Nigerian university lecturers want the president to honour his words.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities [ASUU] has written to President Goodluck Jonathan, saying it has resolved to call off its strike, but wanted the president to, first, bring pressure to settle on four bottlenecks contrived to frustrate a resolution of the 5-month old impasse.
Acting Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, briefing journalists, Thursday November 28, in Abuja, responded to the ASUU letter giving the academics one week ultimatum to call off the ongoing strike, but offered no clarity on the next step the administration planned to take.
ASUU sent the letter, exclusively obtained by PREMIUM TIMES Thursday, after its National Executive Council meeting in Kano where branch members were briefed on three key points.
The first was the outcome of the meeting with the president which held on November 4; the second was on the November 6th letter [FME/TE/SS.1M/C.1/99] that the Federal Government issued as a minute of the meeting stating the terms of agreements; as well as on ASUU’s response to the federal government letter on Friday November 8.
The public has remained in the dark on the terms of the negotiation, between ASUU and the president, in keeping faith with a pledge between the two parties not to discuss the issue according to sources who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES on both sides.
ASUU’s current concerns, according to the Friday November 22 letter it sent to the president, however, showed that the academics were worried that some government functionaries had doctored four items in the agreement, which even the president had consented to.
The doctored items, according to sources close to ASUU rendered the agreement inert suggesting that government was working away from items it had courageously accepted to implement:
[a] The first was what the ASUU president described as the “2013 revitalization fund for public universities deposited to the government with the Central Bank of Nigeria and disbursed in two weeks.”
[b] Inclusion of a clause in the final agreement, as agreed with the president, to renegotiate the 2009 agreement in the future.
[c] Non-victimisation clause–including payment of withheld salaries be included in the final agreement.
[d] Proper endorsement of the agreement by high-ranking government officials, preferably the Attorney General, to forestall the repeat of what triggered the strike in the first place, where government refused to do deal with current agreement because it was signed by a mere “Permanent Secretary,” according to Secretary to the Government, Pius Ayim during the course of the current negotiation.
ASUU has been on strike since July 1 and the November 24 NEC meeting was held to deliberate on the resolutions of various chapters of ASUU on whether the strike should be suspended or not.
The contentious 2009 Agreement
ASUU has been on strike over the non implementation of the 2009 agreement it reached with the Federal Government.
The agreement included details such as the breakdown of lecturers’ salary structure, staff loans, pension, overtime, and moderation of examinations.
Part of the agreement dwelt on funding of universities where both parties agreed that each federal university should get at least N1.5 trillion between 2009 and 2011 while state universities, within the same period, should receive N3.6 million per student.
The agreement also had parts that asked the re-negotiation committee to ensure that at least 26 percent of Nigeria’s annual budget was allocated to education, and half of that allocation to universities.
The agreement also asked that the 2004 Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, Act, and the National University Commission Act 2004, be amended.
Text of the suggested amendment bills – including suggestion for amendment of the Education (National Minimum Standards and Establishment of Institutions) Act 2004 – were provided in the agreements.
The agreement was signed by Bolanle Babalakin, the then chairman of Committee of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities; Gamaliel Onosode, chairman of the re-negotiation committee; and Ukachukwu Awuzei, the then president of ASUU.
The agreement demanded a heavy financial commitment from the government and was an adaptation of an earlier agreement reached in 2001.
It is unclear how much of the agreement have been implemented by the government. However, the secretary to the federation, Pius Anyim, after one of the recent failed negotiations, said most of the issues contained in the 2009 agreement had been fully resolved except for the earned allowances estimated at N92 billion.
“Some of the issues which bothered on amendment of pensionable retirement age of academics in the professorial cadre, consolidated peculiar allowances (CONPUAA)- exclusively for university teaching staff, National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), setting up of budget monitoring committee in all public universities have been fully implemented,” he disclosed.
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