In a knowledge-driven economy, universities are a bastion for securing the present and future of the people. This is with no prejudice to other building levels of education that collectively enhance the viability of the workforce. With this foreknowledge, wise countries have always taken very seriously issues that affect their university workers with the swiftest dispatch that they can muster. For many, it is a matter of discretion on how best to assess the impact of Nigerian universities in terms of monetary returns to the national economy. For one, Diaspora remittances have well exceeded crude oil earnings for several years running now, which excludes undocumented remittances. These are out-of-pocket expenses of direct and indirect Nigerian university products that had to leave the country for greener pastures but are contributing in sustaining the national economy. This is just one example to put paid to those who find it difficult to justify why public university workers deserve a better deal.
University workers whether academic or non-academic by their calling and personal conviction are people who believe in a life of modesty and contentment. That is why most academics in public universities for instance would channel their meagre salaries towards mobilising research materials for a research idea which would eventually support a student to get a degree. But is this appreciated? NO, only knocks are received. Many would say, “But TETFUND is there”, as if the agency is an octopus with arms spread out and touching everything on campus that involves money.
Going by various recent releases from campus-based staff unions in public universities, it is obvious that university workers are not happy at all with the current situation of things. New minimum wage arrears have yet to be paid to university workers even though other sectors had theirs by ending of last year. What is the misdeed of university workers in this regard? Those who embraced IPPIS payment platform are not happy with its operation. Now, those who rejected and provided an alternative platform have had their salaries withheld running into three months with no courtesy of an explanation to them, their families and dependants. This is callous and an unmasked hatred for public university workers who have contributed in bringing in Diaspora remittances mentioned above amongst other things.
The undercurrent to the agitation for a happier university workforce is the issue of unfulfilled agreements that government willingly signed with the staff unions but had reluctant intention to implement it. Was it a trick? Maybe no, because government is supposed to be an embodiment of dependability, integrity and sovereignty. The academic calendar has been further distorted by COVID-19 and in order to curtail the slide, government should rise up to the occasion now to do the needful to make university workers happy before resumption is announced. Nothing unpalatable should be done again to further imperil the hope of our dear students and parents for a return to campus. Let our students be able to know exactly when they will graduate after enrolling into any course of their choice in public universities.