UDUS Lecturers Share Survival Story During ASUU Strike, Berate FG Over Unpaid Salaries

By Abdulrasheed Akere

Mallam Abubakar Sanni Yelwa, a lecturer from Energy and Applied Chemistry Department is one of the lecturers that the Federal Government withheld their 8 months’ salary over the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of the Universities. The non-payment of 8 months’ salary has prevented him from satisfactorily fulfilling the demands of his family and relatives, the obligations he performs easily before the FG withheld their salaries. 

The nature of his work couldn’t allow him to go deeply into business but he ventured into petty businesses to earn an income to take care of his family. During the strike, he could only afford to buy a small ram for Eid Kabir which made his neighbour mock him over the issue.

“They turned the lecturers into garri consumers after owning the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Working degrees will decrease because we are not paid for the services properly and it will affect the students and the quality of research,” he lamented.

He said the FG need to pay them their eight-month salaries and apologise for unfairly treating the academicians in Nigeria. He added that the ASUU members perform four sets of work which are teaching, research, community service, and other assignments, noting that he was assigned during the strike by his HOD as a welfare officer of the department’s environmental sanitation committee.

“They should know that it’s only teaching that was stopped, the other three tasks were properly carried out during the strike. I sent a research sample to the United Kingdom (UK) for analysis during the strike. Also, I used part of my pro-rata salary to pay for the publication of a project, which will soon be out. The project is carrying the UDUS name and the institution belongs to the federal government, not me,” he bemoaned.

Mallam Yelwa, however, pleaded to the FG to pay the withheld salaries and asked where the FG is taking the funds that had been budgeted for their salary.

Recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended its eight-month strike on Friday, 14 October in compliance with an appellate court’s judgment and following President Muhammadu Buhari’s appeal and the intervention of the Speaker of House of Assembly, Femi Gbajabiamila.

More lecturers narrate the ordeal

Mallam Audu Bello, a lecturer from the Economics department has been an entrepreneur since his childhood through his parent’s business. He also learned how to do analysis and interpret result output from his project supervisor. He registered for a consultancy firm in 2012 called independent research consultant which is based on human research training, teaching people analysis and also carrying out consultancy services in terms of data analysis.

The business was life sustenance to Mallam A. Bello together with his extramural lesson academy which also earned him income during the challenging period when FG stopped their salaries. Fortunately for him, a senior colleague from his department involved him in research work which took him to Gombe, Bauchi, and Yobe, the Northwest part of Nigeria. He also got some clients from outside the country who sent work to him to proofread and paid for the work.

When speaking with PEN PRESS UDUS, Mallam A. Bello said that no friend cared about his family during the ASUU strike but his business helped him during the period. He advised his colleagues to have at least three sources of income.

“Teaching requires happiness on the part of the teachers and the learners but it is devastating that we are not getting the proper treatment from the government. The stoppage of the salaries was a very bad experience as we used other sources to cater for our family, especially during the Ramadan fasting and Sallah,” he added.

“The pro-rata salary is even more dangerous than the eight months’ salaries because we were on strike then, but it is terrible that we resumed to give peace a chance and we were paid half salary. It is even an insult to the lecturers, some of them did not take one naira from their half salary due to the overdraft loan on the ground. We resume before the middle of the month, so we are entitled to full salary,” he lamented.

He added that it is demoralising for the government to insist they won’t be paid because they were not teaching, noting that they were working during the strike and the FG should pay for the work done.

He stated further that he went on fieldwork sponsored by Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) for research granted by the university and it was done during the strike.

“Is it not academic work?” he inquired, adding that: “It’s so bad that some lecturers are already fed up with the academic system. Only lecturers that have a natural love for teaching are still going to lectures, not those that teach to earn income. We are the ones producing the most critical factor of production which is humans, so the government should forget their own pride and prioritise Nigeria’s education. It is a problem to have people who did not value education in power and most of them enjoyed free education and scholarship, why are they now denying our own generation of it?”

A lecturer from the Biological Science department who claims anonymity asserted that lecturers were always in the office doing essential things regarding academics during the strike. He added that it is a bad experience when you have money and someone is holding it, stating that it is unfair for the government to say they won’t pay for the work done.

“If the government refuses to pay the withheld salaries, the crisis in universities will never stop because one day–one day there will still be another strike on it,” he asserted.

Abdulrasheed Akere is a sophomore student at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS), he can be reached via abdulrasheedabdulkareem01@gmail.com

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