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Friday, February 3, 2023

ASUU talks tough, says military government better than Buhari’s administration

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has said the military government is better than the civilian government regarding welfare of lecturers in Nigeria.

ASUU president Professor Emmanuel Osodeke made this claim on Thursday, January 5, 2023, at the unveiling of 50 tertiary textbooks published by Nigerian authors under the sponsorship of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), in Abuja.

Recall that on Friday, October 16, 2022, ASUU suspended its eight-month-old strike which had shut down public universities in the country to demand full implementation of agreements it had entered into with the Federal Government a few years ago.

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However, things took a new turn on Thursday, November 3, 2022, when it was gathered that the government only paid half-month salaries to the university teachers.’

But the Minister of Education later said the position of the Federal Government was that the lecturers “would not be paid for work not done.”

Despite protests and the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, the executive arm of government has insisted it would not shift grounds on implementing the ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy.

The decision of the government to withhold the salaries of lecturers had led to a series of protests across the country with some branches of the union calling for the sack of the minister of education, Adamu Adamu and the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige.

Speaking on Thursday in Abuja, Osodeke said; “Thank you very much for this honourable minister and all of us who are present here today. I want to thank my colleagues for raising the issues and I think it is very important. I will just say a little thing about what is TETFUND and how did it originate?”

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“In 1992, the union was on strike and negotiating how we use to do then few years ago with Obafemi and co, and when we finished, the government said how can we fund it and we said challenge us, we will tell you how to fund this agreement. And they challenged ASUU, it didn’t take 3 days and we came up with the idea of TETFUND, which was accepted by the government and then military.

“I have seen that the military are even more sympathetic… Then TETFUND came into place. The decree was signed 1993. ASUU had to go on strike the third time to ensure that TETFUND board is funded and the money was released.”

On the ‘no work no pay’ policy of the Federal Government against striking lecturers which has resulted in eight months of unpaid salaries, Osodeke called on Nigerians to increase pressure on the government to save tertiary education from collapse.

While describing TETFund as a brainchild of the union, he commended the agency for transforming the nation’s higher education sector.

The ASUU president called for increase of education tax from the current 2.5percent to 10 percent to enable TETFund mobilise more funds to totally address challenges confronting the sector.

While decrying the poor attitude of some big companies and wealthy Nigerians on the payment of education tax, Osodeke said there is need to reposition and expand the education tax net to bring about more resources for tertiary education institutions.

Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who unveiled the 50 new textbooks said the publications would end the dominance of foreign academic materials in the nation’s educational institutions.

Adamu who was represented by the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nanah Opiah, said overtime, Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions became dependent on books published outside the country with the attendant consequences of the herculean processes and unfavourable foreign exchange rate.

“It is equally worrisome that the quality of most academic publications in our country leaves much to be desired. It is therefore expected that nourishing the culture of quality authorship and the production of indigenous books will not only ensure the availability of relevant books in the diverse subject areas taking cognizance of our local environment and sensitivities but will also safeguard national pride and reduce the demand for foreign exchange.”

The minister also urged TETFund and the academia to go beyond publishing in English Language to promoting authorship in local languages in line with the recently approved National Language Policy.

In his remark, the Executive Secretary of TETFund, Arc Sonny Echono, said the fund has set a minimum target of 50 textbooks per year, while assuring that the newly published books would be distributed to tertiary institutions’ libraries at no cost.

“All the books we have published so far, the initial publications are going to be distributed to the libraries of our tertiary institutions free of charge. It is the subsequent publications that students will be buying or other researchers will buy,” he said.

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