Buhari charges ASUU on ensuring accountability in universities

President Buhari [File photo]

President Muhammadu Buhari has challenged the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to be more interested in ensuring accountability in the governance of universities.

He was speaking on Monday in Ibadan during the 71st Founder’s Day of the University of Ibadan.

Represented by Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, Mr Buhari admitted that the union’s agitations had put government on its toes in ensuring the revitalisation of the education system.

He however expressed concerns that industrial actions by university staff unions were inimical to the health and progress of the university system and hampered nation-building efforts.

He told ASUU to particularly be equally interested in addressing issues of sexual harassment, plagiarism, sorting and other forms of corruption that have continued to rock the university system.

According to him, such corrupt acts continued to cast a dark shadow on universities’ claim to be citadels of character and learning, whereas they show epitomise probity, accountability, transparency, critical inquiry and democratic values.

“Government is disturbed by the incessant strikes and threats of a strike by various campus-based staff unions. Obviously, industrial actions through strikes are inimical to the health and progress of any university system. It is particularly worrisome and disheartening to note the grievous loss in time and learning hours by our young men and women in their quest to graduate and join the nation-building effort.

“Let me, therefore, appeal to the leadership and rank and file of all university-based unions to be more sensitive in their pursuit of welfare and other demands in the university system. It is only when there is peace and stability that the government is able to consolidate the gains and successes recorded in the advancement of higher education in this country.

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“Government is fully aware of constraints and challenges in the university system and will be leaving no stone unturned to change the narrative. Let me remind all of us here that maintenance of peace and stability in our universities is not the exclusive responsibility of the staff unions.

“University governing councils and management must appreciate the democratic nature of the university system and operate open and consultative governance to carry along both staff and students.

“Since the inception of my administration in 2015, we have given appreciable priority to education and we will continue undeterred to invest substantially in education. Despite financial and other related challenges, the government has not relented in its efforts to ensure that education is revitalised to fast track Nigeria’s transition to a knowledge-based society.

“Permit me to reiterate my advice to the ASUU as I stated in my convocation address at the University of Uyo some two weeks ago. I commend the union for being a loud voice for the revitalisation of university education in Nigeria over the years.

“However, I want to challenge them to throw their searchlight on the issue of corporate governance of their various institutions. It will amount to wholesome critical posturing if their criticism is directed at the perceived failure of government alone while they look away at obvious governance inadequacies of their own institutions right under their noses.

“It will give credence and credibility to their critical stance with regard to the government if they addressed internal university management flows with equal attention. After all, the saying that he that goes to equity must go with clean hands should apply both to government and university management when administered by the academic staff leadership.

“It is very disheartening to hear about the increase in the incidence of plagiarism, sorting, sexual harassment and other forms of academic corruption in many universities in the country. These aspects of corruption should also be of concern to ASUU and indeed the academia as a whole. We should be able to look up to universities as citadels of probity, accountability, transparency, critical inquiry and democratic values,” Buhari said.

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On his part, Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, appealed to staff unions to be patient with government and the university management in its resolve to honour all outstanding issues.

Pointing to the grave consequences of disruption of the academic calendar as a result of industrial actions, he said it was imperative for all stakeholders in the school system to bear in mind those grave repercussions whenever issues arise and tend towards work-to-rule actions.

Abubakar, who is Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, charged all and sundry to be committed to contributing their quota to ensure the creation of wealth, thereby enabling the government to meet its obligations.

Also lamenting that the university’s academic calendar was usually drawn back due to incessant strike actions, Chairman, Governing Council, University of Ibadan, Nde Joshua Waklek pleaded with the federal government to sustain its dialogue with the unions until all pending issues were amicably resolved.

“Your Excellency sir, it will be necessary to inform you that the university academic calendar is lagging behind due to incessant ASUU and non-academic staff industrial actions. We appreciate the federal government for its effort to broker peace with various unions in federal universities. However, I still want to plead with the government to sustain the current dialogue with the unions until all pending issues are amicably resolved. We cannot, for any reason, afford any further disruption in the academic calendar,” Waklek stressed.

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Speaking further, Waklek asked the federal government to provide “enormous” financial assistance for the university to enable the school management to fix inadequacies in infrastructure.

Bemoaning that infrastructural facilities were crying for replacement and needed massive revamping, he urged the federal government to come to the aid of the university through the funding of capital projects.

Noting that subventions and grants from the federal government were inadequate to cater for the demands of the university, Waklek appealed for more involvement of individual philanthropists and organisations in infrastructural facilities, ICT overhauling, manpower development, procurement of equipment and other materials.

At the ceremony, Chief Afe Babalola received the honorary degree of letters (D.Litt), Emeritus Professor Ayodele Falase bagged fellowship of the institution, Professor Folagbade Abaoba was decorated as honourary doctor of science (D.Sc), Dr Alex Ezeh got the honorary doctor of science (D.Sc) while Professor Chukwuma Edozien received the honorary degree of science (D.Sc) posthumously.

Among dignitaries in attendance at the event were Oyo State governor, Mr Seyi Makinde; the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi; the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Ogunwusi; the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Adetunji; General Overseer, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye; and the Registrar, Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB), Professor Ishaq Oloyede.

The event which marked the end of the convocation ceremonies for the 2017/2018 academic session featured the award of the Doctor of Philosophy degrees to 343 candidates.

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