Minister of Education

The Federal Government offered 23.5 per cent salary increase for all categories of the workforce in federal universities, except for the professorial cadre, which would enjoy a 35 per cent upward review. The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, gave this hint last Tuesday, 6th September, 2022, at a meeting held at the National Universities Commission (NUC) Idris Abdulkadir Auditorium, Abuja.

The meeting was convened by the Hon. Minister of Education along with Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities to bring an end to the on-going Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.

The Honourable Minister revealed that President Muhammadu Buhari warned the government team involved in the negotiation with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) against signing any agreement, which the government will not be able to implement.

According to him, the President also directed the government team to persuade the university lecturers to return to work.

Mallam Adamu said after a series of meetings with President Buhari and the Ministers of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Labour and Productivity; Communications and Digital Economy; and Education as well as the Director-General of the Budget Office and the Chairman of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, the Draft Agreement by the Prof. Nimi Briggs Re-negotiation Team was critically reviewed and the proposed salary increment considered unrealistic and out of tune with the current realities of the national economy.

He also assured that henceforth, allowances pertaining to ad-hoc duties of academic and non-academic staff shall be paid as and when due by the governing councils of universities to which such services are rendered and to the staff who perform them.

Academic activities have been suspended by ASUU for over 200 days over the alleged failure of the federal government to meet all its demands, which include the conclusion of the process of renegotiating the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), payment of outstanding arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), release of the agreed sum of money for the revitalisation of public universities (federal and states), address proliferation and governance issues in the state universities, settle promotion arrears, release withheld salaries of academics, and pay outstanding third-party deductions.

Mallam Adamu further stated that a sum of N150 billion shall be provided for in the 2023 budget as funds for the revitalisation of federal universities, to be disbursed to the institutions in the first quarter of the year, while the sum of N50 billion shall also be provided for in the 2023 budget for the payment of outstanding areas of earned academic allowances, to be paid in the first quarter of the year.

While noting that the prevailing economic situation is limiting the ability of the government to accede to all their demands, Mallam Adamu said the appeal to the unions to consider and accept the government’s offer and call off the on-going industrial actions in the interest of the nation’s educational system consequently saw the suspension of the strike by the Joint Action Committee of NASU/SSANU and NAAT.

The Minister informed the gathering that government and the ASUU had no option but to continue talking “Until our universities have reopened their doors to students who, clearly, are the principal victims of the seemingly unending strikes. In the circumstances, therefore, all Councils and Senates of our universities are enjoined to rise up to their responsibilities.

“We must, together, continue to work to restore our public universities to where they were in the 60s and 70s. As the most important officers in our university system, pro-chancellors and Vice-Chancellors must demonstrate more commitment to ending the on-going strike,” he added.

He said the government negotiation team, in all its activities, had been guided by President Buhari’s directives, namely, “That while the unions should be persuaded to return to work, the government should not repeat the past mistakes of accepting to sign an agreement it will be unable to implement. Government should not, in the guise of resolving current challenges, sow seeds for future disruptions.”

Mallam Adamu said to him, “The past two weeks have been a very dark period of personal anguish and internal turmoil. I used to deceive myself that in a climate of frankness, and with mutual goodwill, it will fall to my lot to bring an end to the incessant strikes in the education sector. This has not proved possible- or, at least, not as easy, quick and straightforward, as I used to think.”

Meanwhile, following a two-hour marathon meeting with the Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors, the Minister, through the Director of Public Affairs, Federal Ministry of Education (FME), Mr. Bem Ben Goong said, a 14-man committee made up of four Pro-Chancellors and four Vice-Chancellors and others, to be chaired by the Minister, had been constituted.

Members of the committee included: Profs. Nimi Briggs, Olu Obafemi, Udo Udoma and Bashir Dalhatu, as Pro-Chancellors and the vice-chancellors of the University of Ibadan, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, the University of Benin and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka as well as Presidents of Nigeria Academy of Letters, Science, Medicine and Social Sciences.  The Executive Secretary, NUC Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, mni, MFR, FNAL, and Registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Is-haq Oloyede are also members of the Committee.

The Minister said the committee would look into the additional demands the ASUU was making, particularly the areas where there had not been consensus. He, however, stated that the issue of University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as the payment platform for university lecturers was not discussed at the meeting, adding that it was also not part of the issues the 14-man committee would tackle.

He said the committee had met and would proceed to meet President Buhari on the outcome. He noted that the committee would be looking at two major areas of contention: the no-work-no-pay policy and the remuneration of university lecturers. While he could not give the time frame for the committee to work, he said “Given the atmosphere in the meeting, they are looking at days.” He, thereafter, pointed that, they were not jettisoning the Prof. Nimi Briggs committee, but that it was in continuation of what the committee did. On whether there would be a review of the no-work-no-pay policy, he said: “There has been an appeal generally for the system to take a second look at that and that is what the committee will look into.”

The Monday Bulletin also gathered that after the meeting, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC) of Nigerian Federal Universities summoned an emergency meeting to review the position of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) vis-à-vis that of the federal government. The CVC appealed to the Federal Government to reconsider its stand on ‘No Work No Pay’ and pay the withheld salaries on compassionate grounds and especially in the interest of Nigerian students. The Vice-Chancellors said the government’s acceptance of this appeal would no doubt facilitate a quick resolution of the impasse.

A statement signed by the Chairman, CVC and the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Prof. Sulayman A. Abdulkareem said, they also support the call for salary adjustment, especially in the present dispensation where the templates used by the National Salaries, Incomes & Wages Commission (NSIWC) and the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) have depleted the salaries of academics and vice-chancellors, to an all-time low.

“Chief lecturers in Polytechnics and Colleges of Education now earn more than Professors in the universities. The proposal by the Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee should be revisited as their figures represent a better offer that will stem the tide of unrest in the universities,” the statement reads.

CVC said financial autonomy should be extended to Governing Councils to allow them determine the salaries of the staff in their various universities subject to a national minimum as agreed by all stakeholders.

They also called for the immediate release of N170 billion to complete one tranche of the Needs Assessment Revitalisation Fund in line with the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MoA) to put close to the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement, saying, the Federal Government has agreed to this and would include it in the 2023 budget and urged ASUU to exercise patience while the FG includes the demand in the 2023 budget as promised. The Vice-Chancellors, similarly, called for the immediate release of N50 billion to complete the payment of arrears of Earned Allowances in line with the 2020 MoA to put close to the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement, which FG has agreed to also include in the 2023 budget. “The Federal Government should consider this demand, source for funds and pay this N50 billion now as a sign of goodwill and keeping faith with the 2020 MoA and ASUU should reconsider its position and reciprocate this gesture to suspend the strike,” the statement added.

The CVC also appealed to the FG to expedite action on the release of the White Paper on the 2021 Visitation Panels report to the federal government. While sympathising with students, parents and other stakeholders over the prolonged strike, which is the second longest in our history, they urged all parties to adopt a give-and-take option in the negotiations and employ decorum and decency in the language of communication. “All hands must be on deck as we seek to make the required sacrifices for the sake of university education in Nigeria.”