The Nigerian federal government has referred the protracted strike initiated by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the National Labor Court of Nigeria (NICN) for adjudication. This followed the failure of dialogue between the union and the Federal Ministry of Education.
The government sought a court order for ASUU members to resume work at their various universities while the disputed matters were dealt with by the NICN in accordance with the provisions of Section 18(I)(b) of the TDA Cap T8. LFN 2004.
A statement from the Head of Press and Public Relations of the Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, said the request was contained in an Instrument of Referral addressed to the Registrar of NICN, dated September 8, 2022, and signed by the Minister of Labour. and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.
In the case announced for mention at 9 a.m. today, the Federal Government has asked the NICN to investigate the legality or otherwise of the ongoing extended strike by ASUU management and members who was continued even after the arrest by the Minister of Labor and Employment.
She asked the court to interpret in their entirety the provisions of article 18 LFN 2004, in particular in that they applied to the cessation of the strike when a professional conflict was apprehended by the Minister of Labor and Employment and that a conciliation was in progress.
Other demands included that the tribunal “interpret the provisions of Section 43 of the Commercial Disputes Act, Cap T8. LFN 2004, entitled “Special Provision Concerning the Payment of Wages During Strikes and Lockouts”, dealing specifically with the rights of employees/workers during the period of any strike or lockout.
“Can ASUU or any other union that has gone on strike ask to be paid wages even with clear provisions of the law.
“Determining whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments or “strike pay” during their strike period, which began on February 14, 2022, all the more so in view of our national legislation, as provided section 43 of the TDA and international labor principles on the right to strike as well as the decisions of the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association on the matter.
“To determine whether ASUU has the right to strike out over disputes, as is the case here, by forcing the federal government to use its own University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) in the payment of salaries of its members in relation to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) universally used by the federal government in the country for the payment of salaries of all its employees in the government civil service federal government which university workers including ASUU members are a part of or even where the government via NITDA has subjected ASUU and its counterpart UPPPS university payment platform system software to an integrity test (test of vulnerability and stress) and they failed.
The federal government has further asked the court to determine the extent of ASUU’s claim since the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) the union signed with the government.
Demands included funding for the revitalization of public universities in accordance with the 2009 agreement, payments of Acquired Academic Allowances (EAAs), the proliferation of state universities and the constitution of visiting panels, and the publication of a Visiting Panel Report White Paper.
The others were the reconstitution of the government renegotiation team for the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, which was renegotiated in 2013/2014, to be renegotiated in 2018/2019, and the migration of ASUU members from the ‘IPPIS to its own UTAS, which is currently being tested at NITDA. .
Meanwhile, as parents and students at Nigerian public universities fear there is no end in sight to the rift between the Federal Government and ASUU, a report by the Universities Needs Assessment Committee Nigerian Public Administrations (CNANPU) which was set up by the government to carry out a detailed assessment of the existing situation in universities and the requirements for their transformation, revealed that the Nigerian university system is experiencing a manpower crisis .
CNANPU also reported that the physical facilities for teaching and learning in Nigerian universities were inadequate, dilapidated, overloaded, overcrowded and used beyond their original carrying capacity.
The committee noted that “academic culture is dying very rapidly” in public universities, as “library facilities and services are archaic and comatose (while) many laboratory equipment are known only to students in theory ( who) have never seen many not talking about using them.
He also observed that there were numerically more non-academic staff in the departments of universities than the teaching staff they were supposed to support. He said it had created “a scenario in which the tail is wagging the dog, as more expense is incurred on administrative and routine functions than on basic academic matters.
“Over 70% of non-teaching staff do not have a first degree, which shows low professionalism or unqualified staff in specific roles within universities.”
The committee’s report, which was submitted to the federal government on November 1, 2012, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY over the weekend, offered information that could help resolve the crisis that shut down the university. for almost seven months.
He said many lecturers, including professors, shared small offices while open-air sports pavilions, an old cafeteria, convening arenas and even unfinished buildings were used for lectures; and in some cases workshops were held under corrugated iron sheds or trees.
The eleven committee members included the Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund); representatives of the Senate and House of Representatives; Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation; Ministries of Education, Finance, Trade and Investment; National Planning Commission; National Universities Commission (NUC); then President of ASUU, Professor Ukachukwu Aloysius Awuzie.
He noted that “so much pressure is placed on existing facilities, mainly due to unplanned expansion of programs” at public universities.
The committee lamented that the current enrollment in public universities in Nigeria “is a reversal of national policy, as the current ratio of science to non-science is 32:68 instead of 60:40.”
Further, “there is no relationship between enrollment and the nation’s tangible labor needs,” the report said.
He captured the state of Nigerian universities, thus, “students sitting on the bare floor or looking out of windows to attend lectures; more than 1,000 students crammed into lecture halls intended for less than 150 students; more than 400 students crammed into a lab meant for 75 students; students cannot find accommodation, where they are crammed like sardines into tiny rooms; no lights and no water in hostels, classrooms and labs and that students use brushy areas of their campus for restrooms because restrooms are too dangerous to use.
Other problems, according to the committee, include “broken furniture everywhere, neglected buildings and dilapidated facilities” as well as “overworked, untrained and inadequate teachers, etc.”
He said these were actually symptoms of the real problems, which “are the quality of leadership and governance in universities”.
The committee said some university administrators are “spending millions to erect supergates while their libraries are still at the foundation level; spend millions buying exotic vehicles for college officers even if they lack basic class furnishings; spend hundreds of millions on walls and fences when student accommodation is inadequate and in tatters.
The committee also said that during its mission, it found that the majority of universities nationwide were “understaffed, rely heavily on part-time and visiting lecturers, and have underqualified scholars.” , and only a few of them attract expatriate lecturers but lack an effective staff development program.
He added, “Based on available data, there are 37,504 scholars in Nigerian public universities (as of 2012) who have been instructed to teach 1,252,913 students. The faculty-student ratio reaches 1:363 in some universities.
“Instead of having 100% of academics with PhDs, only about 43% do. The remaining 57% do not have a doctorate.
“Instead of having 75% of academics between lecturers and professors, only about 44% are in the range, while the remaining 56% are not.”
The report adds: “Only seven universities have up to 60% of their teaching staff with PhDs…there are universities where the total number of professors is no more than five. And the total number of doctors in the whole university does not reach 30.”
The committee lamented the growing culture of guest teaching in the university system. He indicated that out of a total of 37,504 lecturers, only 28,128, or 75%, were hired full-time, implying that 9,376 are retrained as visiting lecturers, adjuncts, sabbaticals and contractual.
It said: “Some academics are still on the road from one college town to another and unable to fulfill their primary obligations with their tenured employer.
“It makes some state university owners believe that they can run universities without any programs for developing academic staff and recruiting full-time faculty.
“No Nigerian scholar is in the league of Nobel laureates or a Nobel candidate.
“There are only two registered patents held by Nigerian scholars in the last three years,” in 2012.
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos