The Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Ebonyi State University Chapter, Dr. Ikechukwu Igwenyi, has urged the union’s national leadership to go back to the drawing board and review the 2009 agreement it entered with the Federal Government.
This was as the don stressed that the N1.1 trillion outstanding revitalisation fund for the nation’s universities was no longer tenable, saying the current economic realities did not match with the hitherto pact the union entered with the authorities in 2009.
He stated this in a statement on Tuesday in Abakaliki, a copy of which was made available to The PUNCH.
While pointing out that it was expedient for leaders to pay critical attention to the merits of ASUU’s position on tertiary education, he lamented that the government was paying lip-service to the demands of the union.
The statement read in part, “ASUU, as a thinking union of intellectuals, is not realistic in this current struggle and there is need for the union to call for the review of the negotiated 2009 FG/ASUU agreement to ascertain possible performance rate and the expected outcomes.
It is considered that the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement is not only out of date and obsolete, but unrealistic today, if truth must be told, because of the time value of money over 13 years of this negotiation.
“It is a fact that a people that take no interest in what seems small, will definitely take false interest in what is big. The fact is also that Nigerian leaders set wrong priorities and are not paying due attention to the demands of ASUU in this imbroglio but rather join the unpatriotic gladiators that have no interest in nation building through quality education of Nigerians because their children are not attending schools here in Nigeria.
“It is a clear testimony of irresponsibility with the recent vituperations from some highly placed individuals in government and the idea of taking ASUU to court.
“Rather than look critically into the merits in ASUU position on tertiary education, leaders tell Nigerians that university education is not for everyone; ASUU fixes salary of members; there is no money to meet ASUU’s demands; the government will take ASUU to National Industrial Court; students should take ASUU to court; etcetera. What a people!
“No nation can develop beyond the level of education of her people and by extension, beyond the capacities and capabilities of their tertiary institutions. If the youths who are the future leaders and trustees of posterity are trained in institutions with low-grade resources and manpower, where lecturers are subjected to dehumanising treatments, all manner of cruelty without consideration to human dignity, threats to job security and salaries, emotional trauma, mental torture and psychological mortification of unimaginable proportion in a developing nation, how can such a system perform maximally?”
It added, “ASUU, therefore, is not realistic, because rather than calling for a review of the renegotiated agreement in the context of the current economic realities of dollar to naira ratio, they are asking for the release of funds negotiated in 2009, when a dollar was less than ₦150 as compared to present day reality rating of dollar to naira ratio of about ₦700.
“This implies that ASUU should be asking for about ₦5trn for the revitalisation of public universities in this current and prevailing economic dispensation. The about ₦1.1trn outstanding revitalisation fund cannot achieve the same objectives as prices of items like cement, rods, wood for furniture, reagents, and chemicals, equipment and stationeries, books and subscriptions, utility vehicles, fuel for generators and other consumables are no longer in tandem with the economic equivalents of same items 13 years ago.
“There is a need to review all the agreements upwards in terms of proportional inflation, currency devaluation, and today’s equivalent of the 13 years old negotiation as part of the renegotiation rather than demanding for the release of funds that cannot meet up with its purpose now because ASUU would be blamed in future for the failure of the system to achieve the purpose of these struggles.
“It is for this same reason that ASUU is demanding for the release of the White Paper on the Visitation Panel Reports to assess the level of success or failure rate so far recorded in the funding for revitalisation of public universities.”