Aborted ASUU Strike: Beyond House of Representatives’ Intervention — New Telegraph Editorial

Posted by News Express | 26 November 2021 | 489 times

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The nation may have heaved a sigh of relief after another indefinite strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was averted. This is due to the last minute intervention by the House of Representatives resulting in the reported suspension of the strike. New Telegraph congratulates the House of Representatives for doing everything humanly possible to prevail on ASUU to sheathe its sword. ASUU also deserves kudos for listening to the plea of the legislators to desist from further mobilisation of her members for a nationwide shutdown of the country’s public universities.

The House has, by her intervention, shown appreciation that recurring disruption in the academic universities over an avoidable human challenge like the non-implementation of the agreement reached between the Federal Government and ASUU has manifold negative consequences which will continue to compromise Nigeria’s development. By backing down from its scheduled strike, ASUU has shown that the progress of the nation is of great concern to her despite the fact it has been pushed to the wall by the recurring inability of the Executive Branch of government to keep to its promise to discharge her financial obligations to the trade union.

We cannot thank the House of Representatives and ASUU enough. New Telegraph recalls that the last nine month-old strike by the union, following the failure of the Federal Government to fulfil its agreement with ASUU, was suspended in December, 2020. The strike resulted in the loss of one full academic session by the country’s public universities.

Students were made to spend an extra year in order to make up for the loss of one academic session, when the industrial dispute was suspended. We regret that the House of Representatives’ intervention is unlikely to guarantee sustainable industrial peace in the public university system, as it is merely an adhoc exercise. The Executive Branch of government should come to the inescapable realization that the greatest driver of all forms of development in any human society is education.

Much as we do not frown at dialogue, it should be pointed out that frequent negotiations that do not produce fruitful results, as has been the case with the Federal Government, should be discouraged. It is pointless wasting limited productive time for national development to hold marathon meetings that will result in empty promises that will not be backed up with timely implementation.

Just as we urge the Federal Government to end recurring unproductive negotiations with ASUU to move on to turn a new leaf with timely implementation of existing and binding agreement with the trade union, it amounts to self-deceit to think that ASUU’s legitimate demands would be met with the continued subjugation of education to defence in the annual budgetary allocation. Education should have the lion’s share, beginning from January 1, next year, when the 2022 Appropriation Bill is expected to come into operation after being passed by the National Assembly and assented to by President Muhammadu Buhari.

New Telegraph observes with displeasure the present arrangement whereby large sums of money are lawfully set aside for the overdose of comfort of the political office-holders. The funds set aside for the purchase and maintenance of jets and the medical tourism of some political officeholders, especially those of Mr. President, should have been reasonably deployed into education and utilized to meet some of the conditions of ASUU. All political office-holders and their families should be mandated to access medication from local health facilities. Also, children of political office-holders should be made to attend the country’s educational institutions.

The National Assembly should be stripped off its reported power to fix the salaries and allowances of its members. The Revenue Mobilization Fiscal and Allocation Commission (RMFAC) should also be directed to henceforth stop fixing the salaries of some political officeholders.

The power to determine the salaries and allowances of all salary-earners, be they political office-holders or civil servants, should be transferred to the National Incomes, Salaries and Wages Commission (NISWC). The above-mentioned measures will help move funds from areas of less need to a far more area of critical need, which is education. New Telegraph is of the firm belief that federal and state governments should desist from setting up additional universities and research institutes while existing and binding agreements with ASUU are yet to be implemented to the hilt.

To do the contrary is akin to saying to ASUU in one breadth that there is no money to meet its legitimate demands while in another, the Federal Government appears to be saying that there is enough funds to set up additional universities and research institutes. Such unjustifiable acts or communication will usually make ASUU to have a feeling of suspicion and distrust towards federal and state governments. We, therefore, urge the Executive branch of government to suspend further establishment of new universities and research institutes in order to deploy the available funds to meet the needs of ASUU by conceding the lion’s share to education instead of defence in the annual Appropriation Bill.

Source: News Express

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