UNIVERSITY teachers replied yesterday to Senate President David Mark’s comments on the 2009 agreement, which they are asking the Federal Government to implement.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) explained how the agreement was signed. ASUU has been on strike for over four months.
The union’s National Treasurer, Dr. Demola Aremu, said President Goodluck Jonathan was part of a long-drawn negotiation in 2009, which was reviewed in 2002 in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).
Mark said the government officials who signed the agreement “did not know their right from their left” and that the ASUU officials who negotiated exploited their ignorance.
Aremu said ASUU had rejected the pleas from senators to call off their strike. He advised the lawmakers to beg President Jonathan to implement the agreement.
Aremu recalled that it took ASUU and the Federal Government team, led by Mr Gamaliel Onosode, three years to arrive at the agreement, pointing out that it is pretentious for any top government functionary to claim that the government negotiating team did not understand fully what they signed with the teachers.
According to him, ASUU went to the negotiation with a 300-page charter, which was reduced to a 60-page agreement after the union shifted so much ground on many of its demands.
He said Dr. Jonathan, who was then the Vice President, asked the government to sign the agreement after thoroughly going through it for six months.
“He perused the draft agreement and asked the government team to sign every page of the document. Our President also signed it. The content of the agreement we have today is not what we took to the negotiation table. That shows Nigerians how greatly we’ve shifted ground. So, the team knew what they went into.”
Aremu explained that the Federal Government also came up with a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the implementation of the agreement in January last year. He asked: “So, if anyone assumes that they didn’t know what they were doing in 2009, did they also not know what they were doing in 2012?”
The union leader compares Nigeria’s tertiary education with a cancer patient. He said no palliative measure could help heal cancer, pointing out that the patient will die.
“Begging will not bring any solution. Nigerians should rather beg government to face this agreement squarely and implement it. That is where our future lies,” Aremu said.
He said senators could also cut their allowances and contribute them to education for the benefit of all citizens.
The union also urged the National Assembly to go beyond “begging” ASUU to call off its strike, but plug spending leakages in government to allow for provision of needed infrastructure in the universities.
The union also lashed out at the Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Prof. Sola Adeyeye, over his comments on why a professor will demand payment to supervise postgraduate students.
A statement by the University of Ibadan (UI) chairman of the union, Dr Olusegun Ajiboye, titled: “The goofing Professor Adeyeye: Senate and begging comments”, said Adeyeye was using public funds to train his children abroad, besides lacking in knowledge of the situation in Nigerian universities.
Ajiboye described Mark’s statement that ASUU will lose public sympathy, if it does not call off its strike, as “a careless talk” because, according to him, the Senate has already lost its credibility among Nigerians over its huge allowances and its perpetual anti-masses stance as opposed to the progressives in the House of Representatives.
“We are fighting a just cause. Can the senators wait for four years of their tenure before their allowances are paid? Can the Senate members sit in the chambers without air conditioners? What role has the Senate played to increase budgetary allocation to education? It is even funny for the Senate President to feign ignorance of the ASUU agreement as the sitting Senate President in 2009,” Ajiboye said.
ASUU said people, such as Adeyeye, ought to keep quiet when education is being discussed as “his immediate family members are not in Nigeria with all his children schooling and living abroad, using the millions of public funds being earned by their father in Nigeria to live large abroad.
“As a professor at the Duquesne University USA, Professor Adeyeye enjoyed flexible single and family healthcare coverage, including vision and dental insurance, disability benefits and life insurance, tuition remission for employees and family members, retirement savings plan with a generous eight per cent university contribution for employees with immediate vesting schedule, family leave, paid time off for vacation and holidays and unpaid time for personal leave of absence, comprehensive employee training programmes which promote professional development, access to a recreation centre and wellness programme.
“The question Prof Adeyeye should answer is, where in Nigeria does a professor enjoy all these with conducive learning environment? What is the ratio of students to a lecturer in Nigerian universities? Where else in the world will a professor supervise up to 35 students in a session?”