President Buhari has told ASUU that he will honour his promises but they should consider his economic constraints, The Nation report.
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reassured the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of his administration’s commitment to honour all agreements it entered with the union.
The President gave the assurance while hosting members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), led by its Co-Chairs, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle.
He said the Federal Government remained committed to honouring promises it made to the union to prevent strikes, engender uninterrupted academic programmes and improve funding of education institutions.
The President, who met with NIREC at the Presidential Villa in Abuja, urged ASUU to work with his administration in its efforts to save the nation’s university education system from total collapse and preserve the future of the country.
This happened as stakeholders in the Education sector met in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, with a word of advice for ASUU: fine-tune your strategy to avoid public misconception and to achieve better results.
President Buhari appealed to the academic union and its members to always take into consideration the difficult fiscal situation the nation is passing through while making its demands.
“…They should be cognisant of the fiscal pressures that we are currently facing. Nevertheless, we remain committed to honoring our promises.
“For their part, I would like to encourage ASUU to continue to work with us towards finding resolutions to the challenges that confront us.
“My administration is committed to this engagement and dialogue, and I urge them to stay the course towards a joint resolution in the best interest of our children and nation,” he said.
Responding to issues raised by the leadership of NIREC on finding sustainable solutions to the perennial and disruptive strikes that threaten the sanctity and integrity of the nation’s university system, the President said he had directed his Chief of Staff, the Ministers of Labour and Employment as well as that of Education to prioritise the resolution of the issues between the government and the union.
“To show our commitment, several payments have been made over the last six months, addressing several of the issues you raised – details of which the Minister of Labour and Employment can make available to you.
“Funding has also been provided for infrastructure development across several public universities and several of them have begun drawing down on this facility to improve their level of infrastructure
“Finally, and perhaps the most contentious of the issues is that regarding the decision to use either the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) or the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS).
“As you may be aware, IPPIS was introduced as a means of blocking leakages. Through IPPIS, the Federal Government was able to save over N100 billion annually from the core civil service alone. In view of the resistance from ASUU, we devised UTAS, which is now on the table.
“I have also been informed that the System Assessment Report conducted by NITDA has been shared by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to all stakeholders, including ASUU, and they are to make the appropriate modifications and report their recommendations,” he said.
Ayokunle, who spoke on behalf of NIREC, said the meeting with the President was on the singular point of averting strikes in the universities and the challenges of ASUU, which they considered to be of national interest.
He told the President that from NIREC’s meeting with ASUU on January 10, 2022, the university lecturers outlined that the bone of contention between the union and Federal Government centred on eight issues, including inconclusive renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, UTAS, IPPIS and distortion in salary payment challenges.
Also, educational stakeholders, including students, civil society groups, unionists, scholars and administrators, have urged ASUU to change its focus in the fight for the survival of tertiary education in the country.
The stakeholders, who hailed the union for putting the government on its toes in the fight for an effective university system, said the change is necessary to enable members of the public understand all issues well and avoid misconceptions about ASUU’s demands.
ASUU said it would continue to engage the government to ensure a secured future for the nation’s education system.
The stakeholders spoke at a symposium organised by the Workers’ Education and Civil Society Liaison Committee (WECSLC) of the University of Ibadan (UI) chapter of ASUU with the theme: The Role of ASUU in The Rescue of Public Education in Nigeria.
The event held under the chairmanship of a former Deputy Vice Chancellor of UI, Prof. Ambrose Ayelari, who is also a former Secretary of ASUU in the institution.
Ayelari noted that university teachers are products of the system but have looked and seen how things keep worsening.
He said the union would not watch while the system collapses.
“Like we keep telling people, if ASUU goes on strike, and we win, what we have won from the strike most times is not for our pockets but for the system. We are talking about funding of university education.
“If, for instance, UI would have enough funds, who benefits? It’s the system, of course. We ASUU members will not get more than our salaries, but the university will be better for it.
“We are not happy that what we went through in training we cannot even give it to our old students now. That is why ASUU continues to do that. ASUU is a union of teachers. Many of us passed through this system. We saw things and we cannot keep our eyes closed when things are not done the right way. Whether anybody likes it or not, we will continue to do what is best for us, what is best for the university and this country.”