ASUU strike

Analysis: Exemption of state universities stalls salary agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government

NEWS DIGEST – Committees of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU and the Federal Government disagreed on Wednesday on the conditions of a new agreement that would increase the salary of striking lecturers.

Both parties disputed the inclusion of state universities in the legal framework of the agreement. The Union has frowned at the government’s explanation that any agreement will not be binding on state universities but the government insist that state universities can only answer to the states responsible for them.

Even though there remains a gap in the figures that are deemed acceptable by both negotiating teams, it has fast become clear that any agreement will hinge on whether both parties can agree on the inclusion of state universities.

Before Wednesday, members of ASUU, last month, questioned the take-homes of lecturers compared to personnel of other notable professions, saying the Federal Government had failed to place priority on the education sector.

On Wednesday, the Union, led by the Pro-Chancellor of the Federal University of Lokoja, Prof Nimi Briggs, asked the government to ratify a 180% increase to the salary of striking lecturers, a request the government considers too steep.

The Federal Government reportedly responded it was only willing to effect a 100% increase in the salary of lecturers.

In context, that would double the salary of a professor from a 4-6 million annual salary to an 8-12 million annual salary and place them in the salary bracket of their counterparts in the medical and law industry.

More importantly, the disagreement on the inclusion of state universities has placed a dark cloud on when an agreement can be reached.

“Education is on the concurrent list, the Federal Government cannot tell states what to do when it comes to the management of their institutions,” Ben Goong, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, told Punch Newspapers.

If an agreement can be reached, and soon, it would signal an important step toward calling off a strike that will be 6-month old in 10 days. ASUU, in its August 1 meeting, already announced that it was extending the strike by one month after the Federal Government failed to pacify the concerns of the Union.

“I can tell you that the renegotiation team is made up of pro-chancellors of state and federal universities. So, how can anyone say the agreement won’t be binding on state universities?” Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, ASUU’s Chairman, responded.

How both sides see the state university exemption
ASUU’s comment points to the solidarity of the Union to fight for the interest of all its members.

According to Osodeke, it is impossible to partition the university sector into state universities and federal universities when the government runs one university system and the Union embarks on strike as one unit.

He said: “The issue of salary should be left to the union to decide because when there was minimum wage adjustment, both federal and state schools were a part of it; even TETFund, it funds both state and federal institutions. Do we have a federal NUC or a state NUC?

“The issue of salary negotiation is exclusive to the union. If a state can increase it, good; but we have one university system in Nigeria, and the state cannot even pay lesser than what the Federal Government is paying.”

However, as education is on the concurrent list, state governments have the jurisdiction to enact their laws for educational institutions they fund. To this effect, the Federal Government argues that it cannot compel the state governments to comply with the outcome of the salary review.

State governments like Lagos and Rivers are already able to prevent academic strikes because they are responsible for the funding of state universities. Some other state universities have also stayed clear of the strike too.

It is unclear whether state governments would back up any salary accord between ASUU and the federal government given the dire financial state of most state governments.

The Ekiti and Benue state governments have already voiced disapproval of any agreement that will be binding on their states.

“If Ekiti State must have any dialogue at all, it can only be with the ASUU in EKSU,” Akin Omole, Ekiti State Commissioner for Information, told Punch.

“With the principle of federalism, it is the employer and the employee that determine the pay.”

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