Nigeria’s minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, has again expressed hope that the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will soon be called off.
The minister, who spoke at the resumption of the conciliation meeting between the government and representatives of the lecturers’ union on Tuesday afternoon, said the meeting would end with “action” as demanded by the union.
The union also restated its stand shortly before the meeting that it was no longer interested in signing any memorandum of understanding or action, but that the government should prove its sincerity to the earlier agreements through prompt implementation.
PREMIUM TIMES had earlier reported how the meeting between the two parties last week ended in a deadlock.
The national president of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, said the union had been engaging the government and had been signing a series of agreements within the past five years but that most of the agreements were never implemented.
He said: “Therefore, we no longer want a memorandum of action or memorandum of understanding. What we want is action.”
Mr Osodeke insisted that all of its demands can be met within a very short time.
He said: “I believe this can be done easily if the leadership of this country believes that there is a crisis in Nigeria’s education sector- primary, secondary and tertiary.
“All these issues we are discussing, we can resolve them in one week, but the strike is going to three weeks and we are still talking. Nigerians want to see action, the students want to see action and our members want to see action.”
Meanwhile, at the meeting held last, the parties had agreed to give two weeks to a joint committee of ASUU and officials of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to fix issues identified in the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) which was developed by ASUU to replace the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) introduced by the government.
However, the two weeks will elapse on March 8th but ASUU said it has received no invitation from the government.
At the resumption of the meeting on Tuesday, the representatives of NITDA, however, said the agency had communicated its readiness to meet the union to the ministry of labour and education.
But when NITDA said it was ready to meet ASUU’s side on Wednesday, Mr Osodeke said it was impossible because its members are based in Bauchi and not in Abuja.
Another closed-door session
On Tuesday, after the introductory engagements at the resumed meeting, the parties went into a closed door session with two major items of earned academic allowance and revitalisation fund for public universities, for deliberation.
ASUU had embarked on a four-week warning strike to press home its demands including the renegotiation of the ASUU/FG 2009 agreement, sustainability of the university autonomy by deploying the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to replace the government’s “imposed” Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), the release of the reports of visitation panels to federal universities and distortions in salary payment challenges.
Others include funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowance, poor funding of state universities and promotion arrears.
While the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu had days after the commencement of the strike constituted the white paper panel of the visitation panels, it is yet to inaugurate them.
After the last meeting between ASUU and the government delegation, Mr Ngige described the strike as illegal, saying the union did not give a 14-days notice required by law before it embarked on the strike.
In its defence, ASUU said it did not embark on a fresh strike, and that the current strike was a roll-over of its suspended strike in December, 2020.
Ngige added that most of ASUU’s demands are already being met, but ASUU said none of its demands has been fully met.
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