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How FG-ASUU feud drove lecturers into farming, others

The incessant feud between the Federal Government of Nigeria and educational bodies in the Nigerian tertiary education system, which include the Academic Staff Union of…

The incessant feud between the Federal Government of Nigeria and educational bodies in the Nigerian tertiary education system, which include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), has grounded education in the country for a while.

Both the Federal Government and the ASUU have been at loggerheads over a consensus agreement allegedly reached in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Part of the contending issues are revitalisation funds, better welfare packages for lecturers, including boosting infrastructural needs of most of the “ivory towers,’’ among other demands.

Of more recent is the idea of the Federal Government to enroll academic staff on the Integrated Payment and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), after it alleged that there is corruption in the university system and that no lecture would be paid if not registered under the system.

The IPPIS came under attack by members of the ASUU, who said it was marred by many irregularities, such as arbitrary deductions from salaries.

As a result of the irregularities, according to the ASUU, many lecturers were receiving half salaries for no fault of theirs.

Daily Trust gathered that since President Muhammadu Buhari is insisting that no lecture would be paid without enrolling in the IPPIS, the strike embarked upon by university lecturers may persist a little longer.

A check on some lecturers on how they are coping without salaries showed that many have diverted to farming, trading and other survival strategies to keep body and soul together.

A lecturer in the University of Abuja and senior member of the ASUU, who did not want to be mentioned, said he had not been paid in the last seven months; hence he is now struggling for survival like every other person.

He said, “I am now a transporter; I use my bus to load passengers.

“I drive to Kano and Lagos and back.

“This is in addition to farming. Everybody has devised a means of survival.

“It is just that I do not want to create a scene, I would have packed all my old cloths and gone to a corner of the market to sell, with a banner, ‘Survival strategy for ASUU member.’

“If I do that, my vice chancellor may be embarrassed.

“The truth is that a lot of people are struggling.

“With the latest president’s speech insisting on the IPPIS, I am not sure the strike is going to end anytime soon, so everybody should just find ways to survive.

“I am ready to do any job to survive,” he said.

Also, some lecturers in Bayero University, Kano (BUK), who said they had not been paid for six months, have used the period to build private businesses, Daily Trust has learnt.

Our correspondent gathered that some of the lecturers have taken to farming and many other business ventures as alternatives for survival as the strike drags on.

A lecturer in the Department of Business Administration and Entrepreneurship, Dr Ibrahim Garba Muhammad said, “It is not really easy for one to stay without salaries, even for a month as a worker.

“I am into poultry farming and property development.

“As a person I don’t have a problem.

“If they like they should withhold the salaries for the next one year.

“I already have an alternative source of income.

“The strike serves as a push to even do more.

“I now have the time to concentrate on my personal business.”

Another lecturer, Dr Abubakar Hameed, decried the hardship some of them have found themselves in as a result of nonpayment of their salaries.

He said many of them had to depend on their lifelong savings and donations from relatives to survive.

For Suleiman Mohammed, a lecturer in the Federal University, Birnin-Kebbi, who is among those not paid, said he had been a farmer before the lingering crisis, and with the ongoing strike and no salaries, he decided to concentrate on his farming business.

But unfortunately, flood wreaked havoc on his farmland, his only hope for survival.

“My rent will soon expire.

“This is not even the big problem because very soon my wife will deliver.

“You can see what happened to my last hope, the farm.

“Flood washed away everything,’’ he said.

Another lecturer in the same university, Dr Aliyu Turaki, said some of them were into consultancy and petty businesses that generate a little income.

“One must feed the family and send the children to school,” he added.

Turaki said that despite all odds, they had improvised means of helping themselves.

He, however, added that the ASUU and some cooperative societies in the campus provided palliatives to members.

Furthermore, the chairperson of the ASUU in the Federal University of Agriculture (FUAM), Makurdi, Dr Simon Ejembi, said he completely relied on God for provision, just like most of his colleagues who are not doing any other thing for survival.

Ejembi said some of the lecturers depended on their wives to make ends meet.

“We are on a just cause. We shall survive. We are ready to pay the price,’’ he said.

For Dr Teryima Iorlamen, his farming activities are dependent on the peculiarity of his department.

“I have always been a farmer, whether there were strikes or not,’’ he said.

In Edo State, some lecturers said they did not need to take up farming or any other job to cope with the development.

One of them, Prof M. I. Omorgie, the chairman of ASUU, University of Benin chapter, said any good struggle came with pains, and that is the price they are paying at the moment.

“Our struggle is not only for salaries but how an average Nigerian child can afford quality education at an affordable price,’’ he said.

He said that based on past experiences, the union built a coping strategy for members into its operation.

“On a monthly basis, members contributed something minimal as a coping strategy, which we keep for such a time like this.

“Although it is not much, one would not be completely empty,” he said.

Also speaking, Prof Enaruna Edosa, who has not received salaries for over five months, said none of them had taken to farming or other activities to survive.

“We prepared for this kind of issue, and as such, our union always put things in place to cushion the effect of not being paid on account of union clash with the government,” he added.

He said the union paid them a certain amount of money on a monthly basis, but it is not big enough to take care of their needs.

Prof Fred Esumeh, chairman of the ASSU, Benin zone, also said, “We have cooperatives and welfare associations, as well as strike fund.

“Our members are free to request a certain amount from the cooperatives and associations during periods like this.”

A lecturer in the Department of Physics, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Professor Rabiu Nasiru, said farming was an inherited trade in the university, adding, “It is not news that lecturers engage in farming or other jobs to make ends meet.”

He noted that he had been farming for more than a decade and it is something he grew up with.

“As you can see, it is paying off, especially since our salaries have been stopped.”

Another lecturer in the Department of Philosophy in ABU, Dr Abubakar Zaria said, “We have been coping with the strike action because of our experience and the fact that we have been trained by veterans who have been suffering and educating the government to do the right thing.”

There are things the union does to palliate its members in order to keep us strong.”

Dr Hussaini Abdullahi, a lecturer and agriculturalist also said, “I have had to compliment with farming to meet the needs of my family because the salary is nothing to write home about.

“Our complaint is for the government to revitalise the university system.”

He said nothing would stop them from doing what they are paid to do, adding, “We give more of our time to our jobs than any other thing.”

More so, a lecturer in the Federal University of Technology, Minna and head of the Department of Mechatronics Engineering, Professor Abiodun Musa Aibinu, said some of them had been looking out for alternatives and had engaged in some consultancy work and part time jobs, pending when the issues would be resolved.

Aibinu also disclosed that some of them had been engaging in online training, webinar and assessing research grants to carry out their researches, attending conferences and workshops, as well as preparing their lesson materials to get ready to impact on their students.

 

  • ‘Not to my knowledge’

The chairman of ASUU, University of Lagos chapter, Dele Ashiru, said he was not aware of any lecturer of the university that resorted to farming or any other business due to non-payment of salaries.

He said the action of government was a calculated attempt to destroy public universities in Nigeria by deploring weapons of hunger, cheap blackmail and propaganda against lecturers.

The lecturers called on government to come to the negotiation table to address the issue for the good of all.

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