FG, ASUU resume negotiations on controversial 2009 agreement

The Chairman, FG re-negotiation team, Dr Wale Babalakin prepring to brief journalists after the meeting
The Chairman, FG re-negotiation team, Dr Wale Babalakin prepring to brief journalists after the meeting

The Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Wednesday resumed talks on the 2009 agreement.

Wale Babalakin, the Chairman, Federal Government Re-negotiation team, while briefing journalists in Abuja, after a meeting that lasted six hours said he was hopeful the meeting would yield positive results.

Mr Babalakin said there are lots of issues on the table. He said the ASUU team presented more than 20 issues that were being looked into.

He said both sides were determined to put an end to the lingering problems in the system.

“We are hopeful that we are on a positive path to finalising the negotiation. There were very hectic discussions on topical issues, and both sides had extensive contributions for the benefit of the university system,” he said.

“It is the same negotiation, we had an interim discussion, that is over now, and we are back to where we left off. So it is a continuous negotiation. ASUU submitted its timetable today, and there are more than 20 issues in that timetable. It is not a single issue, but they will all be discussed,’’ Mr Babalakin said.

A confidential agreement

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the 2009 agreement was reached after two years of negotiation between the lecturers and a government team appointed by the then Education Minister, Obiageli Ezekwesili.

The government team was led by the then Pro-chancellor, University of Ibadan, Gamaliel Onosode, while ASUU’s team was led by its then president, Abdullahi Sule-Kano.

Details of that agreement were viewed as confidential by both ASUU and the government, thus leaving the public to feed on sparse information thrown out at negotiation meetings.

PREMIUM TIMES had obtained a copy of the agreement and made it available for public viewing since 2013.

In the latest round of negotiation, ASUU said it is not comfortable with Mr Babalakin being the chairman while alleging that Mr Babalakin did not relate with the union as a negotiator but as a judge.

“He was always trying to overrule,” Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU national president alleged.

According to Mr Ogunyemi, Mr Babalakin dismissed ASUU’s report.

“That kind of person cannot be a negotiator because he believes that his opinion should be superior. That’s not a good trait of a good negotiator, and that’s unbecoming of him. Dr Wale Babalakin has an ideological position in terms of how to fund Nigerian education.”

But the federal government through the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, said the union ”cannot decide for the government”.

“Dr Babalakin will still lead the negotiation committee,” he said.

Efforts to get a reaction from the union was not successful at the time of this report as a representative of ASUU, declined comments at the end of the meeting.

The national president in a text message said he would get back to PREMIUM TIMES.

Unsavoury past

The Nigerian government and ASUU have been at loggerheads since 2009.

Over that period, agreements and promises were made but broken. The university education has been left to haemorrhage.

Between 1999 and 2018, PREMIUM TIMES checks revealed ASUU had gone on strike for over 40 months – a grim reality that the federal government says it wants to turn into a forgettable past.

In February 2017, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, constituted a committee “to engender sustainable peace, industrial harmony in tertiary institutions and resolve impending issues.”

The 16-member Federal Government/Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) 2009 Agreement Renegotiation Committee, had as chairman Mr Babalakin, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

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