The Federal Government has approved the constitution of visitation panels to evaluate the activities of all public universities in the country.
The Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, made this known in Abuja on Monday during the 2nd Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
The conference is themed “Respecting the Sanctity of Collective Bargaining in Democracy.”
The setting up of Visitation panels is one of the key agitations of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for its ongoing strike has entered nine months.
The NUC boss said the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had secured the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to dispatch visitation panels to all federal and state universities in the country.
According to him, the constitution of the visitation panels was in line with the laws that stipulate visitation of public universities once in every five years.
EduCeleb.com recalls that the last time a visitation panel was set was almost ten years ago. The last visitation panel was equally as a result of the ASUU strike of 2009. That panel eventually submitted its report in 2012. It took a six-month strike in 2013 for the Nigerian government to begin considering the report of the preceding panel that exposed enormous infrastructural deficit in Nigeria’s public universities.
Panel to be inaugurated soon
Rasheed hinted that the respective panels will soon be inaugurated.
They are expected to tour the universities and bring back a 10-year report, in two separate batches of five years each.
“The report will cover a period between 2011 and 2015 and from 2016 to 2020,” he said.
Unified staff unions
He stated that the incessant strikes by various unions in tertiary education was affecting the progress of the university system.
“The polarisation of the university system, where each of the union comes up with their individual demands to the Federal Government is constituting bottlenecks for government to accede to their demands,” he said.
He therefore called for the unification of all the unions within the university system under one single body.
“This is why the Nigerian university education cannot match up to their peers abroad academically,” he said.
Mr Rasheed said the government was planning to convince the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to invite all the unions in universities to a round table,’’ to see reasons why they needed to come under one umbrella.’’
The unions in Nigerian universities include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
He said there was a need for the unions to enter into negotiations with the government with one voice.
In his words, “it is regrettable that most times government and individual unions lock horns negotiating for better welfare packages for the staff at the detriment of the students.”
“No university in the world can operate effectively in isolation. It is frustrating that the University system in Nigeria has been polarized by various unions, you have NAAT, ASUU, SSANU all negotiating for different things,” he said
Harmonising unions’ demands
Rasheed said the Federal Government has also reconstituted an eight-man Committee to harmonise and finalise existing agreements between the government and the unions.
He said that the need arose following the resignation of Wale Babalakin as the Chairperson of the universities renegotiation committee.
He said that letters of appointment would be handed to the appointees by Tuesday or Wednesday.