Why govt can’t proscribe ASUU, by Falana – Nexus News

The leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday met to assess the ongoing strike by members of the union.

It was learnt that the union’s leadership would make the decision of the meeting known today.

Before the meeting started, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, stated that ASUU cannot be proscribed by the Federal Government for not ending the almost seven-month-old strike.

The union’s leadership had called a special National Executive Council meeting to assess the strike after most of its branches voted for an indefinite close down of classrooms at their congresses last week.

The congresses agreed on an indefinite strike following the government’s insistence on a no-work, no-pay policy.

Apart from seeking payment of the salaries of its members for the strike period, ASUU is requesting the provision of funds for the revitalisation of public universities; payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA)/Earned Allowances (EA); payment of salary shortfalls; an end to the proliferation of state universities, renegotiation of a 2009 agreement; adoption of University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a payment platform for university teachers and payment of non-remitted check-off dues.

Falana implored those berating ASUU to advise the Federal Government to give priority to the funding of tertiary education in the country.

Falana noted that the union cannot be banned because it is protected by Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution and Article 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

He, however, implored ASUU to resume negotiations with the government in the interest of students and the country.

Falana, in a press release titled “Why ASUU cannot be banned,” urged the government to faithfully implement the agreements it reached with ASUU.

Stating ways through which the government had contributed to the strike, he highlighted some policies in place for it (government) to fund tertiary education.

The senior lawyer said “Under the current democratic dispensation the fundamental right of citizens to form or belong to political parties and trade unions is guaranteed by section 40 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act.

“As a member of the committee of civilized nations, the government of Nigeria has ratified the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention No 87 of the International Labor Organization Convention.

“It is pertinent to note that parties to the Convention are obligated to ensure the right of both employers and employees to join an organization of their choice and free from any influence of authorities which belong to the core principles of the ILO(International Labor Organization).”

He said that in the 1992 and 2009 agreements, it was clearly stated that the revenue realized from the sale of abandoned Federal Government properties in Lagos should be channeled towards the funding of tertiary education.

Falana lamented that the government turned around to sell off the properties to private individuals and corporate bodies at low prices.

He added that some of the properties were sold to top individuals and corporate bodies, including multinational corporations.

“Since a number of the properties have not been sold the Federal Government should turn them over to the universities in line with the terms of the FG/ASUU Collective Agreements,” the rights activists advised.

He also stated that the Tertiary Education Trust Fund recommended by ASUU and incorporated into the 1992 agreement was enacted into law in 1993.

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The rights activist stressed that the government had also ceased to execute the TETFUND Act which enforces a two percent education tax on the profit of every registered company in Nigeria.

Falana said: “Regrettably, the fund is collected in a rather haphazard manner by the Federal Government. In spite of pressure from ASUU, the Federal Government has failed to recover the several billions of Naira from companies that have defaulted in contributing to the Fund.

“The government has also refused to publish the list of companies that are qualified to contribute to the fund for the purpose of monitoring the collection and updating the list. There are other leakages in the system which could be blocked by the Federal Government in collaboration with all trade unions in the tertiary institutions,” he noted.

“It may also interest concerned citizens to know that pursuant to the 1992 Agreement, the management of the universities had registered and established consultancy firms to handle jobs by professionals in the academic community in the country.

“But the university councils populated by government appointees prefer to farm out multi-million naira contracts to contractors nominated by the ruling political parties. Through such dubious arrangements, the meagre fund earmarked for capital projects in the universities is diverted as a number of the projects are abandoned.

“It is on record that some cases of large-scale corruption reported to the anti-graft agencies were not allowed to be investigated by the Federal Government.”

Falana queried why a government that has N4 trillion as a 2022 supplementary budget, N6.5 trillion for subsidy payment and $235 million for foreign airlines could not implement ASUU’s demands.

He said: “When it comes to funding tertiary education the Federal Government is said to be broke.”

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