THE Nigerian Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike since February this year.
In reaction, the government invoked the ‘no work, no pay policy, to which the ASUU president a professor, Emmanuel Osodeke said it is a ploy by the government to make lecturers go hungry, and force them to resume work.
The disagreement between ASUU and the government has been lingering for years leading to intermittent strikes with some of them spanning several months – and the government sometimes invoking the ‘no work, no pay’ labour policy.
On this note, The ICIR spoke to several lecturers on how they are coping as well as on related matters.
The immediate past Chairman of ASUU, a professor at Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto, Abubakar Sabo, noted that the lingering strike has affected him and his colleagues in numerous ways.
He said aside from not being able to impart knowledge to his students, he also can’t attend seminars and academic workshops, “My salary was withheld for some months now. This affects me economically. My colleagues could not be promoted to the next rank due to the strike action.”
He also noted that he wasn’t paid for 11 months in 2020, due to the strike the union embarked on as such lecturers have to depend on other sources of income to survive.
Speaking on the issues and part of disagreement with the government He said “All the components of funding in public universities have been removed by the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS), as such, we were asked to charge students to fund our research and other academic activities. Should that happens, students will be paying about 1 million or above annually in order to continue with their studies.
“Funding for research and development in public universities should be the sole responsibility of the government constitutionally,” he explained.
“But we are still determined to withstand and continue with the struggle. The aim is to salvage the public universities from collapse.”
He called on parents to be patients as they are also parents with wards in the schools too.
“We are also parents because 98 per cent of us put our children in the public universities. We are also students because 80 per cent of our members do their studies in Nigerian public universities. We are the victims because our salaries are withheld. We lost promotions and we miss academic conferences and seminars. Our children are sent back from school because we couldn’t afford to pay for their school fees,” he explained.
‘My 2014 take-home pay is higher than 2020’
A lecturer at the University of Ibadan told The ICIR that what he was earning as a lecturer in 2014, is higher than what he earned in 2020, after a six years interval.
Explaining the salary structure he said “A lecturer I who must have spent like six years in the university earns about N150,000 with his PhD. A lecturer II earns N139,000 after four years. A professor’s take-home is N416,000. I am not talking about a professor who was just promoted today. I am talking about the one who has passed through all the steps. The IPPIS has deducted over a hundred thousand from his salary.”
He added that the lecturer will still have to fund publications as well as attend seminars and conferences.
“If he is attending a local conference, he will be spending nothing less than N150,000. It is from his salary, there is no additional money. If he is going for an international conference, he pays from his salary. For a conference in Togo, for instance; flight from Nigeria to Togo is N255,000. That is about two months salaries of a lecturer I and II.
“What about the money for conference registration? What about the money for hotel accommodation? What about the money for feeding during the period of the conference? That will be like #500,000. Aside from taking care of his family, he has to take care of these responsibilities because of promotion,” the doctor explained.
He also noted that “The public should be well enlightened and informed. There are some lecturers that will be in the university for years without having offices because there is no structure in place.”
IPPIS, earned academic allowance…
Udeme refuted the claim that lecturers work and earn from more than a university.
“A lecturer can not be in 4 places” he stated, “He can only have one full-time job and support the system for it to grow. It is allowed internationally.
“After 6 academic sessions, you are entitled to do what is known as sabbatical leave. You go to another university to impact knowledge. That’s why a lecturer will be in a university for a year and not seen after then.”
According to him, “A visiting lecturer in a particular university means he goes there once or twice a year based on the agreement.
“When a professor is appointed a Vice-Chancellor by another university, he will go on a leave of absence which means he will stop earning from his place of primary assignment until he completes his contract with the university where he was appointed.”
Udeme lamented the failure of the FG to pay lecturers’ academic earned allowances as and when due.
“I conducted research, did a job. Am I not entitled to my allowance? We don’t even know whether the one we have collected up till now is the one of 2017, and we are in 2022.
“I used my money to fuel my car. I went to visit about 4 schools when I have about 10 students to visit. And I have to go twice before the end of that Teaching Practice. Places like Lagos, the lecturer will have to visit the students to see them teach in the classroom to make necessary corrections.
“If I supervise students projects, you only pay for 5 students. Even when the students are up to 10, the lecturer earns for 5 students only.
“When you now want to pay us, you will announce to the public that you have given us billions of Naira. Was it a dash?
“It’s the money that I am supposed to earn that you are giving me. You release part to the system. Why don’t you pay it with my salary?”, he queried.
‘Govt don’t understand the role of universities in the society ‘
A lecturer at the University of Ibadan, Mutiat Oladejo, believes the strikes will impact negatively on the country, “In saner climes and developed countries, issues of a strike should not even occur in the first instance because universities are the centre of the society. Universities suppose to be the producer of knowledge for the society.
She said “Now, in the situation, we have in Nigeria where in seven years, Nigerian universities have been on strike for about four or five times, then, what kind of knowledge do we want them to produce. And how does it impact as a nation.
“Unfortunately, you have a Nigerian government that lacks a sense of direction, per se, because they fail to understand the role of university in society. They are not seeing the university for the value the university is supposed to offer to the society, they are seeing university as Just a place to extend their political interests, take honorary degrees, build buildings and have their names on it.”
On education bank…
Like other lecturers who spoke to The ICIR, Oladejo noted that the struggle to maintain standards and values for education for all, is a big sacrifice on the part of the striking lecturers.
“Education is supposed to be a right, not a privilege. But what the politicians and the capitalists are trying to do is that they’re trying to enable a situation that not everybody in the society, or to a certain extent, a number of citizens in the society, will be robbed off and will not be able to have access to university education.
“Because by the time they monetize things and make students pay tuition, that means at the end of the day, an average citizen will not have access to university education.
“For instance, they were talking about education bank. The disadvantage is that a number of people will have to be accessing loans to go to school. Now we are in a Nigerian society where there is inequality. Even access to SME loans, people don’t have access to loans to do businesses, even the government’s credit schemes that they established.
“People don’t have access to loans to do business, is that when they will now have access to loans to study? No, we can’t do that. We can’t go that part.And I know because they are trying to look at what obtains in America. And some will even argue that education is not for everybody. I mean, it’s absurd and you see these politicians take their children to foreign universities to study, they study within time. By 19, 20, they are university graduates and are back in Nigeria. And then servitude continues.
“What it means is that a student attending a public university will finish at 25, 26 while their children will finish at 21. That five or six years age gap is enough to affect the future of the society.
“Because in such situation those 25, 26 will have some challenges coping with the job market, whereas their own children that had first-class from whatever kind of universities they went abroad, come home at 21 and get employed, they get fixed up. Then, we continue to have inequality.
“The government is also trying to kill the middle class because they know that by the time they kill the middle class and everybody is in the lower class, people will suffer before they have a university education. These are the things ASUU is so concerned about.”