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Saturday, 9 November 2013

STRIKE: ASUU Gives FG Fresh Conditions to Call off Strike


Members of the Academic Staff Union
of Universities have given the Federal
Government certain conditions to be
met before the union could call off its
four-month old strike.
Part of this condition is that all federal
parastatals in charge of fund, labour,
and education must sign the
agreement purportedly reached
between its leadership and the Federal
Government on Tuesday.
A prominent member of the union,
who craved anonymity because he
was not authorised to speak on behalf
of the union, said that doing this
would give the association the
confidence that “the Federal
Government knows what it is doing
when it signed the agreement.”
He said, “I must tell you that our
mandate remains. The only mandate
we have is that 2009 agreement must
be met. We have not reached any
agreement with the Federal
Government.
“Since the Federal Government wants
to be releasing N220bn every year for
five years, then all monetary and
regulatory agencies must sign. The
Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministries of
Finance and Labour, National
Assembly, Office of the Presidency,
National Universities Commission,
Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Trade
Union Congress and our umbrella
body, the Nigeria Labour Congress,
must sign with consequences stated.
“The reason we will ensure this is that
we don’t want argument tomorrow
that the agreement was entered in
error or that they don’t know the
implication of signing the agreement.
If possible, documents that will
provide for automatic deduction of the
agreed money at a particular/agreed
date must be provided.”
The leadership of the union had
engaged in a 13-hour marathon
meeting with government delegation
led by President Goodluck Jonathan in
Abuja between Monday and Tuesday.
Though it was generally perceived that
both ASUU and the Federal
Government achieved breakthrough in
negotiation for the first time after the
lengthy meeting with the President, it
emerged that the lecturers might not
be in a hurry to go back to class.
Another source close to ASUU who
was also part of the marathon
meeting with the President in Abuja,
said there was nothing new in what
the President promised members of
the union.
According to him, government had
always failed in implementing
agreements reached with ASUU. He
said, “Truly the President sat down for
more than 13 hours with us. He told
us that we were not leaving the venue
until the issues were resolved. The
Federal Government also promised to
inject funds into the system, but a
promissory note is not enough.
“Where would the money come from?
There is no assurance that
government will provide money
especially with the mop-up policy in
place that ensures that unspent
money is refunded to government’s
coffers at the end of every year.’’
Asked when the lecturers would call
off the strike, he said, “I doubt if the
strike is ending soon. The problem is
with the Finance Minister. Where is
government getting N1trn from? A
government that could not implement
agreement between 2009 and 2013,
what is the guarantee that they would
honour this agreement.
“It is all politics. We are still awaiting
directives from our branches. We
have told them the outcome of the
meeting with the President but we are
waiting for them to tell us what they
think of government’s proposal.
“Imagine the Minister of Education
has travelled out of the country. He
was appointed Vice President for
UNESCO General Assembly. How can
he travel out of the country without
resolving the crisis in the education
sector?’’
He said the Federal Government
should spend the trillions of dollars in
its Sovereign Wealth Fund to finance
university education and improve
infrastructure in the country.
A key component of the agreement
reached by both ASUU and the Federal
Government was that government
would inject N1.1trn into public
universities in the next five years.
Government is expected to inject
N220bn yearly into the public
university sector beginning from 2014.
But government said it could only
release N100bn this year, noting that
the amount had already been
processed.
The Federal Government also indicated
that the N1.1trn would be domiciled
at the Central Bank of Nigeria to show
its commitment to the agreement. The
money is expected to be released on
quarterly basis to the universities so
that there won’t be any problem
about funding the deal.
The National Universities Commission
and the Trade Union Congress will be
the joint guarantors of the agreement
while the Minister of Education will be
the implementing officer. Government,
according to sources at the meeting,
also agreed to revamp public
universities by ensuring that all the
issues that always lead to strike are
dealt with once and for all.
Asked to confirm if lecturers were
planning to call off their strike, ASUU
Chairman, University of Calabar
branch, Dr. James Okpiliya, said the
local chapter was yet to get formal
briefing on the meeting with President
Goodluck Jonathan.
He, however, said the union would
make its position known to the press
on the President’s offer after the end
of a meeting scheduled for mid-night
Thursday.
Also, Chairman of ASUU in Obafemi
Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Prof.
Adegbola Akinola, said that members
must be properly briefed on the
resolution between the Federal
Government and representatives of
ASUU in the last marathon meeting.
He said the only condition that could
make its members accept any offer
would be the provision of necessary
documents.
He said, “The NEC meeting may not
hold now. It is the local congress that
is expected to hold first which is
either tomorrow or Monday.
“Our members are not yet briefed
about the details, so it is when we
meet that we will know the details and
then discuss whether what we got is
sufficient enough to justify our action
or demand.
“I can’t really pre-empt the mind of
other members. But if we are to
accept any offer, there must be
document to back that up. We need to
obtain documents on that. Maybe if
there is a document, people may look
at it critically.”
However, the Federal Government said
it would include the N1.1trn promised
ASUU in the education budget starting
from next year. It also said it was
waiting for the union to know the next
step to take.
The Director, Press and Public
Relations of the Ministry of Education,
Mr. Olu Lipide, told one of our
correspondents on Thursday that
government was waiting for ASUU to
take the necessary steps.
Meanwhile, the Dean of Social
Sciences, University of Lagos, Prof.
Omololu Soyombo, has said that the
general ASUU body must agree before
the strike could be called off.
He said, “It is difficult to believe the
President but we give him the benefit
of doubt. We believe that the
President is noble, the ASUU president
promised to give him a feedback. If
this had been done earlier, the strike
wouldn’t have extended for so long.”
Corroborating his view, the Chairman,
Lagos State University, ASUU, Dr.
Jamiu Oluwatoki said, “It won’t be
long again. By next week there should
be a NEC meeting and subsequently
the congress meetings before the
president can call off the strike.”


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