By Francis Onyeukwu
Awka – The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Owerri zone, has called on the Federal Government to urgently open renegotiation on the 2009 agreement with the union to avoid industrial disharmony.
Coordinator of the zone, Dr Uzo Onyebinama, read out the position of the union to journalists after meeting of the executives held at the Nnamdi Azikwe University Awka on Wednesday.
Onyebinama stated that after the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, there was a provision for the renegotiation of the agreement every three years, but regretted that it was in March 2017 that the first renegotiation was held.
He added that the meeting broke down since May 2018, because of what he tagged “deliberate tactics adopted by the leader of government team to scuttle the renegotiation.’’
The unionist said that government team was rooting for funding of education via diverse sources with the proposal for the establishment of `Education Bank and students’ loan scheme.’
“Students’ loan scheme is a deliberate effort to commercialise public universities and an incentive for private universities to thrive and untimely deny the children of poor Nigerians access to university education,’’ he said.
Onyebinama maintained that the union’s call for the reopening of meeting between it and the Federal Government was a clear demonstration in ASUU’s belief in dialogue and due process.
He however, said that if government failed to do the needful, the members of the union might be forced to embark on industrial action.
Onyebinama gave breakdown of issues in dispute as follows; non-implementation of components of the 2017 memorandum of action, non-release of over N1 trillion arrears or revitalisation fund owed public universities from 2014 to 2018.
Others are: non release of the forensic audit report on earned academic allowances and non-payment of arrears for 2009 to 2017, failure to mainstream the payment of earned academic allowances into the annual budget.
He said that the union was equally worried over failure to pay arrears of shortfall in salaries in universities that have been verified under the presidential initiative, on continuous auditing among others.
Responding to questions, Onyebinama said that the union was not worried over possible political coloration of their action, adding, “that was the same false accusation we faced in 2015 and should it come again this time, it makes no meaning.’’