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Committee of Vice-Chancellors warns against forced reopening of Nigerian universities, supports salary increase for lecturers

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities has warned the Nigerian government against any move to forcefully reopen universities amid the ongoing industrial action embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

According to the chairman of CVCNU, prof. Samuel Edoumiekumo, the action will be counterproductive if taken by the government.

The group also supported the call for salary adjustment of university lecturers, saying principal lecturers in polytechnics and colleges of education now earn more than professors in universities.

“In the last five months, the public universities have lost a significant number of Nigerian academics who have resigned from their appointments and are taking jobs outside academia or looking for more financially rewarding opportunities in other climates.

“Furthermore, the employment embargo and other bureaucratic bottlenecks that universities go through in their recruitment process to fill existing vacancies do not add to the already bad staffing situation,” the group said after a meeting with the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu.

“As CEOs of our various institutions, we can only advise and warn our principals against a forceful reopening of universities, as this would be most counterproductive. First, it should be noted that no Federal University is formally closed.

“Secondly, the power to open or close a university rests only with the Senate of each university.

“Third, any attempt to keep students on campus without them being fully engaged in academic and other activities can have disastrous consequences.

“We also note that the six months of industrial action have caused unintended consequences such as the extension of the academic session, depleted financial reserves and the creation of two and in some cases three backlogs of admission exercises. A lot of special equipment especially in our laboratories will need to be recalibrated, physical facilities need to be renovated and electricity and water bills are outstanding. Since many of us have not received their overheads, the government will have to support the universities with special grants for reopening.

“We call on all parties to adopt a give-and-take option in the negotiations and use decorum and decency in the language of communication. All hands must be on deck as we endeavor to make the required sacrifices for the sake of university education in Nigeria.

“The position of the government on this item will cause more damage to the system because the students will bear the brunt of ASUU’s response. Universities, due to the peculiar nature of their operations, must cover the scheme of work as provided by the curriculum.

“CVC appeals to the Federal Government to reconsider its position and pay the withheld salaries on compassionate grounds, and especially in the interest of Nigerian students. The government’s acceptance of this appeal will undoubtedly facilitate a speedy resolution of the impasse.

“CVC supports the call for salary adjustment especially in the current dispensation where the templates used by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission and the IPPIS have depleted the salaries of academics and Vice-Chancellors to an all-time low.

“Principal lecturers in Polytechnics and Colleges of Education now earn more than professors in universities. The proposal by the Nimi Briggs Committee should be reviewed as their figures represent a better offer that will stem the tide of unrest in the universities.

“Financial autonomy should be extended to governing boards to enable them to determine the salaries of the staff in their various universities subject to a national minimum as agreed by all stakeholders.”

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