By Abdelghaffar Amoka
The news, on Thursday, of University lecturers’ half salary because the 8-month-long strike was suspended on the 14th of October generated a lot of reactions. There were condemnations and anger over FG’s action on the October salary and the withheld salaries. I didn’t want to comment because I didn’t see it as an issue.
It’s just an activity that will naturally attract an opposite reaction. To me, there is no need for any condemnation or anger. The government agents are “grown” old men that know what they are doing. When men elected by the people began to play God, you just smile and give them a long rope. They are possibly still unconscious of the fact that in the next 6 months they will most likely become “yesterday men”.
2 parallel activities took place prior to the suspension of the strike. On one hand, there was a court order for the lecturers to resume lectures, followed by the obey-before-complain judgment from the appeal court. While on the other hand, there was the intervention of the members of the House of Representatives led by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The intervention raised so much hope that concerned Nigerians felt that it may lead to an out-of-court settlement. These events paved way for the suspension of the strike. Then, there were announcements of approved calendars by various universities’ senates for the continuation of the 2021/2022 academic session. The senate members are academic staff.
The Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, made public statements on his discussions with the president with optimism. Did the Speaker misinform Nigerians or did the president decided not to respect his discussion with the Speaker of the House of Representatives?
However, the action of the FG shows that President Buhari and Dr. Chris Ngige, the Labour Minister, have ruled out any out-of-court settlement option. The half-salary payment needs no anger reaction, it’s a simple message that requires a simple direct reaction. According to Newton’s third law of motion in physics, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. It’s the law of nature.
It’s ok for FG to keep the budgeted money for the 7 and half months’ salaries for university lecturers for the suspended 2021/2022 academic session on February 14, to October 13, 2022. But the suspended 2021/2022 academic activities from February 14 to October 13 must be completed before starting a new academic session. So, who will do it? Definitely not the lecturers that were not paid for the job.
The good thing about the court order was that it said “resume classes”. It didn’t say to return to class to complete the work not paid for. My simple solution is that ASUU should stop asking for the payment of the withheld salaries. The FG should rather be admonished to use the withheld salary to complete the 2021/2022 academic session.
They should be told to shop for “qualified ad-hoc academics” to get that done. If they want the service of ASUU members to get the work done, the union will negotiate how much will be paid for it. We can negotiate a pay higher than our salary to get the job done.
When the 2021/2022 academic session is completed based on the option adopted by FG, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, NUC, university councils, and university management, and the results are approved by the senate of the universities, we can then start a new session. If I am to advise ASUU NEC and the branches, I will go with a modified version of the University of Jos and Gombe state university ASUU resolutions.
The branches should take a resolution, and discontinue the resumes lectures for 2022/2022. They should write to their respective VCs, and copy the Council chairs, NUC Secretary, and the Education Minister that they are ready to start a new session pending the conclusion of 2021/2022 academic activities by FG using the withheld salaries. And that they are on the ground to start the 2022/2023 academic session once the 2021/2022 session is concluded.
This should make everybody happy as ASUU members are not paid for the work they didn’t do, FG used the money to get the work done, the students get their free university education, and we are all happy together. Meanwhile, they can still cry to the judiciary again for another court order to hector ASUU to do a job they are not paid for. Ngige still has that window.
Dear President Buhari, I am not sure what Ngige is telling you. But with your life experience, I am sure you are aware that issues of national interest are not resolved with pride and ego.