are men from our intelligence department.”

The NLC had said the protest would hold at all the state capitals today while the mega rally would take place in Abuja on Wednesday to pressure the Federal Government to meet ASUU’s demands.

About 40 NLC affiliates, including aviation, bank, oil and gas, electricity and construction workers are expected to participate in the protest.

ASUU had shut all public universities and commenced its ongoing strike on February 14, 2022, after the FG failed to meet some of its demands including the release of revitalisation funds for universities, renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, release of earned allowances for university lecturers, and deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution platform for the payment of salaries and allowances of university lecturers.

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, had last Wednesday declared the protest illegal, saying the NLC had no dispute with the government.

The next day, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, also cautioned against the demonstration, saying he received a security report from the Department of State Services that the rally might be hijacked by hoodlums.

Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH on Monday, the Head, Information and Public Affairs of the NLC, Mr Benson Upah, reiterated that the rally would hold as planned.

The Federal Capital Territory police command spokesperson, Josephine, Adeh, gave the assurance that the command would deploy men to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order.

She said, “For every protest, we always deploy (personnel), so our normal deployment would be on. We would be there to ensure there is no breakdown of law and order. We would be there to apprehend anyone who goes against the law. They (NLC) have informed us they will be coming out.”

Police warn hoodlums

The Commissioner of Police in Ebonyi State, Garba Aliyu, said his men would deal decisively with “perpetrators of actions not in conformity with the law’’ during the rally.

Speaking in a telephone interview on Monday, the police boss said, “We are always there to protect lives and property and we will not allow anybody to do anything that will infringe on other people’s rights. So, whatever they are going to do, must be done within the confines of the law.

“Security is well in place and from what we are seeing or envisaging, there’s nothing that will cause a breach of peace. If they plan to hold rallies, let it be done within the ambit of the law; but if on the contrary, our men will deal with them decisively.’’

Speaking on the security arrangement for the protest, the Gombe State Commissioner of Police, Ishola Babaita, pledged to provide protection for union leaders and other participants during the rally.

Speaking on Monday, in an interview with journalists, Babaita urged the unions to organise themselves in a lawful manner.

He said, “We will give them the necessary security covering but they should not allow hoodlums to hijack the protest. We can’t stop them but we will make sure they are guided.”

The Spokesman for the state Police Command, Alabo Alfred, said that officers and men of the command had been deployed in the strategic locations, including the protest venue to prevent a breakdown of law and order during the protest.

A spokesperson for the Osun Police Command, Yemisi Opalola, said a meeting was held with the labour leaders in the state to ensure that the protest was peaceful.

According to her, police operatives have been assigned to monitor the protesters and follow them through the routes that have been already indicated, adding that other security measures have also been put in place to protect public infrastructure during the protest.

The Ogun State Police Command assured residents of the state of their safety during and after the protest.

The state Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, disclosed this in a statement on Monday.

Oyeyemi said, ‘“The command hereby appeals to the general public to go about their lawful business without fear of intimidation or harassment, as the police and other security agencies will be fully on the ground to monitor the situation so as to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the process.’’

On its part, the Kwara State Police Command said its men were prepared to protect the workers who would participate in the rally.

The Command’s spokesperson, SP Ajayi Okasanmi, said, “We have prepared our men to guard them (protesters) so that they would be protected and that nobody will be molested by the hoodlums in case they attempt to hijack the protest.’’

The Oyo State Police Command has also deployed its men to begin to patrol and man public infrastructure in Ibadan and other parts of the state as labour unions stage a protest to force the Federal Government to accede to the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

The Police Public Relations Officer for Oyo State, Adewale Osifeso, told one of our correspondents that the Commissioner of Police in the state, Williams Adebowale, had directed all area commanders, and divisional police officers to lead patrols throughout the state during the protest.

NLC hold rallies

Giving an update on the mode of the protest, the Head of Information and Public Affairs, NLC, Upah, said the rally would be held at all the state capitals across the federation.

Asked if all workers were expected to take part in the street protest, he said, ‘’Oh sure. Why not? You know there’s a difference between a rally and a strike. What we are doing is a rally. It’s different from a strike.

“A rally does not necessarily mean that they have to shut down places. So a rally is different from a strike. All I know is that it is a rally, not strike action.

‘’I cannot comment on how they intend to execute the rally. All I know is that tomorrow’s rally will take place at every state headquarters. The 36 states of the Federation will rally tomorrow (today.) Wednesday, we will do the mega rally here in Abuja,’’ he pointed out.

The General Secretary, National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas workers, Afolabi Olawale, said members of the union were set for the exercise.

Afolabi, however, explained that the workers would not withdraw their services.

Also, the Deputy Secretary General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Oniha Erazua, disclosed that his union would join the rally.

He said, “We are joining the protest tomorrow (today). We are not going to withdraw dockworkers from the ports tomorrow because it has nothing to do with the ports, it is in solidarity with ASUU.’’

Aviation workers

Asked if the aviation workers would be on the streets in support of ASUU, the General Secretary of the National Union of Air Transport Employees, Aba Ocheme, stated, “Yes, we will be joining the public protest. Other aviation groups that are NLC affiliates will be joining the protest.

However, the President of the Nigerian Air Traffic Controllers Association, Abayomi Agoro, said the body was awaiting directives to join the protest.

Agoro, in a telephone chat with The PUNCH, said, “Well, my union has not called on us for any strike or protest. ATSSAN has not directed us on any strike, we are a part of TUC which is ATSSAN.

Also, the President, Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Ilitrus Ahmad, when contacted, said, “We are not joining the NLC’s protest. We are not part of them, we don’t have any directive to join the strike. We belong to the TUC.”

Meanwhile, the Academic Staff Union of Universities and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the Joint Action Committee of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions have been directed to gather at the Ikeja underbridge for the rally.

Lagos State ASUU and SSANU chairmen, Dr Dele Ashiru and Mr Olushola Showunmi, respectively, told The PUNCH that the take-off point was at Ikeja by 7.30 am, adding that they would march peacefully to the Lagos State Governor’s office at Alausa.

The Lagos State Chairman of the NLC, Mrs Funmi Sessi, urged Lagosians to take part in the protest.

Sessi, in an interview with The PUNCH, directed all sectors including health, electricity and aviation to shut down operations and join the solidarity protest in support of the striking workers.

Sessi directed all sectors including the health, electricity and aviation to shut down operations and join the solidarity protest in support of the striking workers.

“We will be converging as early as 6:30 a.m. at Ikeja and take off by 7.00 a.m. to deliver a letter to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu in Alausa. The protest is to support ASUU in the ongoing strike. So, we call on all affiliate members to come out en masse,’’ she added.

ASUU Zonal Coordinator, Lagos State, Dr Adelaja Odukoya, said the protest was for liberation of the nation’s tertiary education, noting that lecturers were being paid slave salaries.

A group, Reform Education Nigeria, similarly announced its support for the proposed solidarity protest by the NLC.

Pupils protest

Eighty pupils of Sunshine Nursery and Primary School, Ile-Ife, Osun state on Monday staged a peaceful protest at the main entrance to the Obafemi Awolowo University to demand an end to the ASUU strike.

The pupils who were led by the proprietor of the school, Dr. Bisi Anyadike, bore placards with inscriptions such as ‘my future counts,’ ‘future education is now a national emergency,’ ‘when you stand up ASUU, then stand up for us.’

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Education

JAMB decides admission benchmark, others July 21

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The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board is set to hold the 2022 policy meeting for the 2022/2023 admission on July 21, 2022, The PUNCH has learnt.

The board’s spokesperson, Fabian Benjamin, disclosed in a text message sent to our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday.

The PUNCH reports that the policy meeting will be chaired by the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, with all heads of tertiary institutions in attendance.

The meeting will chart policy directions for the nation’s tertiary institutions, set admission guidelines and make a holistic review of application statistics, performance as well as evaluate admission exercise.

 

When asked if the board would be meeting on July 21 and the topics for discussion, Fabian said, “Yes, admissions and benchmarks will be discussed.”

No fewer than 1,761,338 candidates registered for the 2022 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination and Direct Entry Examination.

The board noted that only 1,671,203 results out of the 1,707,626 candidates who sat for the examinations were released.

The statistics indicated that 27,105 results would be subjected to further screening.

The board said 69 results were withheld while 1,783 candidates are to be rescheduled to write as a result of biometric challenges.

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Education

Cultism & Hooliganism: NAS Ogun State Chapter 2022 FOB Lecture

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National Association of Seadogs Logo

By Eromosele Emmanuel

The National Association of Seadogs, also known as the Pyrates Confraternity, Ogun State Chapter celebrated its annual Feast of Barracuda on Saturday the 18th day of June, 2022 at 11:30 am at its Ankor point, Red Brick House, Unity Estate, Gbonogun, Obantoko, Abeokuta, Ogun State. The event, which was hybrid, has as its theme: Gangsterism, Hooliganism and Cultism in Nigeria: The Role of the family. Delivering a paper titled: Cultism, Hooliganism and Gangsterism: Consequences and How to Curb it, Professor, The Otunber Adegbemi Babatunde Onakoya, who was the key speaker, made the clarification between sororities or confraternities, cultism/cult groups/gangsand hooliganism. He, however, stated that cultism may be considered the root of hooliganism and gangsterism/gang action. He also noted that secret cults have existed in Nigeria before colonialism, alongside traditional institutions as agent of spiritual fortification, instruments of cleansing the community, age grade rites of passage among other socio-cultural roles. He noted that while sororities or confraternities were formed toengender social bonds and fight one form of ills or the other, there is no denying the fact that there are sinister groups which have become agents of terror, violence and destruction on our campuses and in the larger society.

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People often associate the phenomenon of confraternity in Nigerian educational institutions with the creation of the Pyrates Confraternity. He observed that the ideals of the Pyrates are noble. Accordingly, ‘’the ideals behind the formation of the confraternity were both patriotic and altruistic as it was not imagined as a secret cult’’. It was formed ‘’to fight non-violently but intellectually and effectively against the imposition of foreign conventions, revive the age of chivalry; and to find a lasting solution to the problems of tribalism and elitism’’. Hence, when copy-cat confraternities whose ideas and activities are deleterious sprang up, the Pyrates Confraternity withdrew from the educational institutions.

He noted several causes of cultism including being used as thugs by politicians, government officials act as patrons and patroness and finance them, peer group influence, parental back ground, societal decadence, erosion of educational standards, militarization of the Nigerian polity, quest for social identity, drug abuse and poverty. Again, noted that the consequences of the existence and activities of these gangs are far-reaching to the individual and the society at large politically, socially and economically. He, however, discussed the following as panacea to the problem, causes and consequences of the cultism/gangs activities to include the family through proper, responsible and responsive parenting and guidance, the government through collaborations with social agencies or organization for youth reformation that can serve as a support to the efforts of the family, community involvement, youths to be encourage into sporting activities, Agri-preneur, educational reform, improvements in the correctional centres so that they would actually serve as a place where youths can be reformed and not go worse.

The programme had a lot of other dignitaries in attendance who contributed to the discourse as well as provoke other issues. Prominent among them included Mr Ebu Aleshinloye, Esq, Director Arts Premium Times, Comrade Mustapha Tiamiyu, Chairman CDHR, Ogun State, Comrade Yinka Folarin, National Secretary, CDHR; Assistant Commandant Okeji Olusegun, Area Commander, Ogun Central Area Command, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, who represented the Ogun State Commander, representative of the Scout Organisation Nigeria, other civil society groups, families and friends who had also been invited to the occasion. Speaking on the significance of the Feast of Barracuda, Mr Ebu Aleshinloye, reiterated that barracuda is a metaphor for all the challenges, ills and constraints militating against the attainment of a just and egalitarian society. He observed that seadogs at been involved in advocacies and other activities that will be help in bringing about the needed changes. The FOB is one such activities. He presented some of his cartoon works through which he lampooned and addressed some burning past and current political, social and economic issues.

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Photo credit: Yinka Rahman (Afrobadoo TV)

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