The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, has stated that Nigeria’s biggest problem in academia is inadequate human resources, warning that the country is on the verge of losing more lecturers to other countries.
According to Osodeke, lecturers who are dedicated and passionate about the job are being frustrated out of Nigerian universities while those who are ‘accidental’ academics are now frustrating the academic system.
Osodeke made the assertion in Abuja on Monday at the continued engagement by the House of Representatives on the lingering crisis between the Federal Government and ASUU.
The ASUU president stated, “Our education is in dire need of all sorts of things, most importantly human resources. Now, we are busy creating so many universities but we are not creating academics who will teach in those universities. What you now have in those universities are what one of our leaders called the last two categories of lecturers.
“You have four types of lecturers in a university: the first set are those who from the primary school made up their minds that they were going to teach, so they entered the university as lecturers; whether they are paid little or not, they accept; they teach even when they have the opportunity of going to other areas, they remain in schools.
“The second are those who, when they finished (graduated), they go out with good certificates; because they wanted to make big money, they went to the Central Bank of Nigeria, but after some time they found out they didn’t belong there, even when they were earning higher; they came back to the university and take lesser pay because they believe they belonged to the university.
“We have the third type who entered the university because there was a job somewhere else – no job, nothing to do, so they came to the university frustrated; they are there creating problems for the system. Then you have the fourth group who have no idea; they were brought in by godfathers…‘just go and teach there.’ They have Higher National Diploma, some have Post Graduate Diploma, they have Third Class; they are now lecturers.
“So, those who have dominated the system today are these last two; because the categories one and two, who are frustrated, are leaving the country; the categories three and four cannot leave because nobody will take them as lecturers in any other part of the world. So, we need to look at this.”
Osodeke pointed out that ASUU called off its eight-month strike based on trust as there were no signatures appended to the agreements reached after the House intervened in the crisis.
He stated, “What we agreed on the issue of UTAS and the IPPIS is a temporary measure. If there is a problem in payment, you challenge your universities to develop a programme for you as we were challenged. We were challenged to produce it (UTAS). We feel sad that we have to spend our money, time and resources to produce what we were challenged to do by the Minister of Labour on behalf of the government in 2020. We were challenged; we did not just produce it.
“So, we have agreed on that as an interim measure. Hopefully, subsequently, we will look for how to solve this problem once and for all. The IPPIS has not solved problems; it has created more problems. Check the wage bill before the IPPIS was introduced and check the wage bill now.”
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, however, argued that the agreement was for the Office of the government to modify the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System to capture the University Tertiary and Accountability Solution to capture the peculiarities with the university system.
Gbajabiamila said, “Like you rightly said, you called off the strike based on trust and I appreciate that and I agree with you. It was based on trust. But if you are now asking for a written agreement, then where is the place of trust? Those two cannot really go together. If you trusted me and you trusted the institution, asking for a signed agreement like a contract basically negates that trust. I remember that I sent what is considered to be the agreement to you – detailed – and I signed that document on behalf of the institution and I sent a copy also to the Presidency. So, there is something in writing.
“I will be very honest, this is the first time – we have had several meetings – I am hearing that this particular agreement on bringing UTAS into the IPPIS is ‘temporary’ or ‘interim;’ that was never used in the course of our proceedings. That was not the agreement. The agreement was not that it was a stop-gap, temporary measure.
“The agreement was to address the issue; UTAS should be brought into the IPPIS so that we can move on. So, I can also say ‘where is the trust?’ If we do this exercise and it works, then why do you need to change it if it is working? Why must we change it if it is working?”
The acting Accountant-General, Sylva Okolieaboh, while assuring possible resolutions of the payment system issues, said “I think the right starting point will be for us to now have a comprehensive list of all the peculiarities of ASUU and their members. Whatever number it may be; whatever level of complication it may be, I believe that in three months, we should be able to clear this.
“But we have to continue to pay ASUU and their members; they need their money. So, we will sit down with ASUU and look at what we have at the moment so that we can continue to pay them, and then gradually, incrementally, we are accommodating some of those material peculiarities that ASUU is complaining about.”