ASUU and its achievements in the Nigerian university system - By Engr. Dr. Ibrahim Yahuza

History of ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was formed in 1978, a successor to the Nigerian Association of University Teachers formed in 1965 and covering Academic Staff in all of the Federal and State Universities in the country, the period of the beginning of the decline in the oil boom, when the country faced the consequences of the failure by its rulers to use the oil wealth to generate production and a social welfare system. Military dictatorship had eroded deeply the basic freedoms in the society. Academic freedom and university autonomy were casualties of military dictatorship. The funding of education, and so of universities, became poorer. The factors required a changed orientation of the union of academics, from 1980.

ASUUs orientation became radical, more concerned with broad national issues, and stood firmly against oppressive, undemocratic policies of the country. In 1988 the union organized a National Strike to obtain fair wages and University autonomy. As a result, the ASUU was proscribed on 7 August 1988 and all its property seized. It was allowed to resume in 1990, but after another strike was again banned on 23 August 1992. However, an agreement was reached on 3 September 1992 that met several of the union's demands including the right of workers to collective bargaining. The ASUU organized further strikes in 1994 and 1996, protesting against the dismissal of staff by the Late Gen. Sani Abacha military regime.

After the return to democracy in 1999 with the Nigerian Fourth Republic, the Union continued to be rocket in demanding the rights of University workers against opposition by the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo. In July 2002 Dr. Oladipo Fashina, the then National President of the Union, petitioned Justice Mustapha Akanbi of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to investigate the authorities of the University of Ilorin for financial mismanagement and corruption.

ASUU continue with the struggle for betterment of University Education to all citizenry. After long History of struggle, with several agreements with Government In 1990, ASUU was de-proscribed. In 1991, following the Delegates Conference in Badagry, ASUU asked the Babangida regime for negotiation. There were two rounds of negotiation: The first, under the chairmanship of Mr. Senas Ukpanah, broke down when, following a disagreement on Governments offer on salary, the chairman unilaterally suspended negotiation (May 30, 1991). This was followed by governments announcement of a unilateral package.

The failure by the Federal Government to negotiate serious the September 3, 1992 Agreement was a product of these negotiations. The Agreement was significant for the following reasons:

1. It showed that a determined, principled and organized citizenry can defeat a military dictatorship. ASUUs success showed the civilian resistance organizations that they could defeat the military.
2. The agreement showed that there could be a rational approach to the development of universities. The Agreement, by providing a periodic view of the funding needs of the universities, allowed universities to plan, based on expected funds.
3. The Agreement re-affirmed the right of workers to collective bargaining.
4. The Agreement enabled a more scientific approach to funding.
5. The Agreement kept the democratic aspiration of the people for democratic rights alive.
6. It formed the basis for further struggles by the union for the defense of the university system and for education.
Government has killed the primary and secondary schools, and they want to do same to Universities. ASUU is fighting for that. Government is not honest, and when allowed, they will not properly funds the system for betterment of citizenry.

Nineteen years ago (1999), Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka clamoured for Nigerian universities to be closed down for a year or two in order to fix the rot in the system. A thorough bred scholar and academic, he had seen the level the system had degenerated thus the call for a shutdown.

ASUU was concerned about the state of our Universities following a groundswell of public outcry, the Federal Ministry of Education on November 1, 2012 set up the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities. The committee submitted its report to then Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Ahmed RufaI in March 2013. The committees report revealed that public universities are grossly mismanaged; engage in activities at variance with the National Policy on Education and are lacking in human and material resources. The varsities were accused of being incapable of supplying the nations manpower needs and are said to be bogged down by corruption of various kinds while offering education of poor quality, among others.

For the benefit of participants who may not know, a Needs assessment is a systematic process for determining and addressing needs, or lacuna between status quo and desired conditions or wants. The discrepancy between the status quo and desired condition must be measured to appropriately identify what the needs are. The need can be a desire to improve current academic performance or to correct infrastructural deficiency. A Needs assessment therefore is a part of planning processes, often used for improvement in individuals, education/training, organizations, or communities. It can refine and improve a product such as training or service a client receives. It can be an effective tool to clarify problems and identify appropriate interventions or solutions. By clearly identifying and isolating the problem, resources can then be channeled towards developing and implementing a feasible and applicable solution. Needs assessments are only effective when they are ends-focused and provide concrete evidence that can be used to determine which of the possible means-to-the-ends are most effective and efficient for achieving the desired results.

The 2013 Needs assessment report showed that majority of the universities are grossly understaffed, rely heavily on part-time and visiting lecturers, have under-qualified academics and have no effective staff development programme outside the Tertiary Education Trust Fund intervention and the Presidential First Class Scholarship programme. The report also affirmed that there are 37,504 academics (83 per cent of which are male) in the countrys public universities. This shows that only 17 per cent of academic staffers in public universities are female. Thats food for thought.

Also revealed in the report is that only about 43 per cent of Nigerian universities teaching staffs have doctorate degrees; instead of 75 per cent of the academics being between senior lecturers and professors, only about 44 per cent are within the bracket. Only seven universities have up to 60 per cent of their teaching staff with PhD qualification. Also, the ratio of teaching staff to students in many universities is 1:100. For instance, it is 1: 363 at the National Open University of Nigeria; 1:122 at the University of Abuja; and 1:144 at the Lagos State University.

How does the statistics measured in other climes? In Harvard University, it is 1: 4; Massachusetts Institute of Technology- 1:9; and Cambridge-1:3. The report also stated that there is numerically more support than teaching staff in the universities, instead of the other way round. In some universities, it was discovered that the non-teaching staff double, triple or quadruple the teaching staff. With regard to infrastructure, the committee found that physical facilities for teaching and learning in the public universities are inadequate, dilapidated, over-stretched and improvised. It says laboratories and workshops equipment as well as consumables are either absent, inadequate or outdated. Kerosene stoves are being used as Bunsen burners in some! Some engineering workshops operate under zinc sheds and trees, and many science-based faculties are running what is referred to as Dry Lab, due to lack of reagents and tools to conduct real experiments. The committee also documented that 163 of the 701 physical uncompleted projects it found had been abandoned.

The report revealed that there are a total of 1,252,913 students in the public universities: 85 per cent undergraduates; five per cent sub-degree; three per cent postgraduate diploma; five per cent Masters and two per cent Ph.D. As against the National Policy on Education that stipulates 60:40 enrolments in favour of science-based programmes, 66.1 per cent of them are studying arts, social sciences, and management and education courses.

The last achievements of ASUU in Nigeria with great importance is the entertainment of TetFund. Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) was established as an intervention agency under the TETFund ACT - Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Establishment, etc.) Act, 2011; charged with the responsibility for managing, disbursing and monitoring the education tax to public tertiary institutions in Nigeria. To enable the TETFund achieve the above objectives, TETFUND ACT, 2011 imposes a 2 percent (2%) Education Tax on the assessable profit of all registered companies in Nigeria. The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) is empowered by the Act to assess and collect Education Tax. The Fund administers the tax imposed by the Act and disburses the amount to tertiary educational institutions at Federal and State levels. It also monitors the projects executed with the funds allocated to the beneficiaries.

The mandate of the Fund as provided in Section 7(1)(a) to (e) of the TETFUND ACT, 2011 is to administer and disburse the amount in the Fund to Federal and State tertiary educational institutions, specifically for the provision and maintenance of the following:
Essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning
Instructional material and equipment
Research and publication
Academic staff training and development
Any other need which, in the opinion of the Board of Trustees, is critical and essential for the improvement of quality and maintenance of standards in the higher educational institutions.

TETFund ensures that funds generated from education tax are utilized to improve the quality of education in Nigeria without direct contract awarding by:
Providing funding for educational facilities and infrastructural development
Promoting creative and innovative approaches to educational learning and services
Stimulating, supporting and enhancing improvement activities in educational foundation areas like Teacher Education, Teaching Practice, Library Development, etc.
Championing new literacy-enhancing areas such as scientific, information and technology literacy.

TETFUND scheme was formed as a product of the Education Tax Act of 1993. Prior to the establishment of the scheme in 2011, government-owned tertiary institutions were poorly funded. The scheme was designed to improve on the managements of funds disbursed to these institutions.

About the Author
Engr. Dr. Ibrahim YAHUZA holds B. Eng. (Mechanical/Production Engineering); M. Eng. (Power and Process Engineering); Ph.D. (Automotive Engineering); Registered Engineer (COREN); Member, Automotive and Locomotive Engineers' Institute (AutoEI); Lecturer, Department of Automotive Engineering; Faculty of Engineering and Engineering Technology; Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi; P.M.B. 0248, Bauchi State -Nigeria.


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