All Eyes on ASUU

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Fagge
Fagge

Students and parents look up to the ASUU to call off its more than five-month strike after signing a memorandum of understanding with the federal government on all contending issues

By Anayo Ezugwu and Vincent Nzemeke  |  Dec. 23, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

BARRING any disruption, students of various public universities in Nigeria who have been at home since July 1, when the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, embarked on an industrial action, will soon return to the classrooms. The federal government and the ASSU have finally resolved to end the five-month strike with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with the federal government on Wednesday, December 11.

Nasir Fagge, ASUU president, said the MoU was on the restructured 2009 agreement. He said the document signed would be presented to the union to take an affirmative stand on the suspension of the five-month old industrial action. According to him, with the signing of the MOU, the five-month old strike would be suspended in a week’s time.

“This is the response to the letter we wrote to the president and this document would now be forwarded to our members and our members would give us direction. We are hoping that we would be able to meet with our members in less than a week. I don’t have the power to call off the industrial action; it is only our members that can do that. And our members gave us a message to give to the federal government which we have done and within one week our members would meet. We already have the document which shows that government is committed,” he said.

Wike
Wike

The ASUU President noted that the development and revitalisation of Nigeria’s education sector was the work of everybody. “It is never too late for the nation to turn a new leaf and do what is right. Other countries that are smaller and less powerful than Nigeria, have done it and have succeeded. It is rather unfortunate that Nigeria is not close to some of these smaller nations around us. It is now, we must properly fund our universities and we have lost a lot of capital to nations like Ghana and Togo.” He therefore assured Nigerians that the ASUU would not take long in ensuring that the right thing was done as soon as possible.

Nyesom Wike, supervising minister of education, who led the federal government team, said the fact that ASUU signed the resolution showed that the strike had already been called off. “Today is historic. We have a duty to restore normalcy into our schools. What this meeting shows is that all the contending issues have been resolved and the ASUU president said they have a tradition and so he has to go back to report to their members even though all the issues have been resolved. It is clear; we believe that very soon, our students would go back to the classroom,” he said.

The MoU signing took place at the ministry of education with the permanent secretary of the ministry signing on behalf of the federal government while Abdul Omar, president, Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, witnessed the event. However, the signing of the MoU followed a disclosure by Doyin Okupe, special assistant to the president on public affairs, on Monday, December 9, that the presidency was no longer interested in the December 9, deadline it handed over to the striking university teachers to return to work. Rather, he said, it was satisfied with the lecturers’ level of compliance with the directive to them to resume work or be sacked.

He also disclosed that the federal government had deposited N200 billion with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as part of the promise made to the ASUU during its last negotiation with President Goodluck Jonathan. According to Okupe, the federal government soft pedalled on the threat to sack defiant ASUU members because many senior citizens and institutions had intervened. He said that as at December 8, government had reports that there was substantial compliance by many lecturers with the directive. The Presidential aide added that the development encouraged the government to mellow down on its earlier tough stance.

He cited the University of Lagos as an example of a public university where in the faculties of Law, Arts and Science, out of 100 lecturers, between 60 and 70 signed up to resume work. The trend, according to him, was replicated in virtually all the universities in the country, including the Obafemi Awolowo University and University of Ibadan.

“The ultimatum is not a matter for discussion anymore. I told you, there has been substantial compliance nationwide. If I say you must return to work on the 9th and 70 percent of the people that I am talking to have returned to work, that is substantial compliance. What becomes of the remaining 30 percent who did not return to work? These are issues that we do not want to stop the wheel of progress in sorting out this resolution. We are not interested in a witch-hunt; we are more interested in compliance and in the resolution of the crisis. Many senior Nigerians, institutions and organisations, including labour unions such as the Nigerian Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, as well as royal fathers, have intervened and have pleaded with the government to soft-pedal on the issue of ultimatum,” he said.

The Presidential aide accused the media of presenting the strike as if the federal government and the ASUU were in a face-off. “There is no face-off between the government and the ASUU. The ASUU may be grandstanding but the government is more interested in the resolution than in any form of confrontation with any union whatsoever. Our interest is to ensure good governance, orderliness and peaceful coexistence nationwide and among all sectors of the economy and that education is not left behind.”

On its part, the CBN, has written to the accountant-general of the federation, confirming the execution of the N200 billion in the revitalisation of universities infrastructure account. The confirmation was conveyed through a memo to the accountant-general, dated December 10. A copy of the memo, signed by Tunde Lemo, CBN, deputy governor of operations, reads: “I write to confirm the execution of the following mandates by the Central Bank of Nigeria for funding of the above mentioned accounts. I wish to further confirm that the available balance in the aforementioned account is N200, 000, 000, 000 (Two Hundred Billion Naira only).”

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