The leadership of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will on Tuesday meet with the representatives of the Nigerian government towards reaching a middle ground on the lingering industrial crisis rocking the nation’s ivory towers, PREMIUM TIMES can report.
Though the union’s national president, Emmanuel Osodeke, a professor, confirmed that ASUU would meet with the government during the week, he declined giving specific details of the scheduled meeting.
“Yes I can confirm that we are meeting with the government representatives but I can’t say much for now,” Mr Osodeke told our reporter on the phone.
But another member of the union’s executive council who does not want to be quoted said the meeting is scheduled for Tuesday at the office of the “conciliator.”
The source said: “The conciliator in this case is the ministry of labour. We already received the invitation but that is all I will tell you. I’m not sure if it is anything serious but we will honour it so that we are not blackmailed as usual.”
According to another senior official of the union who also does not want to be mentioned, only the president of the ASUU, as a tradition, is allowed to talk to journalists on issues of national interest about the union, “and especially when it has to do with national industrial action.”
The official was reacting to what was described as pressure from interested parties that other members of the union should give an update on the ongoing strike.
“As a disciplined workers’ union, only the ASUU president has the mandate to talk to anyone and the press in particular. There is hierarchy in our union, and the president himself only speaks when there is clearance from the National Executive Council (NEC), which is the apex body,” the official said.
But the director of press at the federal ministry of labour and employment, Charles Akpan, said he was yet to be briefed by the minister or any official if any meeting would be holding or not.
He, however, promised to communicate appropriately as soon as he receives any information.
NEC not meeting
Meanwhile, the coordinator of the Lagos zone of ASUU and former chairman of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) chapter of the union, ‘Laja Odukoya, has described as “gross misinformation,” the report in some sections of the media that the NEC of the union would be meeting with the government.
Mr Odulaja, who spoke to our reporter on the phone on Monday morning, said he was not aware of any meeting between the government and the union but insisted that the union’s NEC doesn’t directly intervene in negotiations with anyone.
He said: ”NEC is a body that comprises trustees, executive committee members, zonal coordinators, among others. It is the body that receives reports from negotiators and that is why you hear most times that ASUU leaders would first report to NEC before they give any commitment at any meeting.
“So how could that body now go directly into meeting with the government or anyone? Who would it now report to? So those carrying the news of ASUU NEC meeting with the government lack basic knowledge of how our union operates. They need to go and learn.”
He said it is wrong for the media to misinform the public, saying concocting stories would rather “damage” the integrity of news platforms.
The Punch Newspapers had on Sunday evening reported ASUU NEC would meet with the government during the week, while other sources also tweeted about the arrival of NEC members in Abuja, Nigeria’s federal capital territory, “ahead of the meeting.”
ASUU had on February 14 commenced a one-month warning strike, which the union said was rolled over from its suspended action in December 2020.
The union took the decision after a two-day marathon meeting which was held at UNILAG where it appraised the reports of the various branches.
The branches had earlier declared lecture-free moments and held sensitisation meetings on the areas of disagreement with the Nigerian government.
Some of these issues include funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, the replacement of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) with the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS), which ASUU designed for the payment of its members emoluments.
Other issues also include promotion arrears, endorsement of the renegotiated 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement, among others.
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