The Government have been advised to adhere to the agreement signed with the Academic Staff Union of the Universities (ASUU) to end incessant strike in the country. Prof. Hakeem Fawehinmi said this at a Media chat with Journalists recently in Abuja. Prof. Hakeem Fawehinmi who is a Professor of Clinical Anatomy and Biomedical Anthropology and former Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State also said, “ASUU struggle is genuine; there is this Agreement ASUU signed with the Federal Government in 2009, but it has not been implemented wholeheartedly. Therefore, ASUU will be forced to go on strike and be called back and there will be Memorandum of Action; the Federal Government will not adhere to the Agreement.” He further buttressed on ASUU agitation and said, “ASUU agitation is called for – even if the strike is much; but it is not the fault of ASUU, they have been consistent in asking for the same thing: better funding for universities, some form of autonomy from the government and this IPPIS Platform that was recently introduced. It is an issue because it does not serve the purpose of the University.”
Prof. Fawehinmi who lamented on the deficit in Education Budget also said, “there is a very huge deficit in the budget for Education in Nigeria especially Tertiary Education. For a country like Nigeria that has a very good chunk of its population as youths; we expect that the UNESCO minimum guideline of 18% will be followed. However, reverse is the case when you look at the Nigeria budget.” “The education sector does not get up to 7%; we think it is a very huge deficit and it is affecting tertiary education. University education is universal and the standards should be upheld. Bench mark minimum standards must be met as it should be all over the world.”
He stressed on how the government and ASUU should shift grounds and provide permanent solution to the strike. According to him, “I must pity the Nigerian student irrespective of the deficit in infrastructure, the facility to train them, there programme have been serially disrupted. It has reached the situation where it is confusing, not only the student but also the academic staff- the lecturers. “Universities resumed after the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and the students came back trying to find their feet; because of the strike they tend to forget some things they have learned. Immediately they resume a session trying to get themselves atoned to it, another strike comes up. The whole process is becoming more worrisome as most of our graduates are not suitable for the labours market. ”Prof. Fawehinmi charged the government to be sensitive to the plight of the students and their parents. He said, “I am sure ASUU members are parents; the government officials have some of their wards in Nigerian tertiary institutions. Although we are aware most of their children study abroad.”
He maintained that Universities Scholars should be given special attention and treated like their counterparts all over the world. According to him, “all over the world, University Scholars are entitled to Sabbatical leave and they visit other institutions. The new institution is expected to enrol them on their payroll; even as a visiting lecturer. The IPPIS platform therefore does not make any provision for the remuneration of lecturers on leave. This is a very big deficiency. “On the other hand, the number of lecturers is not enough and that have been worsened by the on-going brain-drain. Some lecturers work extra hours and engage in several committee jobs. As a result of this, there is a deficit in payment to the lecturers; it is not a living wage. Academic allowances are not being paid as at when due. The government should look into that.”
In the same vein, Prof. Fawehinmi commended President Mohammadu Buhari for signing the Electoral Act and said it is a landmark achievement. According to him, “it is a landmark achievement, though it will not solve the problem 100% but will go a long way in providing efficient leadership for the country.” The political leaders and the political class will always put in their best at this stage to win elections because the Act with its electronic voters registrar, digital capturing etc will act against electoral fraud. “It has put the INEC in a position to ensure that the votes of Nigerians count. The only way to win election is to put your best foot forward and your best foot forward means: those with capacity, proven capacity so that they can be voted for. Men who have the ability to resolve most of these national issues from their intellectual prowess and their ability to provide structured leadership.” I think Electoral Bill 2022 as Amended will go a long way in resolving the problems in this country.
In regards to zoning, Prof. Fawehinmi said, “the Nigerian political space is saturated and everybody is looking for relevance but you cannot do without power shift and zoning”. Stressing on the significance of power rotation to avoid marginalization, he said, “the South-East has never had a shot at the Presidency. Let’s call a spade a spade. This will help the South-East to fully reintegrate into the Nigerian polity post-civil war and help them to stop having feeling of marginalization and fight for succession which is on-going. One way is to give them a shot at it this time.” In his words: “I think zoning is fundamental and it has a moral force to strengthen the moral existence of this country. Most of the issues we have had post- independence till date is lack of proper zoning. However, “Ndigbo”, if it is their turn so be it. It is another way of uniting the country and having a truly united Nigeria; rotational presidency should be handled with utmost sincerity. Most of the civil war veterans will be happy to see that in their lifetime a unified Nigeria which they fought for is actualised.”