The striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government reached a deal on Tuesday, but the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State Universities declared the state governments would not put it into effect.
Yusuf Ali (SAN), the chairman of the committee, revealed this to one of our correspondents while discussing the 35% raise for professors and the 23.5% rise for other university employees, including lecturers.
Ali made this statement at the same time that Mr. Mohammed Ibrahim, president of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, rejected the wage increase suggested by the government in an interview with The PUNCH on Wednesday.
Wednesday marked the 207th day of the ASUU-led walkout over demands that included the revitalization funding, rejection of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, and insistence on the adoption of the union’s own University Transparency Accountability Solution.
The Federal Government could only afford a 23.5% increase for university lecturers and a 35% increase for professors, according to Adamu Adamu, the Minister of Education, during a meeting with vice chancellors, pro chancellors, and chairmen of Governing Councils of federal universities on Tuesday in Abuja.
In an interview with The PUNCH, Ali claimed that state colleges were not bound by the federal government’s decision.
Any attempt to compel state governments to adhere to the same agreement, he added, would result in the “bastardization of federalism.”
He clarified that several employers oversee the operation of state universities.
Ali said, “We held a conference and the resolutions will soon be made available and sent to all the governors. We are not part of the negotiations, so whatever negotiations the Federal Government makes with its employees will not be binding on state universities. They are our employees and that is part of the bastardisation of federalism.
“For instance, do policies made in your media house bind on other media houses? That is the way it is meant to be. The Federal Government has its employees and the states have theirs. The government may set a minimum standard and people may decide on whatever it is they want to do for their workers.
“Our position is that we are not bound by an agreement reached between the Federal Government and ASUU. They are dealing with their employees.”
The SSANU boss also said the union rejected the offer.
He said, “The government said it recommended a new salary table with the 23.5% increment. It is different from something approved. Our people asked for a 700% increment in line with the current economic reality in the country.
“We checked the last time salary was reviewed. It was 2009. We considered the dollar exchange rate, economy, inflation, and market value since then and now and we arrived at the 700% increment.
“When they told us, we humbly rejected it and told them they could do better because 23.5% will not make any significant improvement on our members. Look at the tax deductions and pension contributions. If you add all these and subtract them from 23.5%, what will be left is 3%. We have replied the government that they can do better. We don’t want the 23.5 %”
Ibeji Nwokoma, national president of the National Association of Academic Technologists, stated that they had already received a 23.5% raise from the government, and it had been approved in the interim.
“We agreed that if peradventure, ASUU didn’t suspend the strike and anything given in the upward of 23.5% will be across the board. We will resist everything that will bring disparity in salary. They told us if we called off our strike in August, they will implement it by September 1, 2022,” Nwokoma said.
Danoye Oguntola-Laguda, a professor of African traditional religion and the director of the Lagos State University’s School of Part-Time Studies, also reacted by stating that historically, whatever the ASUU and FG had agreed upon was often carried out at the state level.
The Benue State Government, on the other hand, asserted that state governments were not involved in the choice.
The state Commissioner for Education, Sarwuan Tarnongo, said, “The Federal government is talking about its universities and state governments were not involved in negotiations.”
When asked to react to the new policy, the Ogun State Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Prof Abayomi Arigbabu, said, “I don’t have any concrete document to that effect. We were just hearing it, there is no document or any confirmation to support that.”
State governments must follow any pay raises granted by the union and the federal government, whether they like it or not, according to Dr. Tarnongu Kwaghfan, the ASUU chapter’s chairman at Benue State University.
According to Kwaghfan, any state government that wanted to have colleges had to pay the union and federal governments’ agreed-upon salaries.
Similarly, ASUU chairman, Kwara State University chapter, Dr Salau Sheu said, “Limiting the salary increment to only lecturers in federal universities will not only lead to an exodus of lecturers from state universities to federal universities but will also affect the quality of lecture and certificate that will be issued to students who graduated from state universities.”
Two representatives of state institutions were on the committee that negotiated the pay rise, according to Dr. Biodun Faniran, the chairman of ASUU at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Ogbomoso.
He said, “They have representatives on the team. Zubairu Iliyasu, a professor and Pro-Chancellor, Kano State University of Science and Technology and Matthew Seiyefa, Pro-Chancellor, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island were part of the team.
“The increment is binding on state universities. When we get to the bridge, we shall cross it.”