Akpan Etukudoh Asare.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has called on the federal government Nigerian to immediately sack Dr Wale Babalakin as chairman of the renegotiating team of the government in the dispute between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
ASUU said in Calabar at the end of its national executive committee that they can no longer guarantee that their members will continue to work in the different universities in the country if Babalakin was not sacked.
The national president of ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi who addressed journalists at the University of Calabar said that Dr Babalakin has become a stumbling block against peaceful negotiation and implementation of their demands from government.
He therefore announced that may soon embark on another round of strike shortly Babalakin was not replaced
Prof Ogunyemi said they had welcome the Babalakin committee at their NEC meeting held at Bayero University in January 2017 but that even though they minister of education asked it to complete the renegotiation in six months yet in the past 14 months there has been no headway owing to what he said was a recalcitrance attitude of the committee which they can no longer condone.
“Our Union has had series of negotiation meetings but it has been a fruitless exercise. The Chairman of the Government Renegotiating Team, in the person of Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN), has constituted a stumbling block in the process of the renegotiation. He has arrogantly exhibited “I-know-it-all” attitude and also conducted himself as a judge, instead of a negotiator. With unwarranted arrogance, he has disregarded the cardinal principles of collective bargaining, deliberately slowed the process and made mockery of the core tenets of industrial democracy.
“He has arrogated to himself the power to decide matters that should be collectively debated, analysed, and agreed upon by the two parties. He has also consistently attempted to substitute core constitutional provisions of Nigeria on education, including university education, by market principles of trading in and purchasing higher education, putting Nigerian children in debt peonage in order to acquire higher education.
“This situation is not acceptable to the Union. ASUU has tried through several entreaties to make him see reason and return to the path of collective bargaining and respect for the Constitutional provisions on Education to no avail. The Chairman of the Government team has amply demonstrated that his major interest is to force ASUU to accept the dependence of the education of our youth on debts whereas the Constitution promises free education.
“Since March 2017, a period of over fourteen (14) months, discussion has hovered only on funding and Babalakin’s insistence that a tuition regime must be introduced into the public universities in Nigeria. It is significant to point out that education is a right, according to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Education is also a public good, and it is the constitutional responsibility of the Nigerian state to provide qualitative and sound education to its citizenry (Chapter II – Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy). Since the return to civil rule in 1999, the highest budgetary allocation to the education sector was in 2015, when government allocated 11.75 per cent to education. However, in the 2018 budget, the allocation to the education sector fell to a scandalously low point of 7%. This is also unacceptable.
“The FGN/ASUU 2017-2018 renegotiations are intended to reverse the crisis afflicting the universities in particular and the education sector in general. Our Union has, since the 1980s, struggled along with the students, the trade unions and the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to reject attempts by Nigerian governments to impose on Nigerians the Bretton Wood institutions’ policy of privatising education and taking it out of the reach of the majority of Nigerians who cannot afford privatized education.
The FGN/ASUU renegotiation, which started in March 2017, never got on to substantive negotiation both in content and procedure. The Chairman substituted his views for those of the Renegotiating Committee, dismissed opposing proposals without input from members of his team, and ignored substantive input by a joint committee of both sides. ASUU as a Union of intellectuals totally rejects the castration of the truncated renegotiation single-handedly by Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN). This action has led to palpable fear, anxiety and apprehension on our campuses.
The national trustee of ASUU, Dr Dipo Fashina and former president of NLC, Comrade Hassan Sunmonu said they have been extremely patient with the committee but that has been overstretched and can no longer continue with the status quo. “Anything can happen anytime from now if oir letter to the minister of education was not addressed properly.