THE Academic Staff Union of Universities has come hard on the Federal Government over the mass departure of Nigerian lecturers to other tertiary institutions abroad.
The union lamented that the development was affecting the university system, attributing the exodus of Nigerian lecturers to poor remuneration.
It added that the situation was responsible for the dearth of university teachers in the country.
ASUU is currently on a month strike, saying the industrial action will be comprehensive and total.
“NEC resolved to embark on the four-week roll-over total and comprehensive strike as the government has failed to implement the Memorandum of Action it signed with the ASUU in December 2020.
“We invite all lovers of education to join our struggle for a greater Nigeria. Nigerian politicians keep proliferating educational institutions without prioritising education.
“ASUU will not relent in its historic responsibility of advocating an improved university system. This is because it holds the key to our collective prosperity and better future for our children and our children’s children; so, let us work together to fix it.”
ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, told Sunday PUNCH that while countries like Ghana, the United Kingdom and United States of America were paying their varsity lecturers attractive and competitive salaries, the case remained different in Nigeria.
He explained that though university lecturers were always employed from all over the world, Nigeria was experiencing a deficit because foreign lecturers were no longer seeing the need to teach in the country due to poor remuneration.
Osodeke specifically said while a professor in a Nigerian university earned $700 per month, his counterpart in Ghana was paid $3,000, adding that in the United Kingdom, a professor would go home with between £8,000 and £10,000 per month.
He said, “Lecturers are recruited from every part of the world, not from a particular country. We have thousands of Nigerian lecturers across the world. You go to Benin Republic, go to South Africa, go to the United Kingdom; you have Nigerians teaching in all these countries.
“But because of our poor remuneration, nobody is coming to teach in Nigeria. That is the deficit; while some people are going out to teach outside, nobody is coming in to teach here because of the poor remuneration.
“A professor is earning about $700 a month in Nigeria; would he leave the UK where he is earning between £8,000 to £10,000 to come and teach in Nigeria? Would he leave Ghana where he earns between $2,000 and $3,000 to come and teach in Nigeria? No! That is the deficit.
“So, when Nigerians are going to teach in other countries, nobody is leaving these countries to teach in Nigeria as we had in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. That is why we are having this shortfall.”
Explaining that the dearth of lecturers in the nation’s universities had forced government to devise a means of employing persons with poor academic qualification as lecturers, Osodeke lamented that graduates with Third Class now found their way into the university system as lecturers after going for their Post-Graduate Diploma.
“In some cases now, those who have no business with lecturing have been packed into the system. Some would have Third Class, and they go to the university and get Post-Graduate Diploma and say they want to become lecturers.
“This should not be accepted anywhere. But we have them now because of the deficit. That is why they are packing people in. So, we still have a crisis in the system.
“Nigerian lecturers who have left the shores of this country are in the tens of thousands. Go to the UK, America, Malaysia, and South Africa, they are just all over the place. I think in two countries, Nigerians were Vice Chancellors.
“Many Nigerians have left the university system. Remember that in the 80s, they were leaving in droves during the military era, even in the early 90s, they were leaving; brain drain. Then the 2009 agreement helped to reduce the exodus of lecturers.
“The lecturing job is not like any other job that anybody can just enter. For you to be a true lecturer, at the entry point which is Graduate Assistant, you must have a First Degree with Second Class Upper. For you to move to the next level, you must have a Masters. For you to cross from Lecturer 1 and above, you must have a PhD. For you to be promoted, you must have XY amount of publications and visibility.
“The blame should go to the Federal Government and to Nigerians. When we struggle and we go on strike on these issues, the public will be against us, saying their children are at home. But now, the impact is coming from the government side, not from us. You now have fewer lecturers in the universities than we should,” the ASUU boss further said.
He stated that the university system would have collapsed like the public primary and secondary school system if ASUU had not continued with its struggle, adding that the public schools were now like fraud centres where students get WAEC results even when they could not write letters correctly.
Osodeke expressed dissatisfaction that Nigerian lecturers were currently earning the same salary they were getting since 2009, saying like medical personnel in the country, the lecturers were also leaving.
He said, “You can’t be earning the same salary since 2009 and you are still earning the same amount in 2022. In 2009, the exchange rate was about $1 to N60 or N80. Now, it is $1 to N500. So, people are moving out just like the medical practitioners are doing.
“They train the people and the people leave to work for other countries, which is not healthy. Therefore, there is the need for the Federal Government to look at the educational sector, upgrade it, and pay salaries that can encourage people to work in Nigeria.”
However, efforts to reach the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, proved abortive as calls and messages to his known contact were not answered as of the time of filing this report.
The commission could also not provide information on the subject when Sunday PUNCH visited.
Meanwhile, there are indications that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, will next week convene a meeting aimed at resolving issues surrounding the ongoing strike by the union.
Those expected to be part of the meeting are the leadership of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council co-headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar; and the National President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Samson Ayokunle; the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari; and some other officials.
The PUNCH learnt that the leadership of ASUU will be reached out to after the meeting.
The PUNCH had earlier reported that the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), during a meeting with Nigeria Inter-Religious Council, mandated Ngige, Adamu and Gambari to look into ASUU demands.
The National President of ASUU, Osodeke, in an interview with The PUNCH, had said his union did not trust the government to implement its demands despite the promise by the President.