Following a marathon meeting between federal government and ASUU leaderships and resultant agreements arrived at, there is a bright hope that university teachers will return to classrooms this week
| By Anayo Ezugwu | Nov. 18, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT
THERE are indications that the Academic Staff Union of Universities would end its four-month industrial action soon, after the union met President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday, November 5. President Jonathan had a closed-door meeting with ASUU leadership in order to find a last solution to the lingering strike. The meeting which started on Monday afternoon and ended on the early hours of Tuesday, was the first time the president would lead government’s delegation for negotiation with ASUU since the commencement of the strike.
Nassir Faggae, ASUU president, told State House correspondents that his team would take back a message to university teachers before a decision would be taken on the next line of action. “We had a lengthy meeting with Mr. President, and we looked into how best to address the problem of university education in this country. We now have a message from Mr. President that we are going to take to our members and we are expecting that our members will respond appropriately to his message,” he said.
Fagge added that since the message was meant for members, he would not divulge it to the press. When asked whether university teachers would be called upon to return to the classrooms, he said that the decision was left for them to take. When further asked if he was impressed by the President’s message, Faggae cautioned journalists against putting words in his mouth, insisting that only ASUU members would determine that.
Emeka Wogu, minister of labour, said progress was made during the discussion. “We made progress. The President of ASUU told you that they are going back with a message from the federal government to their members and the message is full of high expectation and hope. Our prayer is that they will come back with a positive outcome. They might even not come back to meet us. They might take decision there that will meet our expectations,” he said.
Wogu added that the offers made by the government during the meeting were those that were in line with the contentious 2009 agreement. He said since the issues that led to the strike bordered on the 2009 agreement, the government did not go beyond the pact.
Realnews gathered that a key component of the agreement reached by the parties was that the federal government would inject N1.1 trillion into public universities in the next five years. A member of ASUU who was at the meeting, said that the strike would be called off anytime next week. He said the government team which was led by President Jonathan would release N220 billion yearly into the sector beginning from 2014.
“The meeting should be the longest that we have ever had on this crisis but I can tell you that both parties were frank all through the discussions. The parties also showed commitment towards ending the crisis. The President in particular showed that he was serious about ending the strike and that was why he offered to release over N1tn to the universities in the next five years. The money will be released on a yearly basis at N220bn per annum beginning from 2014. For the outgoing year, the government will only release N100bn and this has been processed,” he said.
He said that the government, in order to show its commitment to a fresh pact, accepted that the fund should be domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria. The National Universities Commission and the Trade Union Congress, according to him, would be the joint guarantors of the agreement while the minister of education would be the implementation officer. The source also said that the government agreed, among other things, to revamp the public universities by ensuring that all those issues that always led to strike were dealt with once and for all.
It was learnt that the negotiating team of ASUU led by Faggae, met later in the day to further deliberate on the deal. Though the details of the meeting were not known, but Realnews gathered that ASUU might call a national executive council meeting on or before Saturday where the deal would be tabled before all its branch executives.
The Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, a non-governamental organisation, has pleaded with the union to consider the plight of the students, their families as well as the universities’ host communities whose economy has been grounded in the past four months. “As concerned Nigerians, we plead with ASUU to consider the intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan, the National Assembly, prominent individuals, senior citizens, parents, guardians and all concerned Nigerians. We urge ASUU to, in good conscience, consider the plight of Nigerian students, the concerns of parents and guardians, the economic melt-down of host communities of universities and the overall impact on the socio-economic development of the country,” the groups said.
The group also called on the government to work with the ASUU and other stakeholders to develop an implementable roadmap for total reform of the university system. “There is an urgent need to reposition the university system as the driver of national policies and ideas for genuine transformation. We want government to henceforth take proactive step in all union and labour matters and put in place measures to avert future ASUU strike and other labour actions. We equally urge government to critically look at the demands of ASUU and put in place mechanisms for a robust implementation of the offers made, as a sincere intervention to holistically address the challenges facing the university system.”