ASUU Strike Latest: Senate Blames Federal Government

The Federal Government came under serious attack, yesterday, by the Senate over the strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, just as it warned against what it termed foot- dragging and bureaucratic bottleneck on the part of the government.

The Senate, while accusing the Federal Government of being responsible for the strike by the university teachers, stressed that government’s continued delay in the full implementation of the agreement reached with ASUU in 2009 was responsible for the strike.

Speaking when the Education Minister, Professor Rukuayyatu Ahmed Rufai, appeared before the Senate Committee on Education, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Uche Chukwumerije (PDP, Abia South) warned that the National Assembly and Nigerians were not prepared for excuses from the government. Also yesterday, the Senate rejected excuses by the minister in implementing the 2009 agreement reached with ASUU, when she tried to explain, adding that the explanations were not tenable.

Chukwumerije, who warned the government against foot-dragging on the implementation of the agreement reached with ASUU in 2009, said: “I wonder why it is taking the Federal Government almost three years to implement the agreement reached with the academic staff and even settles all the contentious issues.

”This is December and in few weeks time, we will be in 2012. It took a judgment by the Supreme Court before the matter on the illegal sack of University of Ilorin teachers could be implemented; do you also want us to wait for another four years on this?”

Rufai, who had explained that most of the nine-point demands had been implemented while the eighth had got to the stages of implementation, stressed that the real bone of contention was the content of the retirement age bill that merged universities with all other tertiary institutions. Adding that the processes that all the issues have to pass through caused the delay, but which ASUU is kicking against.

The furious Chukwumerije who was not happy with the minister’s excuses that the remaining eight were being delayed because of the processes, said, “You keep saying processes and processes. These processes are they made in the moon or Jupiter or where else. Are you not the people that created these processes? Or is it that you are waiting for another court action before you implement an agreement both parties willingly singed almost three years ago? Why can’t these processes be speed up to safe us another agony of going on strike?”.

Replying, the Minister who noted that it was not that government deliberately refused to attend to other demands, said that the circumstances surrounding them does not help the matter especially the difference in the 65 years retirement age for Non-academic staff and 70 years for the academic staff.

“On the passage of the bill on retirement age of 65 years for non-teaching and 70 years for teaching professional cadre, the ministry has since directed that affected staff who may retire before the passage of the bill should be offered contract appointments and regularized when the bill takes effect”, she said.

Speaking further, the Committee, Senate Committee on Education who noted that the bill on retirement age of lecturers was being treated expressly, disclosed that it has already reached second reading in the House of Representatives and on its way to second reading in the senate.

Chukwumerije who warned the Federal Government against further delay said, “You said the delay is caused by the process, Mrs. Minister, were these process made in moon or Jupiter, why can’t these process be sped up for God’s sake, please, call anyone involved to order or else, the senate may be forced to take some unexpected steps”.

Defending the Federal government, the Education Minister noted that remaining two agreements which were yet to be implemented required legal provisions, while the federal government was awaiting the recommendation of the Implementation Monitoring Committee, IMC on the transfer of the landed property.

On the implementation of the new salary package, (CONUASS 11), Professor Professor Rukuayyatu Ahmed Rufai said that the sum of N14billion was released to pay the outstanding arrears from July 2009 and the Earned Academic Allowances EAA, adding, “the allowances are to be paid by the institutions from their Internally Generated Revenue, IGR which some of the ivory towers have partially implemented.

“All have complained that they cannot generate the IGR needed for its full implementation. However, as at 2010, the total IGR declared by the 26 universities and 3 inter-Universities centers was over N25billion. On 28th September, 2011, the universities presented a bill of over N106billion as the additional funding required to fully implement the EAA.

The minister further declared that there has been a progressive increase in funding to federal universities since the 2009 agreement was signed, stressing that the increment ranged between over N84 billion in 2007 to over N184 billion in 2010, adding that the funding however does not include intervention fund from TET fund, PTDF, IGR among others, while the proposal by federal universities for the revitalization of the federal universities between 2009 and 2011 is N1.518 trillion.

She also told the Education committee that the sponsorship of the lecturers for post graduate studies have been fully implemented through the TET fund intervention. The Minister and other stakeholders later left the Senate for a meeting with ASUU and the Federal government with the federal government team being headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim.

Source: Vanguard News