TEXT OF A PRESS BRIEFING BY DR. EMMANUEL NWAFOR MORDI, CHAIRMAN, ASUU-DELSU CHAPTER, AT THE DELTA STATE UNIVERSITY, ABRAKA, ON TUESDAY, 3 DECEMBER, 2013.
Let us Harness and Nurture the Gains of President Jonathan’s Intervention
Gentlemen of the Press,
The overflow of emotion, truculent grandstanding, flexing of muscles, and sabre-rattling in the last one week, which have characterized the reactions of Federal Government officials led by the Supervising Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike to ASUU’s rational and well meaning suggestions to end the protracted strike, which has paralyzed academic activities in Nigeria’s Pubic Universities is worrisome and uncalled for. It is ill-advised, misguided, and has the potential to derail and rubbish the tremendous gains of the last one month which have resulted from the well guided and commendable, even if belated, intervention of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan in the five-month crisis.
For the umpteenth time, let it be emphasized that this on-going strike could have been averted if the Federal Government had demonstrated good faith, and timely implemented the 2009 ASUU/FGN Agreement which all parties agreed was designed to reverse both the decay and brain drain in the Nigerian Public University System, and reposition it, through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention, to be internationally competitive and to shoulder greater responsibilities in national development.
On 24 January 2012, via a Memorandum of Understanding, FME/TE/SS.IM/C.I/11/277, the Federal Government reaffirmed “its commitment to the revitalization of Nigerian Universities through budgetary and non-budgetary sources of funds” and declared that “Government will immediately stimulate the process with the sum of one hundred billion naira and will build this up to a yearly sum of 400 Billion Naira in the next three (3) years… based on identified prioritized needs”. Government also “accepts in principle the payment of the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA)”. To this end, Government mandated the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) “to propose practical and sustainable ways of paying the Earned Academic Allowances…in 60 days”
It was the refusal and failure of Government to live upto its written commitments that led to the ongoing strike. Government, after a meeting on 4 Nov.2013, with the ASUU national leadership which was presided over by His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria via a memo FME/TE/SS.IM/C.I/1/99 of 6 November 2013 documented the Resolutions of this meeting and forwarded same to ASUU. In the document, the Federal Government with respect to funding of the universities for their revitalization, and payment of the Earned Academic Allowances admitted that “The challenges which had affected the implementation of the agreements were due to financial difficulties confronting government which were unforeseen at the point of the 2009 agreement and have continued to be critical factors militating against the implementation of the agreement”.
At the same time, inspite of its confessed “financial difficulties” which “have continued to militate against the implementation of the agreement”, Government undertook to “provide funds for the revitalization for the University system” during the next six years, beginning with #200 billion and #220 billion subsequently yearly between 2014 and 2018. The money is to be paid into a dedicated revitalization account at the CBN “from which the universities will draw”, according to the Government’s account of its meeting with ASUU on Nov. 4, 2013.
Congresses nationwide noted that the Federal Government document of 6 November 2013, curiously omitted a paragraph on renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement in 2014. The Agreement actually fell due for renegotiation, indeed review in 2012. ASUU congresses, nevertheless, independently resolved to, as a mark of respect for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria advise the National Executive Council of the union to suspend the strike once the omitted paragraph was inserted, and there were assurances of non- victimization of its members nationwide, in addition to Government, in good faith, paying the 2013 mutually agreed sum of #200 Billion into the dedicated account at the Central Bank. Of course, to avoid a repeat hairsplitting about the signature of a Permanent Secretary on the Memorandum of Understanding which had become Governments’ alibi for not faithfully implementing the 2012 Memorandum of Understanding, ASUU advised that the Nov. 4, 2013 document be endorsed by an appropriate government official, preferably the Attorney General of the Federation, instead of a civil servant.
It is pertinent to recall that the Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu while briefing newsmen on the outcome of the Nov. 4, 2013 meeting, had told the nation that the ASUU leadership needed to consult their principal and report back to the Government. ASUU did exactly that, and what did we get? Threats of sack, opening of registers, deployment of the armed forces to university campuses. Not even in pre-1917 Czarist Russia were such bare-faced autocracy and arrogance of power so flaunted. It is even more worrisome that these panic measures being chanted as solutions by the government were tried and found wanting in the not-too-distant past of our history. By adopting such failed measures of yester-years, the Government, like the Bourbons of France, is telling the world that it has learnt nothing and forgotten nothing from its checkered history of fire brigade interventions in Nigeria’s Public Universities.
By its actions, Government is attempting to repudiate the recent Memorandum of Understanding of 4 November 2013 by mere subterfuge. It is clear that Government as usual, had no intention of implementing the latest agreement, and of restoring normalcy to Public Universities. We cannot allow the Government to succeed in this escapist ploy. It has a duty to revitalize Nigeria’s Public Universities.
For far too long, the Nigerian government has paid lip service to the upliftment and revitalization of Public Universities which in a clear reversal of their status upto the early ‘80s now rank among the least in the world. All Nigerians of good will should prevail on the Federal Government to conclude its commendable conciliatory meeting with ASUU by endorsing its 4 November 2013 Memorandum of Understanding so that our dear students can resume their interrupted academic activities without delay.
For now, it will be foolhardy for any student to return to any campus for lectures which are non-existent. No lecturer will teach at the point of bayonet. The strike is for the provision of teaching/learning/laboratory and hostel facilities for students. All hands must be on deck for its amicable resolution.
In the peculiar cases of state universities the overthrow of the November 4, 2013 Memorandum of Understanding will dash the hope of a renewed lifeline for the chronically underfunded institutions,. Proprietors and Vice Chancellors of State Universities should thank President Goodluck Jonathan for accepting to assist their universities with billions of naira, and do everything possible to ensure that the issues are resolved at a round table. Posterity will condemn them if they fail to do, and instead join the bandwagon of register openers who abound around them.
ASUU-DELSU Congress, at the end of its special session, today, 3 Dec. 2013, resolved to continue to support the National Leadership of the union until the strike is formally suspended in line with the union’s procedures. Accordingly, our dear students are advised in their own interest to ignore any announcement from any quarters whatsoever to return for academic activities. Lecturers cannot guarantee the security of returning to an environment still besieged by all manner of hoodlums. We believe that the crisis will soon be over, so that normalcy can be restored once again to our universities.
Dr. Emmanuel N. Mordi