An appeal has gone to the Federal Government to discard the report of the Committee on Needs Assessment of Nigerian Public Universities, because “it is laced with many flaws and errors.”

The appeal was made by the Zonal Secretary of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Western Zone, Mr. Abdussobur Olayiwola Abdusalam, while delivering a public lecture on the Needs Assessment Report at the University of Ilorin Main Auditorium last Monday (December 16, 2013).

The lecture, entitled “Needs Assessment: A Benchmark of Confusion,” was part of SSANU’s response to the Needs Assessment report.

Mr. Abdusalam, who is also the SSANU Chairman at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB), noted that if Nigeria is to return her public universities to the expected height of glory, the government cannot afford to implement the report because of what he called its inherent “deep and incurable defects”.

The guest lecturer pointed out that “the purpose of the Needs Assessment Committee and the outcome of its Report have failed to objectively and robustly examine the critical human, material and infrastructural need-gaps within the public universities and therefore failed to come up with practicable solutions.”

The NASU Zonal Secretary attributed the flaws in the report to ignorance on the part of the Committee members, adding that “some other inadequacies in the Report are deliberately created in a bid to protect the academic staff in the university system at the detriment of non-teaching staff.”

Mr. Abdusalam, who is a Principal Assistant Registrar at FUNAAB, further stated that because of the observed flaws in the Needs Assessment report, the members of the various non-teaching staff unions in the Nigerian university system, the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), “who have the highest numerical strength after the students in our University communities cannot but dismiss and totally reject the report.”

The unionist noted that from the composition of the membership of the NEEDS committee to the submissions of the committee, the Federal Government was either ill advised or insincere in its bid to improve Nigerian public universities.

According to him, “The composition of the Needs Assessment Committee was highly unjust and unequitable.

Membership was drawn mainly from academic staff and other government parastatals and agencies, while other critical stakeholders within the University system (i.e. the non-teaching members of staff and students) were glaringly and deliberately excluded. The success of any academic enterprise derives from the collaboration and diligence of all the stakeholders. The deliberate exclusion of other stakeholders leaves much to be desired and naturally suggests, from onset, that government was misguided or had an ulterior agenda to unduly antagonise and decimate the non-teaching staff and desirous of causing chaos and disaffection within the academic system.”

The labour leader described the Report’s proposal of having one senior non-teaching staff to 12 academic staff and one technical staff to 20 academic staff with the position of junior staff being outsourced as unacceptable, saying that “this may lead to an avoidable industrial action given that academic staff take up 70 per cent of salaries and emoluments in some universities.”

In his address, the National Vice-President of SSANU and Vice-Chairman of the Western Zone of the Association, Mr. Alfred Jimoh, noted that implementing the NEEDS assessment report would amount to escalating the challenge of unemployment already rocking the country.

Mr. Jimoh said, “Suffice it to inform our members here present and members of the public that the unemployment market in Nigeria may be witnessing another increase if the President, Federal and State governments in Nigeria are deceived into laying off the non-teaching staff of Nigerian universities under the guise that they are not involved in ‘core-academic activities’ and under the guise of ‘halting’ their so-called artificial growth in the system.”

The SSANU leader contradicted the Needs Committee’s submission that “a situation whereby the number of non-teaching staff is more than the teaching staff in Nigerian universities is an aberration”. He said, “From empirical evidence from universities around the world, it is indeed a norm for there to be more non-teaching staff in the university than teaching staff because of the nature of their job and the services they provide, without which there cannot be any meaningful academic activity such as qualitative teaching and research.”

In his remarks, the Registrar of the University of Ilorin, Mr. E.D. Obafemi, who is a former SSANU Chairman in the University, said that the lecture had drawn his attention to some aspects of the Needs Report to which he did not pay much attention.

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