THE Academic Staff Union of Universities has warned that universities in Nigeria will be plunged into an unimaginable crisis if the Federal Government fails to take urgent steps stop payment salaries in “percentages or decimals” to its members.
The lecturers decried the shortfall in personnel allocations to public universities since 2015, leading to pay cut in salaries and allowances to them.
Zonal Coordinator, ASUU-Abuja Zone, Dr Theophilus Lagi, who briefed newsmen at the Ibrahim Babangida University, Lapai, on Sunday, said this singular action of the Federal government was a recipe for the death of public university education in Nigeria.
He said from all indications the State Governments would follow suit and this would precipitate a breakdown of industrial harmony across all public Universities in the country.
He condemned the action of the federal government to unilaterally cut salaries of university workers against the spirit of International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions, which it is a signatory.
“ASUU insists that her members have rendered their duties in full (100%) and as such, they should have their salaries and allowances paid in full and not in percentages or decimals.
“It is on this note that ASUU unequivocally demand an immediate restoration of releases of the full personnel costs (including arrears thereof) to all Federal Universities in Nigeria, in order to forestall the infliction of consequential damage to public university education in Nigeria,” he said.
Lagi, recalled that on 15th of April, 2016, ASUU-Abuja Z comprising University of Abuja, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Nasarawa State University, Keffi Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai and Federal University, Lafia, raised concerns on the ugly and worrisome unilateral drastic cut by the Federal Government of Nigeria in the personnel costs allocations to Federal Universities across the country.
He said it was said more than a year, nothing has been done by the government to address the challenge.
It would be recalled that the issue of salary shortfall was one of the cardinal points that led the Union to embark on a one-week warning Strike in November 2016.
The ASUU Zonal Coordinator said it took the intervention of the Senate President in the week-long warning strike, some understanding was reached, virement was made and funds were released to clear up some of the accumulated salary shortfalls.
He said it was expected that the right thing to do was to sustain that and maintain the drive to clear all outstanding shortfalls and to put mechanisms in place to forestall any future reoccurrence of any form of shortfalls.
“Sadly, this was not done,” he said noting that in January 2017, the personnel cost released by the government to the University of Abuja, for instance, was a little above 359 million naira.
“This amount could only pay about 91% of the salaries of staff in the University for that month. However, in February2017, the same government released a little above 302 million naira to the same University of Abuja for the same purpose, when there was no reduction in the workforce at the University.
“This dipped the pay-cut further down. While the staff of University of Abuja received 81% of their total salaries in February, their counterparts in the Federal University, Lafia received only 45% of their total salaries for the same month of February2017.
“At the Federal University of Technology, Minna, the story is also not different, as the University experienced over 21 million naira cut in salaries each for the months of January and February, 2017.
“This is now the norm, with no end in sight. The most worrisome part of the problem is that in the 2017 Appropriation Bill submitted by the Executive arm of FGN to the National Assembly for consideration and possibly passed into law, the agencies responsible for budget preparation have maintained the figures they used for personnel costs projections for 2015 in almost all Federal Universities.
“The implications of this are many. First, this gives the impression that none of the Federal Universities was expected to recruit any staff from 2015 through 2017.
“Not just that; the same Universities were not expected to promote any staff as well, for even if the appropriation for 2015 could be sufficient to pay salaries for 2015, it certainly would not be sufficient to pay 2016 salaries, if one or two staff were promoted in the Universities,” he said.
Lagi, said the claim that this shortfall was as a result of recession was inconsequential, saying from all indication government recorded budget supplus in 2016.
“In meeting with the 2016 appropriation, the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) was expected to generate 4.2 trillion naira from taxes; taxes on economic activities.
“It is common knowledge that as at the end of November 2016, FIRS met this target of 4.2 trillion naira. If FIRS, which generates revenue from taxes on economic activities met its target, when or at what point did economic growth contract and even went into negative as to warrant the claim of recession and existence of same?” he queried.