Eight months after the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement had reportedly been concluded by the Munzali Jubril-led renegotiation committee, the Nigerian government on Thursday constituted another team of scholars to renegotiate the same agreement with the nation’s universities’ workers’ unions.
Mr Jibril, an emeritus professor of English and immediate past governing council chairman of the Federal University, Lafia, Nasarawa State, had taken over the leadership of the negotiation following the resignation of the erstwhile leader of the government team and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Wale Babalakin.
But the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has described the new development as a confirmation of the “unseriousness of the Nigerian government and poor commitment to resolving the lingering crisis in the university system.”
ASUU accused the government of waiting for the renegotiation of the agreement to have been concluded by one team before appointing another one to lead another fresh negotiation.
The 2009 FG-ASUU agreement has been a source of the protracted industrial dispute between the government and the lecturers’ union.
The newly constituted seven-man team is to be chaired by an emeritus professor of obstetrics and gynaecology, and pro-chancellor of Alex Ekueme Federal University, Ndufu Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Nimi Briggs.
A statement issued by the director of press, federal ministry of education, Ben Goong, noted that the team will be inaugurated by the education minister, Adamu Adamu, on Monday, March 7, 2022.
The statement quoted Mr Adamu to have said; “There is need to speedily bring to a conclusion, all outstanding issues in the 2009 agreement in order to achieve the desired industrial peace on our campuses.”
ASUU has consistently insisted that the implementation of the renegotiated 2009 agreement and the deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for the payment of its members’ salaries, are key conditions to be met before the ongoing three-week-old strike by the union could be suspended.
Other members of the new team are Lawrence Ngbale, pro-chancellor, Federal University. Wukari; Funmi Togunu-Bickersteth, a professor and pro-chancellor, Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, and Chris Adighije, pro-chancellor, Federal University, Lokoja.
Others are Olu Obafemi, a professor and pro-chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna; Zubairu Iliyasu, a professor and pro-chancellor, Kano State University of Science and Technology; and Matthew Seiyefa, pro-chancellor, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island.
Speaking on the phone with our reporter on Thursday, the president of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke, said the union was surprised that after eight months that it had concluded an agreement with a properly constituted committee and was awaiting the review of its report and signature, the government announced the constitution of another panel.
Mr Osodeke, who described the whole process as a “joke,” said the government could do that “because none of their children is here studying.”
He said ASUU would be awaiting what the new committee would be bringing to the table, and promised the resoluteness of the union to pursue its matter with the government to a logical conclusion.
Mr Osodeke said; “This country is just drifting on an autopilot. An agreement that we have concluded since May 2021, and you waited until the expiration of the tenure of the former council members to constitute another team. This is what could have been addressed in two days or in one week.”
The unionist called on Nigerians to defend what he described as the sanctity and integrity of the nation’s university system.
ASUU had embarked on a four-week warning strike to press home its demands including the renegotiation of the ASUU/FG 2009 agreement and the deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to replace the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
Other demands of the union include the release of the reports of visitation panels to federal universities and distortions in salary payment challenges, 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, he is yet to inaugurate them.
At the last meeting with ASUU, the federal government’s team, led by the minister of labour and employment, Chris Nigige, presented a proposal, which ASUU agreed to present to its members and decide whether to call off the strike or not.
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.”
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