Re: ACADEMIC STAFF UNION OF UNIVERSITIES (ASUU) COMMUNIQUE OF THE MEETING OF THE NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COUNCIL (NEC) OF 11-12 DECEMBER, 2004
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has read with great interest a publication in some newspapers explaining the Federal Government position on issues raised in the CommuniquÃƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã‚Â© of ASUU NEC of 11-12 December, 2004. ASUU welcomes the opportunity to allow the public to understand the issues raised by ASUU and the Federal Government.
1. FUNDING OF UNIVERSITY EDUCATION
The Federal Ministry of Education (FME) publication claims that in 2004, N36,935,266,018.00 and N3,631,809,043.00, respectively were allocated to Federal Universities. This amounts to N40,567,075,061.00 for RECURRENT EXPENDITURE.
This is false. The Federal Ministry of Education failed to make the simple distinction between allocation to Federal Universities and allocation to National Universities Commission (NUC). The Appropriation Bill allocated N38,677,052,062.00 (not N40,567,075,061.00). The allocation to NUC included allocation to the National Mathematical Centre, French Village, Arabic Language Village, DAC Zaria, and Institute of Nigerian Languages. It would have been helpful, to assess the Government case, to give true figures about how much was really allocated to universities. It would also have helped the public better understand the issues if it were presented with facts about actual release of funds, since Universities survive, not on allocation but on actual release of funds. This is important; for today, a general crisis exists in various Universities because workers are owed several entitlements on work already done, and the research capabilities of our Universities are continuously declining by the day.
CAPITAL GRANT AND RESEARCH
In today world, the inequality in the capacity to create knowledge accounts for the domination of the industrially underdeveloped countries such as Nigeria.
A valid Agreement was signed between ASUU and the Government of Nigeria in June 2001. The Agreement on Funding was expected, if faithfully implemented, to produce a significant change in the capability of Nigerian Universities to meet the challenges of creation of knowledge for development through vastly improved funding of research and researched teaching. What did Government give, as compared to the Agreement?
Year The Agreement Government
2001 N20 billion -
2002 N22 billion -
2003 N24 billion -
2004 N24 billion (assuming no N12 billion
growth from 2003)
The summary is that in 2001-2004, the Federal Government provided N12 billion, when what was required to meet the challenge, in the Agreement signed, was N66 billion (2001-2003), or N90 billion (2001-2004). The public should also know that for the period 1999-2003, no Federal University received any Capital Allocation.
The N12 billion allocated in 2004, therefore, could not be objective evidence of "government demonstration to provide adequate infrastructure to our Universities".
It was a welcome token. But Universities cannot develop research facilities to meet the challenges of knowledge creation through tokens. Significant progress in Research cannot be made on the basis of token funding.
DIRECT TEACHING AND LABORATORY COSTS (DTLC)
Our position is that if the Federal Government honoured the Agreement it signed with ASUU, a special DTLC would be unnecessary. For 2004, for example, the Recurrent Grant required was N138 billion; out of which about N14 billion would have been required for Overhead Cost. It needs to be explained how providing N1,457,751,047.80 DTLC satisfies the needs of a system requiring at least N14 billion.
ON ALLOCATION TO EDUCATION
There are so many claims by the Federal Ministry of Education (FME) and some Journalists that the funding of education has improved. This claim cannot be sustained, as the following table shows:
Federal Government Expenditure on Education as Share of Total Federal Expenditure (in %)
1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
7.83 12.96 12.32 11.59 10.27 11.12 8.36 7.00 6.1 4.75 4.54
The level of funding of education has declined steadily since 1999 and is much lower than the average in the last five years of military rule. This is particularly important in view of huge increase in number of intake at all levels - primary, secondary and tertiary, of education.
The National Universities Commission (NUC) recently said that no Nigerian University was ranked among the best 200 in the world. In view of this, are we to celebrate allocation to education (and to Universities) that will ensure that Nigerian Universities never get mentioned? Are we to forget the fact that the Federal Government ignores the provision of Restoration and Rehabilitation Funds, which it signed an Agreement to provide? Are we to overlook the fact that the Federal Ministry of Education/National Universities Commission spent N600 million meant to stabilize funds in the Universities to buy a property at 245 Samuel Ademulegun Street, Abuja, dubbed Ã¢â‚¬Å“Federal Ministry of Education Annex, and over N700 million for other purposes?
What are we to believe when, on November 4, 2003, following the Minister request, ASUU proposed how to use the accrued fund, including N600 million when returned by the Ministry, the Federal Ministry of Education has failed to address the issue? Is the public listening?
DEBT PAYMENT, JOINT VENTURE CASH CALLS AND EDUCATION
As the Table below shows, from 2002-2004, the Federal Government allocated between 12-41% to debt servicing and Joint Venture Cash Calls as compared to between 4.5 6.1% to Education.
Relativity of Federal Government Expenditure on Education to the Federal Budget and JVCC/Debt Servicing
Recurrent Capital Total
2002 1,203,139,448,576 150 billion Naira (Debt Servicing)* 51,335,499,300 22,100,000,000 73,435,499,300 6.1% 12.47%
2003 1,669,254,543,375 693 billion Naira 63,228,742,652 15,723,260,401 79,052,003,053 4.7% 41.52%
2004 2,047,441,317,339 618,800,000,000 72,217,836,839 21,550,000,000 93,767,836,839 4.5% 30.19%
*Excluding Joint Venture Cash Call
The funding of education and thus of Universities is poor in Nigeria because priority of government is on debt-servicing and Joint Venture Cash Call.
N3.85 BILLION SHORTFALLS
The Implementation Committee of June 2001 Agreement discovered that as at May 2002, there was a N13.04 billion shortfall in personnel costs for Federal Universities. The NUC, early in 2003, got approval for N3.78 billion "to cover part of the shortfalls" (Government Position on the Minimum Demands of ASUU, March 11, 2003). When N3.78 billion was released, in 2004, the Government declared it was a loan and deducted all amounts released to universities, aggravating the crisis in the system. Recently, in 2005 after the intervention of the National Assembly Committee on Education, the money was released. The Federal Ministry of Education information is silent on the N9.96 billion shortfall that remained after the N3.85 (?) billion was paid.
2. RE-NEGOTIATION OF THE 2001 AGREEMENT
The FGN-ASUU Agreement provides for a Ã¢â‚¬Å“comprehensive review of it every three years. A comprehensive review is not different from re-negotiation. ASUU draws the attention of the public to the fact that on 9 June, 2004, six months after the IAP Award was made, the Minister of Education wrote ASUU to the effect that the Federal Government was putting the machinery in place for renegotiation i.e., the Minister knew that the IAP Award was not a barrier to a comprehensive review of the Agreement. But, the Federal Ministry of Education is now using the IAP as an excuse not to renegotiate the Agreement.
For the avoidance of doubt, the IAP did not pronounce the Agreement invalid. In fact, validity was not an issue before it. The validity of the Agreement was accepted by the Federal Government as evidenced by its Counsel who "assured the Tribunal that everything which the First Party agreed to in the Agreement would be implemented in due course Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬Ã‚Â¦" (IAP Report TRADE DISPUTE NO IAP/HB/3710/1/2672, PP.09-10); and "re-affirmed the binding aspect of the 30th June 2001 Agreement and confirmed Government readiness to honour it" (IAP Report, p.22). The validity of the Agreement is a firm basis for its "comprehensive review". But instead of implementing the recommendations, the Government keeps rehashing the same false interpretation of the Agreement.
The public might get the wrong impression from the Federal Ministry of Education publication that the Minister of Labour has referred the case to the National Industrial Court as required by Law. Either the Federal Ministry of Education does not know what the Ministry of Labour is doing or the Federal Ministry of Education ignores the truth. The truth is that the Federal Ministry of Labour has refused to obey the Law. This is why ASUU is in court to force the Minister of Labour to obey the law.
The use of deception and naked power to invalidate collective Agreements have in the past been responsible for crises in the Universities and are again leading to one. ASUU has not been invited to dialogue since November 2003, and the public should not be deceived by anyone. ASUU self-restraint and the helpful intervention by the National Assembly, not Ministerial dialogue or intervention (which does not exist), have helped to sustain industrial peace in the Universities.
3. ASSISTANCE TO STATE UNIVERSITIES
The Federal Ministry of Education (FME) publication distorts the facts. The June 2001 Agreement did not state or require that the Federal Government shall "make special allocations to State Universities". ASUU CommuniquÃƒâ€ Ã¢â‚¬â„¢Ã‚Â© did not say so. The Implementation Committee of the June 2001 Agreement had already worked out modes of assistance which are well known to both the NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education.
4. UNIVERSITY OF ILORIN AND UNIVERSITY OF UYO
49 Lecturers were sacked in UNILORIN for participating in ASUU strike in 2001, without any hearing at all, and in violation of the no-victimization clause in the Agreement. The IAP ruling on the issue based on the entirely false view that in 2001 a 1993 Decree subsisted banning strikes. ASUU objected to the Award, but the Minister of Labour has, in spite of interventions by high judicial institutions and the Human Rights Commission, refused to refer the matter to the NIC as required by law. He has been trying to get IAP to re-write its submission to yield the same result. Is that justice?
At the University of Uyo, the sacked ASUU Chairman was never tried. How then, did the University Council follow due process? ASUU shall soon publish its own side of the Vice-Chancellor responsibility for the injustice in UNIUYO.
5. DISCRIMINATORY SEIZURE OF SALARIES
It is not only ASUU that is crying out about selective justice in our country. Selective justice has become a political weapon. Selective justice exists in government dealing with corruption; it is a substantive major complaint in the Anambra Crisis. It was an issue in the Plateau crisis. Selective Ã¢â‚¬Å“justice is not legality. It is injustice.
6. DUE PROCESS IN THE UNIVERSITIES
In its publication, ASUU made two points:
(1) That there are complaints of corruption in the Due Process
Establishment, which should not be ignored;
(2) That there are procedures and rules governing the financial dealings in the Universities, according to the statutes and these are being by-passed;
(3) The process, as applied to the Universities, has been consuming scarce resources and questionable awards have been observed.
The issues raised are very important for the emergence of a true culture of due process. Nothing in the Federal Ministry of Education publication answers these worries. The public needs to take note of this.
7. VISITATION PANEL REPORTS
ASUU complaint is that the Reports have not been treated with the same apparent urgency that marked the constitution of the Panels.
8. RECONSTITUTION OF COUNCILS OF FEDERAL UNIVERSITIES
ASUU is worried that the constitution of Councils is being subjected to distribution of jobs to satisfy party demands. Besides, the delay in reconstitution of the Councils is a source of instability in the system.
9. NATIONAL UNIVERSITIES COMMISSION (NUC)
ASUU agrees that the National Universities Commission (NUC) was set up by law to fulfil certain functions. The question is whether NUC has exceeded the boundaries prescribed by law; there is need to establish whether (or not) NUC has been, usurping the functions of University Senates, Appointments and Promotions Committee and other internal University organs. For years, ASUU and many academics concerned about the future of the Universities have called for a Panel to investigate this matter. ASUU repeats this call and adds that just as with the Universities, the financial operations of the NUC should be investigated by the Panel. We welcome a public debate with the NUC on these issues. We are waiting.
10. THE AUTONOMY BILL
The President signed a Universities Autonomy Act on July 10 2004. The Law signed provides that each Council shall select one among the three candidates recommended to it by the Joint Senate-Council Committee, and then report its choice to the Visitor. But all the Vice-Chancellors appointed after July 10th 2004, were chosen by the Visitor, not by Councils. In one case, it was reported that the candidates, after the Council procedures were completed, were interviewed in the Presidential Villa.
What the Federal Ministry of Education did not tell the public is that the Federal Government is bent on getting the National Assembly to change an untested law to include authoritarian provisions and severely divest responsibility for funding Federal institutions in the name of autonomy. This is the heart of the "Reforms" in the University System.
For the avoidance of doubt, ASUU believes in change. But ASUU refuses to accept that the best programme of change is the one that is sure to destroy public institutions and gains resulting from the sweat and struggles of the people and the founding fathers. The current model of reforms will not serve the development of Nigeria. Feasible alternative models are being ignored, and the World Bank plan to control the evolution of Nigeria education system is being implemented. We do not advocate turning our back on the world. We advocate engaging the world to preserve the interests of present and future generations.
11. THE EDUCATION TAX FUND (ETF)
There is no need hiding under the phrase "on-going tax reforms". What the Federal Ministry of Education needs to tell the public is what will remain of the "ETF" following the "Tax Reforms"? Since the Education Tax Fund was established by law, when did the National Assembly legislate a change in the name to Education Trust Fund? What else has been changed without the National Assembly? The public deserves to know.
12. STUDENTS HOSTELS
The Federal Ministry of Education handing over of publicly funded students hostels to private Estate Managers cannot be justified on the argument presented.
In all matters, the Federal Government policies should be judged by the idea of equality of opportunity enshrined in Section 16(1)(b) of the Constitution, which states that:
"The State shall control the national economy in such a
manner as to secure maximum welfare, freedom and
happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice
and equality of status and opportunity".
"Knowledge is crucial for development and because everything we do depends on knowledge Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¢ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¢Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¬Ã‚Â¦ And if we want a better tomorrow than today, if we want to raise our living standards as a household or as a country and improve our health, better educate our children, and preserve our common environment, that takes knowledge".
The building of Universities for development is crucial for our collective survival. ASUU agrees that our University needs stability and harmony. But the best way to promote progress and stability is through demonstrable commitment to truth, lawful dealings, justice, to dialogue, and respect for valid agreements. Progress should be assessed in relation to the magnitude of problems and commitments already made. ASUU is not interested in discussing personalities and biographies of political office holders. That is better left for some journalists already recruited for image making.
(FOR AND BEHALF OF ACADEMIC STAFF UNION OF UNIVERSITIES).
From the Newspapers