Be sensitive in your demands, Buhari tells ASUU, NASU,others

⦁ As Afe Babalola, Falase, Edozien, Ezeh, Abaoba bag honourary doctorate degrees

President Muhammadu Buhari has urged the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other staff unions to be sensitive in their demands for better staff welfare and revitalisation of universities, pointing out that a strike-free system was essential for the desired advancement in higher education in the country.

While describing as disheartening and worrisome the intermittent strikes and threats of strikes by staff unions, he said the current administration had given appreciable priority to education and remained undeterred in investing substantially in education.

Buhari stated this as Visitor at the 71st Foundation Day Ceremony, Award of Doctorate Degrees and Conferment of Honorary Degrees and Fellowship of the University of Ibadan, held on Monday.

Represented by Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission, Professor Abubakar Rasheed, Buhari said staff unions bear in mind by the fact that such industrial actions were inimical to the health and progress of the university system and hampered nation-building efforts.

Noting that his administration was not unaware of the challenges and constraints facing the university system, Buhari urged the staff unions to focus not only on the perceived failure of government but also give equal attention to their universities’ governance inadequacies and internal management flows.

This is as he said ASUU should throw its light on issues of sexual harassment, plagiarism, sorting and other forms of corruption that have continued to rock the university system.

According to him, such corrupt acts continued to cast a dark shadow on universities’ claim to be citadels of character and learning, whereas they show epitomise probity, accountability, transparency, critical inquiry and democratic values.

“Government is disturbed by the incessant strikes and threats of a strike by various campus-based staff unions. Obviously, industrial actions through strikes are inimical to the health and progress of any university system. It is particularly worrisome and disheartening to note the grievous loss in time and learning hours by our young men and women in their quest to graduate and join the nation-building effort.

“Let me, therefore, appeal to the leadership and rank and file of all university-based unions to be more sensitive in their pursuit of welfare and other demands in the university system. It is only when there is peace and stability that the government is able to consolidate the gains and successes recorded in the advancement of higher education in this country.

“Government is fully aware of constraints and challenges in the university system and will be leaving no stone unturned to change the narrative. Let me remind all of us here that maintenance of peace and stability in our universities is not the exclusive responsibility of the staff unions.

“University governing councils and management must appreciate the democratic nature of the university system and operate open and consultative governance to carry along both staff and students.

“Since the inception of my administration in 2015, we have given appreciable priority to education and we will continue undeterred to invest substantially in education. Despite financial and other related challenges, the government has not relented in its efforts to ensure that education is revitalised to fast track Nigeria’s transition to a knowledge-based society.

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“Permit me to reiterate my advice to the ASUU as I stated in my convocation address at the University of Uyo some two weeks ago. I commend the union for being a loud voice for the revitalisation of university education in Nigeria over the years.

“However, I want to challenge them to throw their searchlight on the issue of corporate governance of their various institutions. It will amount to wholesome critical posturing if their criticism is directed at the perceived failure of government alone while they look away at obvious governance inadequacies of their own institutions right under their noses.

“It will give credence and credibility to their critical stance with regard to the government if they addressed internal university management flows with equal attention. After all, the saying that he that goes to equity must go with clean hands should apply both to government and university management when administered by the academic staff leadership.

“It is very disheartening to hear about the increase in the incidence of plagiarism, sorting, sexual harassment and other forms of academic corruption in many universities in the country. These aspects of corruption should also be of concern to ASUU and indeed the academia as a whole. We should be able to look up to universities as citadels of probity, accountability, transparency, critical inquiry and democratic values,” Buhari said.

Speaking in the same vein, Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, appealed to staff unions to be patient with government and the university management in its resolve to honour all outstanding issues.

Pointing to the grave consequences of disruption of the academic calendar as a result of industrial actions, he said it was imperative for all stakeholders in the school system to bear in mind those grave repercussions whenever issues arise and tend towards work-to-rule actions.

Consequently, Abubakar, who is Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, charged all and sundry to be committed to contributing their quota to ensure the creation of wealth, thereby enabling the government to meet its obligations.

Also lamenting that the university’s academic calendar was usually drawn back due to incessant strike actions, Chairman, Governing Council, University of Ibadan, Nde Joshua Waklek pleaded with the federal government to sustain its dialogue with the unions until all pending issues were amicably resolved.

“Your Excellency sir, it will be necessary to inform you that the university academic calendar is lagging behind due to incessant ASUU and non-academic staff industrial actions. We appreciate the federal government for its effort to broker peace with various unions in federal universities. However, I still want to plead with the government to sustain the current dialogue with the unions until all pending issues are amicably resolved. We cannot, for any reason, afford any further disruption in the academic calendar,” Waklek stressed.

Speaking further, Waklek asked the federal government to provide “enormous” financial assistance for the university to enable the school management to fix inadequacies in infrastructure.

Bemoaning that infrastructural facilities were crying for replacement and needed massive revamping, he urged the federal government to come to the aid of the university through the funding of capital projects.

Noting that subventions and grants from the federal government were inadequate to cater for the demands of the university, Waklek appealed for more involvement of individual philanthropists and organisations in infrastructural facilities, ICT overhauling, manpower development, procurement of equipment and other materials.

At the ceremony, Chief Afe Babalola received the honorary degree of letters (D.Litt), Emeritus Professor Ayodele Falase bagged fellowship of the institution, Professor Folagbade Abaoba was decorated as honourary doctor of science (D.Sc), Dr Alex Ezeh got the honorary doctor of science (D.Sc) while Professor Chukwuma Edozien received the honorary degree of science (D.Sc) posthumously.

In attendance at the event were Oyo state governor, Mr Seyi Makinde; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi; the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji; the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye; Registrar, Joint Admission Matriculations Board, Professor Ishaq Oloyede, among other personalities.

In his award acceptance speech, Aare Afe Babalola argued that public universities in Nigeria will only be among the top universities in the world if made autonomous and free from government encumbrances.

Buttressing his argument, Babalola said institutions should be free to charge fees based on nature and requirements of programmes, be at liberty to set standard and admission criteria, free to appoint council members, pro-chancellor and vice-chancellor.

According to Babalola, government’s intervention in universities should only be in the form of giving subvention.

In his address, Vice-Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Professor Idowu Olayinka urged the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to accord the University of Ibadan special attention in form of special reconstruction and rehabilitation funds as well as increased allocation spread over a period of about 10years.

He avowed the resolve of the institution’s management to tackle its challenges in power supply, water supply and security through measures to include rehabilitation of pressure filter pipes at its water treatment plant, refurbishment of distribution transformers, procurement of safety equipment and provision of a streetlight at Appleton road.

While announcing that a total of 343 candidates were awarded the Doctor of Philosophy degrees, he charged the graduands to be good ambassadors of the university.

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