The Nigerian Academics Peace building team which is made up of some former vice-chancellors and pro-chancellors, alongside senior academics in the university system, have said the deployment of a centralized payment platform for universities negates the principle of autonomy.
The position of the former university administrators come amidst the lingering strike action of the Academic Staff Union of Universities which has been on for over 200 days.
Speaking in a communiqué, the senior academics called on the government and ASUU to find a common ground to settle the issues contributing to the lingering strike.
Some members of the team include a former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Maiduguri, Professor Jibril Aminu; a former VC of the University of Ibadan, Emeritus Professor Olufemi Bamiro; a former Pro-Chancellor of the University of Calabar, Dr Nkechi Nwagogu, among others.
The communique partly read, “The struggle for university autonomy that formed the major point of dispute since 2003 has to be contextualized in conversation over the IPPIS or UTAS.
“A centralized payment platform for all Federal Universities fundamentally negates the principle of autonomy. Global best practice in general, and the law establishing the federal universities, vest the power over finances to the Governing Council with the Vice-Chancellor as Chief Accounting Officer.
“The centralization of salary payment and approval of establishment figures and academic staff recruitment from the office of the Head of Service all negate the core principles on which university governance and administration are founded.
“We make bold to submit that these incursions/features hurt the Nigerian university system very badly.
“While the Federal Government and ASUU both agree that the funding to universities is inadequate, they differ radically on how to fund the shortfall. Both parties need to be very creative and demonstrate the resolve to solve the funding challenge. Government should explore and adopt blended financing options with a strong mix of tax credits for any actors that support tertiary education.
“This way, more money will flow into the system and the fear of education being priced out of the hands of the poor will be mitigated. ASUU’s hardline ideological stand on the matter of non-payment of tuition fees must be moderated to accommodate this possibility as long as government puts in place the framework to accommodate intelligent but indigent students.
“For the government, it is a matter of political will, which, like many strategic decisions, will be painful at its introductory stage but will translate to long time gains. ASUU is correct in stating that the industrial dispute has lasted this long because the Federal Government has not shown sufficient commitment toward its resolution.
“In the same vein, the Federal Government’s position rejecting ASUU’s demands on the adoption of UTAS for payment of salaries to staff of the university is also valid. We must accept these basic facts and move on. Whatever is finally agreed must have the stamp of legislation by the National Assembly to make the resolution perpetually binding and be sustainable. It must represent a final end to the spate of strikes in our universities. Enough of the monumental damage to the system.
“In conclusion, we note that 2023 will be the 50th anniversary of the first strike by academics in Nigerian universities. In that historical context, the current dispute should serve as a painful reminder of how long we have been on this and should stiffen our resolve to end such disputes once and for all.
Both parties must, for the sake of the system, demonstrate a willingness to resolve contending matters so that we begin the task of repairing a badly damaged system. Any hardline resolution on either side will certainly cause more irreparable damage.”