•’10 issues govt must address to avert fresh trouble’
BY IKENNA ASOMBA
Barely four weeks after university lecturers under the auspices of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called-off their five months strike, lecturers of the Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, have threatened a showdown with the university Management over issues bordering on welfare, facilities and tuition fees.
The union alleged that several letters written and meetings with the Management, Governing Council and the Lagos State Executive Council Ad-hoc Committee have failed to address the issues, noting that danger lies ahead for the long-term prosperity of the university, if nothing is done.
In a reaction, the Management expressed dismay over the union’s threat, saying it is a ploy to impede the progress made by the two years old administration of Professor John Obafunwa, the Vice Chancellor.
The university spokesman, Dr. Sola Fosudo, said most of the issues raised by ASUU-LASU had been discussed and resolved. Fosudo wondered why the union is coming up again with the issues at a point it should be the concern of stakeholders to contribute meaningfully towards the growth of the university.
ASUU-LASU Chairman, Dr. Idris Adekunle, told Sunday Vanguard that before the ASUU national strike, there were a number of unacceptable developments in the institution. The issues, according to him, were, “One, the implementation of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2012 as amended, which stipulate that academic staff on professorial cadre shall retire at age 70 and non-academic staff at age 65 and that principal officers of universities shall serve for a single term of five years.
Two, downward review of the institution’s tuition fees regime, where new students pay as high as between N193, 750 and N248, 750. Three, abolition of the ‘no vacancy, no promotion’ adopted by Management. Four, immediate commencement of the regularization of appointment exercise for academic staff members on temporary appointment. Five, full payment of the balance of the 17-month arrears in salary owed our members (30 per cent by the university management) and (12.5 per cent by government). Six, restructuring of courses.
“Others are the immediate payment of Accrued Earned Allowances (teaching practice/student Industrial Experience Scheme/Responsibility Allowances among others) and implementation of FGN/ASUU agreement 2009 on Earned Allowances. Eight, the immediate restoration of internet facilities and beautification of the institution’s environment. Nine, stoppage of the purported outstanding PAYE tax liabilities planned to be deducted from staff members’ arrears of salaries and, lastly, the review of deadline for the acquisition of Ph.D degree.”
Decrying the increment in tuition fees since the 2011/2012 academic session, the ASUU boss said: “Our union demands the downward review of the LASU school fees regime to enable LASU compete favourably with other public universities and make tertiary education affordable to the down-trodden. LASU is now the most expensive public university in Nigeria and this has made us unattractive to applicants.
With fees between N350, 000 (Medicine), N250, 000 (Management Sciences/Law) and N197, 000 (Education), it has placed education beyond the reach of the average Lagosian and Nigerians in general. This contradicts the founding father’s vision and purpose for establishing the university. Even, the Lagos State University Law, 2004 states that one of the objectives of the university shall be to provide access for citizens of Lagos State to higher education regardless of social status or income.”
Asked why the union is crying foul over the fees regime two years after it took effect, the lecturer at the Faculty of Management Sciences apologized that ASUU-LASU failed to speak up when the issue came up in 2011, however, stated: “It would be a disservice on the part of ASUU-LASU to Lagosians and Nigerians in general if we still sit back and watch until LASU is made a business school. It is necessary to also mention that no public university in the world can be funded or sustained through school fees alone.”
‘On government’s table’
Fosudo, LASU spokesman, who said tuition fees alone can not keep the institution running, however, pointed out that it’s beyond the Management’s statutory powers to reduce the fees. “It is okay that they (ASUU) are agitating for the fees to be reduced, but it is on government’s table to do so. ASUU is not unaware that at various meetings, the Governing Council has promised to do something. Even this tuition fees currently paid can never run LASU.
The total money being paid by students, in a year, can only run LASU for three months, staff salaries inclusive. To train a medical student in a year, government spends over N800, 000 but the students pay N348, 750. The state government is spending heavily to subsidy and train these students and also to fund LASU.”
Reacting to what ASUU-LASU described as the refusal of the university Management and government to respectively pay a 30 per cent and 12.5 per cent balance of the 17-month salary arrears owed its members, he said: “I want to clarify that what the Management is owing is not arrears of salary but increase in salary arrears. The arrears amounting to over N2.2 billion were inherited by the present administration. The arrears, back-dated to 2009, were initially 18 months, but the last administration paid for one month. So, when it became a problem for Prof. Obafunwa’s administration, it ran back to government for help. Government agreed to pay 50 per cent while the Management is to pay the balance.
“Of government’s share of N1.2 billion, it has paid 75 per cent and promised to pay the balance. If not for the 5 months ASUU national strike, government had promised to pay the 25 per cent in December 2013. But we are optimistic that government will pay this January. On Management’s part, of its share of N1.2 billion, in July 2013, it paid 20 per cent with the July salary. In November, it also paid another 20 per cent. So, left with a balance of 60 per cent, which is actually 30 per cent, management has decided to pay it in two tranches between January and April 2014”.
On the implementation of the Universities (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) Act 2012 in LASU, Adekunle averred that a law passed by the Federal Government for effective running of universities states that academic staff on professorial cadre shall retire at age 70 and non-academic staff at age 65 and that principal officers of universities shall serve for a single term of five years.
The don pointed that this issue is part of the ASUU/Federal Government agreement of 2009, which the Lagos State Government has agreed to implement.
Reacting, Fosudo said: “On this implementation of the Universities Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2012 as amended, the university Management has taken some necessary steps, because this provision has to do with law. There is a law setting up the university, and if that law is going to be amended, it’s not going to be amended on the Vice Chancellor’s table. It has to come from the state’s legislative arm. In the Management’s resolve to address this agitation, it has sent several letters to government and Lagos State Assembly, for this provision to be considered and passed into law.