Despite the fact that the on-going strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is before the National Industrial Court, the Committee of Vice- Chancellors of Nigerian Universities (CVCNU) has reiterated that the legal means should not foreclose continued exploration of informed alternative means of amicable resolution of the face-off.
This is as the Nigerian Universities Sustainable Peace Team of the CVCNU explored other options that could facilitate a quick resolution of the protracted dispute, following its review of the outcomes and some developments of the meeting of Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors of federal universities with the Minister of Education.
The Team called the attention of the government to the need to speedily facilitate the reopening of the universities now that electioneering campaigns are about to start as this would help insulate the bulk of the students from overt politicisation of their plight.
The Chairman of CVCNU Board of Trustees (BOT), Prof. J. D Amin, in a statement, titled: “Saving Our University System – Exploring Alternative Pathways to Amicably Resolving the FGN/ ASUU Impasse: The Position of The Sustainable Peace Team (SPT),” suggested proper funding of the system, since all parties to the dispute, stakeholders and others had agreed that the current funding levels of university education are poor, and impair the giant developmental strides expected of Nigerian universities.
Therefore, it proposed a middle ground where the government could resolve the trust issues by taking executive action to propose to the National Assembly its decision on improved funding, which should enact legislation to ensure that succeeding governments comply with the undertaking.
As part of the way forward, the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and Federal University, Dutse, suggested that the government and ASUU should consider and accept “Blended Financing Options” as a medium-term solution to sustainable funding of public universities.
The committee, however, recalled the sticking point of the timing for increased budgetary provisions to correct the gaps in which the government proposed 2023 for the increase, but ASUU insisted that there should be extrabudgetary provisions for 2022.
Speaking about the proposed Education Summit on the future of education in Nigeria, Amin stated that the details of the proposed financial option would be communicated to the government in due course.
The statement reads in part: “As a way of sourcing and mobilising funds internally to take care of some of the current pressing needs, we propose to the government to suspend the 25 per cent remittance of all user charges collected by the universities.
This will go a long way in helping to pool funds internally to meet some of the outstanding obligations and further boost internal fund generation efforts in universities.
“For the 35 per cent professoriate salary increase offer that was rejected by ASUU, we suggest that a middle ground will be for the government to accept to make the offer, net of taxes.
This will provide a sort of tax break that will improve the current comparatively low take-home pay of Nigerian academics. This can be for a period to be mutually determined, taking cognisance of the deleterious galloping rate of brain drain, that must be halted.
This will represent a significant shift by ASUU as it falls far short of what was dedicatedly and painstakingly negotiated. Still on pragmatic suggestions as the way forward, the Nigerian Universities Sustainable Peace Team, proposed an agreed percentage increase in the quantum of user charges to help bridge funding gaps