The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is presenting this Press Conference to tell the Nigerian public that the Federal Government of Nigeria has pushed ASUU into an unavoidable strike over the Federal Governments refusal to sign the Agreement reached by the Negotiating Team of ASUU and the Federal Government.
Having persevered for over two years of painstaking and scientific negotiation, ASUU expects that the Agreement would be signed in due course. It behooves us to inform the public why we insist that the Agreement reached must be signed.
The Federal Government and ASUU Negotiating Teams searched for a minimum point from which the Nigerian University system could make significant progress towards reversing the brain drain that has deprived our country of a vital causal agency in national development, i.e. the development and sustenance of a large pool of scholars whose intellectual â‚¬â€œ scientific production would reposition Nigeria for greater responsibilities in national development.
The Negotiating Teams searched for, and arrived at minimal conditions for reversing the decay in the University System. Our University system needs immediate and massive financial intervention in order to fulfill the potentiality which it had shown but which had been called into question because of steady decay;. We realized that the way to the survival of our country in the 21st Century lies in our countrys ability to produce applied and theoretical knowledge in Science, Technology and the Humanities. We understood ourselves as having the task of producing an Agreement that is capable of revitalizing and accelerating the development of Nigerian university system into one of the best in the world, a task which can no longer be delayed if Nigeria is to become one of the leading economically and culturally advanced countries in the world. The Two teams agreed, to begin the process of repositioning the University System as envisaged, that a required minimum of funds should be provided both in the public universities â‚¬â€œ Federal and State, with increased efforts by universities to generate funds without compromising the goals and integrity of universities. In view of the enormous importance of education for national development, education must continue to be funded heavily by public funds through Budgetary and non-Budgetary purposes.
We expect the funds agreed upon to be used to effectively remedy deficiencies in programmes and facilities, to systematically upgrade programmes and facilities, to advance research, create adequate living and learning conditions for our students, and to attract brilliant graduates into the universities as teachers and researchers while keeping excellent academics in the system. The Negotiating Teams agreed that if Nigeria is to get where it ought to be, a minimum of 26% of the Annual Budget of the State and Federal Governments ought to be allocated to education. With this level of funding, we can halt the growing inability of the children of the underprivileged to get an education. The Teams also agreed that, in line with what the Nigerian Constitution allows, the Federal Government should as appropriate, provide assistance to states in the areas of Higher Education. The Negotiating Teams have agreed upon and proposed the Amendment of the Education Tax Fund Act to make it more effective as an intervention to rehabilitate, restore and reposition the Tertiary institutions in order to develop a knowledge-based society in the twenty-first century.
We arrived at an agreement on conditions of service that could motivate scholars sufficiently to stay in our country and teach, do research and community service, assuming that a good degree of patriotism would make up for the differences that might obtain in African countries that raid Nigeria for academics.
Both Teams agreed upon a series of provisions that would actively protect and promote university autonomy and academic freedom. We agreed on better qualification for members of university Councils. We have agreed to propose to the National Assembly as amendment of certain laws in order to give the universities more autonomy.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SIGNING AND IMPLEMENTING THE AGREEMENT
To arrive at an Agreement well thought-out and having the potential of leaping Nigerias education to a higher level is one thing, singing and implementing the Agreement to achieve the desired goals is another matter.
Since December 2008, when the negotiation between FGN-ASUU Negotiating Teams was completed, ASUU, despite having persuaded its members to exercise patience for over two years, once again resolved to do its best to avoid a crisis. But Government did not treat ASUU patience and restraint with sincerity. In March we were first told that the Agreement would be signed before the end of April. At the end of April we were told it would be signed on May 7, on May 7, we were told the Permanent Secretary was not in the country (The Permanent Secretary has no role in signing or implementing of Agreement).
On May 10th, we got a text message inviting ASUU for the signing of the Agreement on Tuesday May 12, 2009 at the National Universities Commission (NUC). Although we considered this an unusual mode of invitation, we decided to go.
There was no programme, no indication of the exact venue at the NUC. We were only told that there would be communication in the morning when the Agreement would be signed. Despite our reservations, we reported at the venue. The event turned out to be a classic case of deception. The Federal Governments Team told us it had no authority from its principal to sign the Agreement.
The Governments Team could not explain to us why our Negiating Team was invited to sign the Agreement when Government did not intend to sign the Agreement. We realized the Government had set up the fake meeting because it believed that ASUU was preparing for a strike on account of the failure of the Federal Government to sign the Agreement.
Since this crude piece of deception, the Minister of Education has gone to the news media to give the fake impression that the Agreement had been signed.
At its meeting of May 16-17 held at Federal University of Technology, Yola, the National Executive Council of ASUU reviewed the situation. NEC, in view of the fact that after over two years of negotiation and nearly six months after the conclusion of negotiation, the Federal Government has field to sign the Agreement reached, resolved with great pains to embark upon a two-week WARNING STRIKE starting Monday 18, 2009.
We appeal to the public, parents, our students, patriotic groups and individuals to appeal to the Federal Government to sign and implement the Agreement reached by the FGN-ASUU Negotiating Teams. The ultimate consequences of not doing so should be blamed on the Federal Government, not on ASUU.
Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie, fnia