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Earned Academic Allowance: Crisis rocks OAU over sharing formula as ASUU threatens strike

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, has threatened to downtools, saying it is only awaiting the directive of the national leadership of the union.

This, according to the union, is connected to the non-payment of its share of the earned academic allowance (EAA), which was recently disbursed to the universities by the Nigerian government.

But the management of the university has absolved itself of complicity in the delayed disbursement to the academic staff, saying the factional crisis between ASUU and its splinter group on the campus- Congress of Universities Academics (CONUA), and their conflicting positions on the disbursement, have been responsible for the delay.

The university said the fund to be disbursed is available and that it is only awaiting consensus between the two groups so that disbursement can commence.

Strike threat

The chairman of ASUU on the campus, Adeola Egbedokun, said the union will embark on an indefinite strike as soon as it receives a nod from the union’s national leadership.

“We have commenced the process of obtaining permission,” he said in a short message sent to PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter on Wednesday.

He said despite the university confirming the receipt of the funds from the government since December 13,2021 and subsequent submission of its computation to the university on December 22, 2021 the management has so far failed to pay the lecturers.

ASUU, OAU chapter, had at its congress on Tuesday agreed to embark on an “indefinite and comprehensive strike,” accusing the university’s vice-chancellor of undermining its struggles.

According to a statement released after Tuesday’s Congress, the resolution of the congress included the rejection of any move to verify the list of members submitted to the university by the union for payment.

The statement reads in part: “Constitution of any committee to be set up by the university administration to “verify the correctness of all claims submitted by members of Academic Staff of the university as regards the Earned Academic Allowance’, should be rejected since there was no such instruction in the accompanying documents from the NUC on EAA disbursement.”

“That the ultimatum of Friday, 7th January 2022 given to the University Administration to pay EAA into the accounts of all deserving members of ASUU, OAU expired without concrete action (payment of member’s EAA) from University Administration,” the union added.

University reacts

The university’s public relations officer, Abiodun Olarewaju, said the delay was as a result of an internal wrangling among the academic staff.

He said lecturers will receive their payment as soon as the two parallel unions resolve their issues.

According to him, since they are all academic staff, it will be unfair to listen to only one party in the disbursement of the allowances.

A clarification message Mr Olarewaju sent to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday read in part: “The management of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, is not holding on to the money in any way and we are ready to give every eligible member their entitlement.

“…the university management has paid the non-teaching unions but because there is a disagreement between the members of the academic staff which the University Management wants them to resolve and come up with a common position. And when that is done, the University Management will release the money and give every eligible academic staff their due.”

CONUA reacts

For about three years now, a breakaway faction from ASUU, under the umbrella of the Congress of Nigerian Universities’ Academics (CONUA), has consistently accused ASUU of high-handedness, dictatorship and refusal to accommodate dissenting opinions.

Since its formation around 2019, its national president and chairman of the OAU branch, Niyi Sunmonu, in an elongated telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday, said its members spread across 17 universities in the country.

Describing it as a product of members’ quest for fairness, justice and responsible leadership, Mr Sunmonu, a PhD holder in Physics at OAU, said based on dues paid by members, there are about 650 members among roughly 1,400 academic staff of the university.

He said his members had met with the university management and suggested acceptable sharing formula for the disbursement but ASUU has insisted on its stance, which he noted failed to recognise its members.

He said: “About N768 million was the amount released by the government for the academic staff on the campus, and the dispensation for EAA started in 2008/2009 session. So CONUA suggested that 50 per cent should be used to offset part of the outstanding between 2008 and 2013 academic sessions out of the outstanding estimate of about N1 billion.

“We also said 35 per cent of the remaining 50 per cent should be used to offset claims of academics between 2013/2014 and 2015/2016 sessions while the remaining 15 per cent should be for post 2016/2017, 2018/19, 2019/2020 academic sessions.

“The merit of this proposal, as far as we are concerned, is that those that are no longer in service as a result of retirement or death, those that are just recruited and those who have been in the system since then would all benefit.”

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He said the allowance is not for every academic staffer but for those who are deemed to have done excess work as contained in the agreement signed between ASUU and the federal government in 2009.

However, CONUA said it later found out that ASUU had suggested to the university to deduct about N30 million from fund to be paid into the union’s pension company- Nigerian University Pension Management Company (NUPENCO), while another roughly N80 million is earmarked for other ASUU members whose details have not been collated.

The CONUA leadership added that based on evidence at its disposal, the compilation by ASUU is fraught with irregularities, and that if there is nothing to cover why should a union be afraid of verification by the paying authorities.

While CONUA accepts the idea of claims verification by the university management, ASUU said it would not entertain such a decision because neither the government nor the National Universities Commission (NUC) accompanied the fund with such instruction.

Wayforward

While it is yet unclear what would be the final resolution on the matter, the university has said it is prepared to pay every eligible staffer but with verifiable evidence.

The authority said its committee to be constituted for the verification exercise will accommodate representatives of the two factions and other relevant officials of the institution.

But while ASUU is preparing to commence another round of industrial action, CONUA said it would be embarrassing to declare strike action “over crumbs thrown at it by the ruling class.”

“The ruling class will just be looking and laughing at us and they can claim to be justified whenever they accuse us of embarking on strikes for personal gains. That is ridiculous but that is what the system has degenerated into,” Mr Sunmonu said.

Meanwhile, in spite of the strike threat, the university has insisted that it is an internal issue that will be resolved internally.

“We are sorting out the process and within the shortest time possible, everything will be settled. It is an internal issue and we will resolve it in a family way,” Mr Olarewaju wrote PREMIUM TIMES in a text message.

About Earned Academic Allowances(EAA)

ASUU’s demands, in recent years, have been dominated by issues surrounding its Earned Academic Allowances.

For instance, the recently averted strike in December listed the EAA as one of the most contentious subjects. And when the government released N22.5 billion to quench the fire of the looming strike, ASUU described it as paltry and vowed to continue with the strike.

It, however, rescinded the decision to give room for further discussion after interventions by numerous groups in the country.

The ASUU chapter of Plateau State University, Bokkos, also recently insistED it is not backing down on its declared strike that began on December 20, 2021 until the state government pays its EAA, which the union claimed currently stands at N142 million.

According to the 2009 agreement, any lecturer who teaches beyond a certain number of students or supervises more than a certain number of students will be judged to have done excess work. They also include supervision and conduct of internal examinations, external examinations or some responsibilities outside basic teaching and research is considered excess work. A form was designed for automated calculations which is filled by the staff.

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