Following their threat to continue protesting indefinitely, Nigeria’s minister of education, Adamu Adamu, on Monday night met with the protesting students and pledged the commitment of the government towards addressing their concerns.
The minister, who had earlier walked out on the students on Monday morning over what he reportedly described as rude conduct of the student leaders, later met the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) at the headquarters of the National Universities Commission (NUC).
He assured the protesters that the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will soon return to the classrooms.
In a terse statement issued late Monday night by the director of press at the ministry, Ben Goong, the minister said the ongoing negotiation process has been fruitful “and is expected to lead to a quick return of the striking lecturers back to classes.”
The statement, which was shared with PREMIUM TIMES late Monday night, reads; “Education Minister Adamu Adamu met with NANS officials in Abuja in an effort to ease tension over the ongoing ASUU strike. The process is expected to lead to the resumption of academic activities on our campuses.”
However, the director did not give the details of the meeting with the student leaders.
The footage of the minister’s walk-out on the students by Channels Television, had earlier surfaced on the internet, as many Nigerians berated Mr Adamu for his “poor conduct.”
The minister was said to have expressed dissatisfaction with the way and manner he was spoken to by the NANS president, Sunday Asefon, who had reportedly accused the minister of feeling unconcerned about the plight of Nigerian students.
Mr Asefon, while addressing the minister on Monday, had said: “The key issue ASUU has continued to hammer on is the revitalisation of our institutions, which is important for every student to key into. But you cannot be discussing the revitalisation of our institution without Nigerian students being in that negotiation committee.
“Nigerian students want to be part of this committee. We want to really know what is going on between ASUU and the federal government…We are tired of the incessant strike in our education sector.
“Honourable Minister, we saw it on social media, you celebrated your son who graduated from a university outside this country. Our parents do not have that money to send us outside the country. But let us enjoy what we are paying for. We want adequate funding for education in this country.
“If our schools are not open, this will not be the last protest. This is not a threat – when we said we would be coming out, here we are. Today, Niger road is blocked, Benue is blocked, Adamawa is blocked. If care is not taken, this will be worse than EndSARS.”
Apparently angered by the issues raised, the minister reportedly told the protesting students that the only thing worthy of note in the issues raised was the inclusion of students in the negotiation process.
“Instead of coming here, you should have met your lecturers there. Perhaps the only point that you make that is worthy of attention is; you said students should be involved in this and I think, probably, this is a very good thing. And it is the only thing I am going to take out of all you have said here,” the minister reportedly said before stepping out of his conference room where he met with them.”
With the minister at the meeting were the executive secretary of NUC, Abdulrasheed Abubakar, and the registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Is-haq Oloyede, among other officials of the agencies under the education ministry.
However, later in the night, accompanied by the heads of some of the agencies under the education ministry including Messrs Abubakar and Oloyede, the minister returned to meet the angry students to seek their understanding.
According to the NANS president, the decision to agree to meet the minister was to resolve the lingering crisis so that the students could go back to school.
Mr Asefon, who spoke to our reporter on the phone on Tuesday morning, said; “The only thing we said was that we would not go back to that ministry of education. So they agreed to meet us at the NUC headquarters, where we again reiterated our demands.
“The minister showed us documents indicating efforts to address all the issues, and we insisted that if the strike is not called off before the one-month deadline, the #EndSars protest would be a child’s play.”
He said the minister pleaded for understanding and that the conciliation meeting would continue today towards ending the strike.
“He said the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement was not sustainable but that a new workable agreement is being finalised for signature by both parties,” he added.
The four-week warning strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on February 14 is already in its third week, with no resolution in sight.
However, ASUU and the government delegation are scheduled to meet later today (Tuesday) to continue the conciliation meeting.
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