By Daniel Ayantoye
The President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Biodun Ogunyemi has said any attempt by the Federal Government of Nigeria to proscribe the Union will cause a Collapse of the Academic System of the Country.
Ogunyemi who stated this in an interview recently, said 90 percent of the best hands in the Universities will be lose, if the government make such decisions.
“Well, that is the worst case scenario, but we have seen it before. We have even had a case when the government said it banned ASUU.
“They proscribed ASUU and they declared all staff members disengaged but I can assure you that if they do that, they will lose over 90 per cent of their best hands, and the Nigerian university system will collapse. I can assure you of that.”
Speaking on factions within the Union, the ASUU chairman maintained that, there is no parallel group of the Union but some members who were sanctioned for running activities against the union’s constitution.”
While citing Unilorin as case study, Ogunyemi emphasised that the union has its mechanism for settling disputes among members.
“I don’t recognise any parallel group in the first place. So I don’t really want to talk about any parallel group because I don’t know about any parallel union. What I know, as I have been telling people, is that we have some individuals who we sanctioned for running afoul of the provisions of our constitution.
“They have decided to gang up to attack and undermine the union. But we have always told them that there is a window for them to come back.
“We have a mechanism within which we address grievances. I mean, let me give you an example. You have heard of the story of the University of Ilorin.
“But UNILORIN was the first to join this warning strike now. What happened there? It is because at some time, people came to realise that there is no room for free riders.
“These people you are talking about, the last two regimes of arrears of allowances that were paid to universities, they were forced to work with us to get their entitlements. That is to tell you that we all know what is good for the system.
“We all know that we are working for common interests – a system that works – a system where what is due to scholars is given to them and a system that can win the respect and respectability of others in Nigeria as well as in other parts of the world.
“The revitalisation we brought to universities includes offices constructed and some of these aggrieved lecturers were entrusted to stay in these offices. So, they have not said that we are not staying in these offices ASUU fought for.
“So, we don’t want to talk of opportunism; people who want recognition and other kinds of benefit. But we are saying that we don’t have any splinter group. The best we know of is a handful of people that we sanctioned over one issue or the other, or who are being sponsored by vice-chancellors because we have issues with such vice-chancellors. These are the people that are ganging up and saying, we want to pull down ASUU.
“But ASUU is an idea; you cannot kill it. ASUU has taken root and it will take another 40 years for any group to get to the level of ASUU.
Speaking on the demand of ASUU that resulted to the 2 weeks warning strike, the professor said “there are many issues and you saw the way I started the story that we have a Memorandum of Action of February 7, 2019, and we were tracking the memorandum thinking that this was the way to go and suddenly they brought in the IPPIS in July 2019.
“IPPIS is a distraction and you can see how it has distracted us from our MoA. So, what we are saying now is that let us go back to our MoA. If we go back to our MoA, we will even see the issue of the need to respect university autonomy there. We will see the issue of funding, revitalisation, outstanding entitlements, issue of state universities and their governors, and others.
“And by going back to the MoA, we will also be able to underline that IPPIS just came in through the back door and it is trying to erode the basis of university autonomy. So, IPPIS is a distraction because it has become amplified beyond reasonable levels of assumption and our primary objective of fixing our universities is no longer being discussed.
“And that’s why we said we need these two weeks of serious engagements to tell whoever cares to listen that we have been coming from the 2009 agreement. And we have had an agreement with the government on four key components of our university system. The first is funding; second, conditions of service; third, academic freedom and university autonomy; while the fourth component is related to issues of enabling laws and general operating environment.
“So every memorandum we have signed with the government – whether 2013, 2017 or 2019 – all emanate from the 2009 initial agreement because all issues we are still tracking have their roots in the initial agreement.” He said.
Meanwhile,the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has withdrawn its support for the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), a government payment platform, for its members across the Nigerian universities.
The workers’ union, which had initially supported the initiative, said its trust in the system was betrayed by the Federal Government “as reflected in the various irregularities noticed in the payment of February salaries of its members.”
In a statement issued on Monday and signed by the union’s spokesman, Abdulsobur Salaam, SSANU noted that all peculiarities it identified before the implementation, and which the office of the accountant general of the federation and other implementing partners agreed to incorporate, were disregarded in the implementation.
The statement reads in part; “Kindly recall that we keyed into the IPPIS with an understanding that all the peculiarities in the University system, particularly pertaining to our members would be adequately addressed, especially the issues of allowances, appointments, increments, third party deductions etc.
“Various concerns were raised and our fears were allayed through various correspondences, meetings and practical sessions where the application was displayed and all issues brought forward were addressed. It was only after exhausting all the queries and getting satisfactory answers that our union, SSANU and its JAC counterpart NASU, decided to key into the platform in the overall interest of the system and our members.
“It is therefore shocking to us that our first real taste of the IPPIS application is totally different from what was presented. All the concerns raised by our unions were not implemented and disregarded. Apart from the breach of trust which has now manifested, our members across the universities are groaning from various anomalies witnessed in their salaries thereby forcing them into great hardships which they never bargained for when they keyed into the IPPIS. As a leadership, this is totally unacceptable! The recent development has once again shown, despite our attempts to test otherwise, that Government can never be trusted and as such, based on what we have been subjected to with the February salary, we do not blame our lecturer counterparts, ASUU, for resisting the IPPIS from the beginning.”
The union has, therefore, requested the government to stop using the new platform to pay its members, and that reversal to the old platform of the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS), would be appreciated.
ASUU had on Monday 9th March, 2020 embarked on a two-week warning strike.
A development, which had disrupted academic activities across many campuses nationwide, had also forced many students back home.
However, the government met with the leadership of the union with a promise to look into its demands, especially the integration of its proposed salary payment model to the existing IPPIS.