28th May, 2012
Some agreements reached between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), though reached in good faith, are not implementable, Prof. Julius Okojie has said.
Okojie, Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), made the declaration on Sunday in Abuja when he featured at an interview session of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
He emphasised that though it was in good faith that those agreements were reached, there were usually difficulties when it reached the implementation stage because of the structure of the union.
“I recall the statement made by Jibril Aminu (former Minister of Education); he says whichever agreement you sign, some day you find out it is not implementable.
“Because when you have been holding talks for more than two years and finally you have reached an agreement, and then somebody says ‘no’ when you have any difficulty he will resolve the issue, and when those difficulties arise, it becomes difficult.
“And you may find that the major players are no longer in place there.
“It’s all with good intentions that those agreements are reached, but to start apportioning blames here, that’s what I won’t do.”
Okojie told NAN that ASUU as an umbrella union had members from poorly-funded universities which could not afford to implement some of the agreements reached.
Attempts in the past to make the system where remuneration could be based on location or strength, had proved abortive as ASUU’s stance was that all members should enjoy the same salary structure
“You find that ASUU is an umbrella union, including state institutions. I must tell you, the poorest-funded institutions are state institutions and you want us to implement the same thing in states.
“For as long as you don’t do that, it drags the whole system down. If you have just the Federal Government-owned universities, their employees won’t have such problems.
“It is not always that government fails to honour obligations; it is the structure of the staff unions of the universities with different proprietorships.
“When it comes to money that is when we normally have that problem; but on policy issues and what else have you, I think we are making progress in the system.
“In matters of regulation and quality assurance we do that, when it comes to pecuniary matters, you can’t force a state government to pay the same thing as the Federal Government.”
Okojie, who agreed that it was normal to register grievances through lawful means, appealed to ASUU to always put the interest of the students first.
He said grounding academic activities during industrial actions was unhealthy for the system as it stalled the progress of the education sector.
“I have a very good request to make to my colleagues; it is not as if there are no strikes in other parts of the world, but I recall the time of Abubakar Tafawa-Balewa, we also had strikes by lecturers.
“But while the executives were negotiating, work continued.
“The worry we have is that if you have lost so many semesters and sessions in the past 20 years due to strikes in our own environment where we know how best to work, we learn psychology of disengagement from work.
“We are pleading that you can’t stop work when you are negotiating because when you get what you want, what time you have lost, you can’t get it.”
Okojie said to address the issue of recurrent strikes due to lack of implementation of agreements reached between government and ASUU, an implementation monitoring committee had been set up by the government.