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Strike : ASUU plans to meet FG this week

As the nationwide strike embarked upon by members of Nigeria’s Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) enters the fifth week, the national leadership of the union plans to meet this week in Abuja, to consider fresh offers made by the federal government to meet their demands.

President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke who spoke to THISDAY at the weekend over the lingering dispute, said although there was nothing significantly new in what government has put forward, but that in the spirit of dialogue and consultations, the union decided to convene a meeting of its national executive to look at the new timelines and to resolve on the next course of action.

When asked what the update was regarding their engagement with the federal government, Osodeke told THISDAY that an emergency meeting of the national executive of ASUU would be held this week to decide on the offers from government.

When reminded that the federal government had made a new commitment to review the salaries and conditions of services of the lecturers within six weeks, the ASUU president said such pledges had been made severally in the past without fulfilment.

“All they did was the same promises they have been giving all along, there is nothing new in their offer. We believe that something must be done to show some measure of commitment.

“They have said that more than four times, what is the difference between this one and others?
“When we met with the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives didn’t he give the same deadline? Did they do anything? They have done that over and over again and nothing happened, unless you say that this time something will change, our members will not believe it because they heard it so many times.
“All these MoU and MoA have been signed do many times and nothing was done. So our members will not believe them.
“Our members will decide on the next line of action, we are meeting next week,” he said.
He, however, declined to give a specific date and venue of the meeting.

The federal government had at the end of its last meeting with ASUU expressed optimism that the union would call off its ongoing warning strike this week.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige while speaking with journalists after a marathon conciliation meeting between the government and ASUU last Tuesday, had said the meeting agreed on many things and put timelines for the implementation of the agreements.

In a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. Charles Akpan, the minister had said ASUU agreed to go back to their members with the government offers and report back to him before the week runs out.

The minister had argued that many of the items in the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) had been dealt with exhaustively while some were being addressed.

He said, “We have only one or two areas that are new. One of the new areas is the renegotiation of the conditions of service, which is called the 2009 agreement. An agreement was reached in 2009 that their conditions of service would be reviewed every five years. It was done in 2014.

“We started one which the former UNILAG Pro Chancellor, Wale Babalakin (SAN) was chairing the committee. After Babalakin, Prof. Manzali was in charge and the committee came up with a draft document, proposed by the Federal Ministry of Education and ASUU.

“Today, Manzali’s committee has become defunct because many of the people in the committee are no longer pro chancellors. A new team has been constituted to have a second look at that document to make sure that some of the allowances are not against the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) fixed rates for wages and allowances.

“If you propose allowances that do not comply with NSIWC rates, the government will not be accept it. So, it is important that they do the right thing from the beginning, so that whatever the committee presents can be approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”
The President of ASUU said their members, students and Nigerian people wanted to see action from the government.

According to Osodeke, “the education sector in Nigeria is in crisis and money is being lost in the primary, secondary and tertiary education levels.”
Meanwhile, the federal government has scheduled the inauguration of a new team to commence re-negotiation of 2009 agreement between ASUU and government.
A statement issued by the Director of Press in the Federal Ministry of Education, Bon. Bem Goong, disclosed that the team would be inaugurated by the minister today, at the minister’s conference room, headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Education, Abuja by 12 noon.

The statement quoted the Education Minister, Adamu Adamu, as saying that there was need to speedily bring to conclusion, all outstanding issues in the 2009 agreement in order to achieve the desired industrial peace on our campuses.

The Chairman and Members of the reconstituted 2009 FGN/University-Based Unions Agreements Re-negotiation Team are; Prof. Emeritus Nimi Briggs-(Pro-Chancellor, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo) – Chairman

Are. Lawrence Patrick Ngbale-(Pro-Chancellor, Federal University. Wukari -Member (North East) ; Prof. Funmi Togunu-Bickersteth-(Pro-Chancellor, Federal University, Birnin Kebbi) -Member (South West); Senator Chris Adighije- (Pro-Chancellor, Federal University. Lokoja -Member (South East).

Other members are: Prof. Olu Obafemi -(Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna) – Member (North-Central); Prof. Zubairu Iliyasu-(Pro-Chancellor, Kano State University of Science & Technology)-Member (North West); Matthew B. Seiyefa, mni-(Pro-Chancellor, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island)-Member (South-South).

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