Wednesday, November 6, 2013

ASUU strike: Any light at the end of the tunnel?

Two days after a marathon 13-hour closed door meeting between
President Goodluck Jonathan and the Academic Staff Union of
Universities (ASUU), Vanguard Learning has gathered that there are
hopes of optimism for students to return to schools soonest, as the
union and FG seem to be on the same page.
As there are indications that the meeting, which started at about 2:40
p.m Monday afternoon and went on till about 3:30 a.m Tuesday morning
may yield positive results, all things being equal, concerted efforts
made to speak with ASUU leaders to make public their position has
proved abortive, as those contacted have kept mum.
They only obliged to make known their position after a National
Executive Council (NEC) meeting scheduled for this week.
Though ASUU officials refused to disclose details of the meeting, but
according to close sources at the meeting, one major agreement reached
was that Federal Government would inject N1.1 trillion into public
varsities in the next five years, which would be released on a yearly
basis at N220bn per annum starting from 2014.
"For the outgoing year, government will only release N100bn which has
been processed. To further show its commitment to the agreement,
government accepted that the N1.1trn be domiciled at the Central Bank
of Nigeria to be released on a quarterly basis to the varsities," the
sources said.
Meanwhile, before now, there have been contentious insinuations from
the Federal Government and the Senate that ASUU took advantage of the
ignorance of those delegated by government to negotiate on its behalf
with the union in the October 2009 agreement.
Against this backdrop, one of the signatories of government, Dr.
Bolanle Olawale Babalakin (SAN), has broken silence.
Speaking through his Special Assistant, Mr. Olawale Ganiyu, Babalakin
has clarified that there was no point taken towards signing the
agreement that was not clear to the government.
According Babalakin, impressions that somebody from nowhere negotiated
the agreement was far from the truth, as he argued that the calibre of
people whom the Federal Government consulted to negotiate on their
behalf were not mediocres whom ASUU would outwit to sign the
Speaking to Vanguard Learning, he said among other respected
individuals, government re-negotiation team included the likes of
Deacon Gamaliel Onosode, Chairman of the Committee, who was at that
time, the Pro-chancellor, University of Ibadan and Chairman, Committee
of Pro-Chancellors.
Other members who signed on behalf of government were Late Professor
Musa Abdullahi, Secretary General Committee of Vice-Chancellors and
immediate past Pro-Chancellor, University of Jos; Professor Greg Iwu,
immediate past Pro-Chancellor, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka; Rev.
Father T.E. Uwaifo, immediate past Pro-Chancellor, Ambrose Alli
University, Ekpoma; and Barrister Emeka Nwankpa, former
Pro-Chancellor, Abia State University, Uturu.
Others were Amb. Muhammed Jumba, immediate past Pro-Chancellor, Bayero
University, Kano; Professor Mahmood Yakubu, Executive Secretary,
Education Trust Fund (ETF), Abuja and Senator Abdalla Wali, former
Pro-Chancellor, University of Technology, Yola, who was a member of
the committee until February 23, 2008.
Besides the Federal Government renegotiation committee members,
Babalakin also revealed that there were 11 advisers of FG, comprising
of Professor Julius Okojie, Executive Secretary, National Universities
Commission, (NUC), Abuja; Professor Oye Ibidapo-Obe, former Chairman,
Committee of Vice-Chancellors; Professor J.D. Amin, immediate past
Chairman, Committee of Vice-Chancellors; Professor E.A.C. Nwanze,
Chairman Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellor, University
of Benin among others.
He said to ensure that no stone was left unturned, the Federal
Government chose 12 dignitaries who served as observers of the
renegotiation and agreement with ASUU. The observers were Mrs. V.A.
Eghobamien, representative of Federal Ministry of Labour; Mr. S.A.
Ajibola, representative of Federal Ministry of Labour; Professor
Ignatus Uvah, Deputy Executive Secretary (University Education), NUC
and Mr P.I. Ekun, representative of Special Services Office of the
Presidency, Abuja.
Others were Mrs. Ori Okojokwu, representative of Federal Ministry of
Education; Mr. Chike Ogbechie, National Salaries, Income and Wages
Commission; Mr. P.E. Oyong, Federal Ministry of Justice; Mrs. Cynthia
Okigbo, Budget Office of the Federation, Federal Ministry of Finance,
Abuja and Mr. I.O. Malaolu, Office of the Secretary to the Government
of the Federation, Abuja.
On ASUU's part, they were represented during the signing of the
agreement by Dr. Abdullahi Sule-Kano, a former President and Professor
Ukachukwu Awuzie, the then President, alongside 26 other members.
Meanwhile, Monday's meeting is the first time the President would lead
government's delegation team for negotiation with ASUU since the
commencement of the strike four months ago.
Emerging from the meeting at the First Lady's conference room at the
presidential villa, ASUU President, Nasir Faggae said, "We have had
lengthy meeting with Mr. President, rubbing minds on how best to
address the problem of university education in this country."
"We now have a message from Mr. President that we are going to take to
our members and we are expecting that our members will respond
appropriately to the message of Mr. President."
On whether the lecturers are now going back to the classroom, the ASUU
President said, "that is up to our members."
When asked to disclose the the President 's message that would be
delivered to the members of the union, Mr. Faggae said, "I cannot tell
you, it's not for you, it is for our members."
On whether he was impressed with the President's message, Mr. Faggae
said, "Don't put words into my mouth, our members will determine that"
However, Labour Minister, Emeka Wogu told State House Correspondents
that meaningful progress was made in the negotiations with ASUU,
expressing hope that the striking lecturers would call off the strike.
Mr. Wogu said, "We made progress, the President of ASUU told you that
they are going back with a message from the Federal Government back to
their members and the message is full of high expectations and hope."
On whether the strike would be called off, he said: "That is why the
message is full of high expectations and hope. So our prayers is that
they come back with positive outcome. They might not even come back to
meet us, they might take decisions there that will meet your
"Nigerians should be patient for ASUU to finish their meetings and
come out with a message to Nigerians."
Responding to whether the Federal Government made a fresh offer to the
striking lecturers, the Minister said, "the offer we made are the
offer they are taking in line with the 2009 agreement. The issues that
led to the strike are issues contained in the 2009 agreement and we
did not go beyond the agreement."

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