The meeting of ASUU NEC, held at FUAM, and attended by thirty-nine universities discussed very important issues facing our country. The following are NEC positions on the issues:
1. THE ON-GOING ACCREDITATION EXERCISE
NEC observed with concern the on-going accreditation of University programmes as organized by the NUC.
NEC noted that the accreditation exercise has its history in the steady decay of universities resulting from underfunding, steady subversion of the powers of the University Senate by successive governments since the 1980s, and the failure of the controllers of the Universities to defend the powers of Senate and the integrity of the Universities.
NEC observed that when the same governments that severely under fund education and the Universities turn round to subject the poorly funded institutions, to the accreditation test, they can only find the failure for which the government funding policy is responsible.
ASUU has always held that the accreditation of degrees and academic programmes should be left to professional bodies empowered to regulate professional education and training, or chartered learned societies and associations, or to a Universities Accreditation Committee specifically constituted by the Universities themselves for the purpose of accreditation, with a role for the Academy of Arts and Science.
NEC urged Vice-Chancellors to courageously stop trying to cover up the decay in the Nigerian Universities. Vice-Chancellors should be bold enough to tell the truth about the poor level of funding of Universities despite NUC propaganda to the contrary.
NEC believes that what Nigerian Universities need is a period of emergency and recovery marked by massive funding that will place our universities in a good position to do credible and sustained teaching and research. In the present circumstances, accreditation exercises will continue to be a charade organized by the NUC.
2. THE VISITATION PANEL REPORTS AND WHITE PAPERS
NEC again expressed its utter dismay at the behaviour of the Federal Government which set up Visitation Panels to Federal Universities two years ago, received their reports, yet has failed, despite repeated calls by ASUU and other bodies, to release the Reports and White Papers on them. The Reports would have revealed the true position of funding, infrastructure, accountability and management and the state of students lives, etc, in the universities. The Federal Government failure to release the Reports and White Papers may well be a veil on the truth about universities which ASUU has always insisted be revealed.
NEC reminds the public of ASUU initial serious reservation about that exercise, and calls on the public to demand that the Federal Government justifies the very significant public financial resources expended on the last Visitation exercise.
NEC, however, commends State Governments which have, since ASUU call, set up Visitation Panels to their universities and calls on them not to emulate the Federal Government when it comes to releasing Reports and White Papers. NEC urges all other State Universities where Visitation Panels are due to immediately set them up.
3. THE CONTROVERSY OVER JAMB ADMISSION
ASUU position on JAMB was presented before the Senate and House of Representatives Committee on Education at the public hearing on the "University Autonomy Bill" (2002). The NUC, JAMB, the Federal Ministry of Education, presented their positions. The views canvassed were:
1. that JAMB be scrapped. (This was not strongly canvassed)
2. that JAMB be left as it was and the law needed no amendment. (This was canvassed by JAMB, the NUC, and the Ministry of Education)
3. the JAMB should be restructured, such that the Board will only conduct the examinations and pass the score sheets to the universities. The Senate of each University should determine additional requirements and procedures for admission (granting the minimum admission requirement of five credits in relevant subjects in not more than two(2) sittings) (This was ASUU position).
ASUU argued that the existing law on JAMB was ambiguous, too vague and did not give the universities any clear and significant role in the admission of students. The controversy generated by the Minister of Education directive is predictable. The powers given to the Minister by the law is also vague and can be interpreted even in ways that conflict with some other parts of the law.
There is no doubt that the problem of JAMB cheats and subsequent failure in the universities are real. Nevertheless, cheating in JAMB exams is one of the problems of admission into undergraduate programmes in the universities. There are problems of fairness and justice in placement, national political necessities, corruption, over-admission, etc. None of these problems can be resolved by a ministerial directive. The National Assembly should organize, this time conclusively, a Public Hearing on admission into tertiary institutions, with a view to making a new law which will be clear on the powers of JAMB, Universities and the Senates, and the Minister of Education, and on other important issues.
However, the problem of JAMB admission is deeply rooted in the failures of our educational system. ASUU, as it has done in the past eight years, calls on the Senate and House Committees on Education to hold a National Summit on Education.
4. THE NUC
The 2002 Public Hearing on "University Autonomy" also included presentations on the role of NUC in the Nigerian Universities; whether that role is in accordance with the law that set up the NUC, and whether the role violates (or not) the statutes and the autonomy of universities. The issue was excluded from the Universities (Miscellaneous) Act of 2003.
In 2005, the NUC now organizes teaching and award of certificates, has included among its functions, the placement of academics on sabbaticals, is moving to establish quality control offices in universities where there are Senates, rewrites curricular for universities outside Senates and announces courses to be taught unknown to university Senates. NUC announces to the public "reforms" which are largely unknown, undiscussed and have little influence on the resolution of the fundamental problems on the universities.
NUC has substituted public pronouncements in Nigeria and international conferences for a deep fundamental study of the Nigerian University System. In another few years, the chicken will come home to the roost.
The Federal Government, every five years, establishes Visitation Panel to Federal Universities to evaluate whether the universities are performing in accordance with the goals for which they exist. Administrative, accountability, financial and moral probity, etc are assessed, to make room for progress.
ASUU NEC has several times called on the Federal Government to do the same for NUC: to establish a Visitation Panel which will examine the present role of the NUC in the context of the law establishing it, to assess the finance, accountability, administration, etc in the institution which has played such an extensive role in the university system.
The public should ask the Federal Government why any Ã¢â‚¬Å“supervising agency should be excluded from performance and accountability audit, especially when the government advocates accountability as a core principle of governance.
The National Assembly should conduct a fresh Public Hearing on the NUC and the NUC law, with a view to amending the law where it finds amendment necessary in the interest of the Nigerian University System.
5. THE CONTINUATION OF ILLEGAL REMUNERATION TO COUNCIL MEMBERS AND
PRINCIPAL OFFICERS OF UNIVERSITIES
NEC once more draws public attention to the fact that contrary to the judgment of the Federal High Court, Yola, in several universities, Council and Principal Officers continue to enjoy the remuneration arising from the illegal package. NEC commended ASUU members in council who have demonstrated integrity and courage by refunding the money paid illegally to them in connection with the illegal package. NEC resolved that all ASUU members in Councils shall not collect any remuneration from the illegal package. NEC would take further action to ensure that the court judgement is obeyed.
6. UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN
NEC reiterates its position that justice will be done to the 49 members of ASUU at UNILORIN only by their reinstatement according to the Ilorin High Court Judgement. NEC draws the public attention to the public pronouncements by the Visitor to the University of Ilorin to the effect that he would accept the ruling of the Court. This is the time to fulfill that pledge and implement justice. Commitment to justice means doing just acts to victims of injustice, even if we do not like them.
7. UNIVERSITY OF UYO
NEC appeals to the Council of University of Uyo to correct the injustice done to the Chairman of ASUU, Dr. Edet Akpan and other officials/activists at the University of Uyo, by reinstating them to their jobs.
8. UNETHICAL PRACTICES: GUIDES FROM ASUU BRANCHES
In accordance with its principles and decisions, NEC commended the branches that have put out on their campuses ASUU GUIDELINES TO THE UNIVERSITY COMMUNITY ON UNETHICAL PRACTICES, the latest of which is that of UFAM, which states that "absolute confidentiality of any report is guaranteed. Be bold and patriotic and save our campus and society from decay."
9. PENSIONS AND GRATUITIES FOR RETIRED UNIVERSITY STAFF
NEC re-affirmed its anger at the failure of the Federal Government to pay the Pension and Gratuity to all retired academic and non-academic staff of universities entitled to receive them. The failure is not only a breach of the rights of the citizens involved. It is a reflection of the Government low priority to the education sector. The fact that retired university lecturers and other staff are not likely recruits into military rebellion should not count against their enjoying rights to gratuity and pensions.
10. NEEDS AND THE FUNDING OF EDUCATION
NEC was rather amused by recent claims by the National Universities Commission (NUC) on the adequacy of funding of Federal Universities. The problem is fundamental. When the UNESCO guidelines stipulate that the Government spends 26% of its annual budget on education, it does not confuse state and federal allocations. It is a position about the obligation of the Federal Government to its citizens. The NEEDS document confuses the issue here.
In 2005, the Level of funding of education has not yet matched the level of funding in the 1980. With an allocation of less than 8% of the total budget to education, the funds allocated to universities can not begin to meet the requirements of the revival of the Nigerian Universities. Yet the Nigerian Government keeps complaining that Nigeria universities are not listed among the world best.
Until the funding of education is made a national priority (not a lip-service declaration), and the Federal Government spends at least 26% of its annual budget on education no amount of declaration by the NUC will put in place a system of first-rate universities in Nigeria.
11. THE FGN-ASUU AGREEMENT OF 2001
NEC reviewed the state of affairs on the re-negotiation of the FGN-ASUU Agreement which has been due since June 2004. NEC noted the persistent efforts by ASUU to get the Government to respect this aspect of the Collective Agreement of 2001, and the corresponding repeated and deliberate breach of promises by the Federal Government to set the machinery in motion for renegotiation. The breach of the collective Agreement, and derogation from industrial democracy consequent upon it, is an element of World Bank prescriptions on university reforms pronounced in various World Bank documents and incorporated into the NEEDS. Like in the economy, it has become difficult to see how NEEDS will promote democracy.
NEC consequently resolved to mobilize its members to get the government to respect the agreement on re-negotiation and other matters of industrial democracy and justice. The contents of this resolution shall be communicated in writing to the Honourable Federal Minister of Education. A decision will be taken at the next meeting.
12. THE NATION
NEC notes that the current reforms are generating severe deprivation; increased poverty, a more and more generalized insecurity of life both in homes and on the streets, a predictable (and predicted) process of pricing education out of the reach of the poor and the majority, more and more retrenchment and unemployment, selling out Nigerian ports to a few individuals, general inefficiency and corruption of privatized assets (e.g. the airways), the exploitation and abuse of Nigerians in privatized companies (e.g. the GSM Companies) etc.
NEC also noted the deepening political crisis reflected in the crisis within the ruling party the sit-tight (self secession) issue, the absence of a genuine virile opposition, and the disenchantment of the people of Nigeria with elections in the hands of Nigerian rulers. The crisis and the disenchantment, coupled with widespread misery among the people, and the failure of our rulers to address satisfactorily the problem of the Niger Delta, are a danger to the country and its people.
A truly national, people route to democracy must be placed on the agenda from the stand-point of which Nigeria can get out of the economic and political crises that threaten the survival of our country, poverty of the majority resulting from the World Bank Ã¢â‚¬Å“reforms are matched by the rapid transfer of more and more economic assets to the few Nigerians who are consolidating their hold on the social-political life of our people. These reforms, alienating virtually all but some few privileged, can not support democracy.
However, in a different way and it is a historical possibility, the reforms may yet lead to a democracy from below unintended by the World Bank, the IMF and the apostles of reforms "without the people".
From the Newspapers