- Government Failed ASUU, Minister Admits
The Federal Government has admitted that the failure on its part in the negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) resulted in the ongoing indefinite strike. Briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday, Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu said government failed on its part of the bargain, a development which made the strike by the university teachers inevitable.
“Very sad that I am here and ASUU is on strike. Late last year, we had a meeting because ASUU gave one week notice of strike and we were able to work out some agreement. I must confess government has not fulfilled its part of the bargain,” the minister said.
Adamu, however, disclosed that efforts were being made by the government to negotiate with the teachers and work out modalities on how the strike could be called off as soon as possible.
“Even though we are unhappy that ASUU went on this strike without following due process and giving us good notice, the lecturers took the decision to declare the strike after deliberations at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at the University of Abuja last weekend.”
In a document titled: “Strike Bulletin No.1”, which was signed and issued by, ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said the strike was to be total and indefinite whereby no form of academic activities, including teaching, attendance of any meeting, conduct and supervision of any examination at any level, supervision of project or thesis at any level should take place at any of the nation’s universities.
While assuring ASUU on the issue of Earned Allowances, the minister explained that “there were communication differences which stalled the earned allowances. “They have been paid N30billion, the problem actually arose because they were not able to account for the N30billion and we said we would only give them the balance if they were able to account for it and the balance is N23billion, the total is N53 billion and government has the money to pay.”
Adamu said: “I will be meeting them later today (Wednesday) or tomorrow (today, Thursday) and I am sure we will be able to reach some agreement so that the strike will be called off as soon as possible.“I am sure you are aware of the issues we agreed on, there is re-negotiation which is the only one on which they agreed government has done what it promised because we set up the re-negotiation team and negotiation is already ongoing.”
On the issue of registration for Nigerian Universities Pension Commission, the minister who was joined by his counterpart in Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said there were a few issues that needed to be sorted out with the commission, just as he assured “there will be no problem with that.”
“The issue of their staff school, I think the court has given them verdict to go ahead with it. They have requested that they should be allowed to stay off the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and I think government will not do this, but there are some peculiar funds in the university, like endowment, which are monies kept and all the interest they generate, prices and so on are given.
“Government will exempt that one only, but it is part of the peculiarities, they just must log on. I hope later on, when I meet them there will be total agreement,” he said.Asked to reconcile his earlier statement during the last dispensation about ASUU strike, Adamu said: “Instead of hectoring ASUU to call off its strike, the nation should be praying for more of its kind in other sectors of the economy.”
According to him, if ASUU had not forced former President Goodluck Jonathan, he would not have created the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), without which he said, the university system would have collapsed.
“That is still my view. I believe ASUU is composed of patriotic people, very responsible. If I can look at what their struggle is, they forced the then government to create TETFund and today, without TETFund, the university system would have collapsed. I’m not supporting ASUU, I am supporting what is good. If it is something bad, I will condemn it.”
ASUU yesterday cautioned the Federal Government and political office holders against politicising the strike, saying there was nothing political in asking for a full implementation of the 2009 agreement and 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).The union reacting through the Chairman, University of Ibadan Chapter, Dr. Deji Omole, to the comments made by a member of the House of Representatives, Johnson Agbonayinma (Edo-PDP), lashed out at the lawmaker for displaying shallow knowledge and playing politics with the lives of children of the masses and the future of the country.
Omole also accused the National Assembly of conspiring with the executive to further reduce allocation to education to six per cent in the 2017 budget while pretending to love Nigerian children.Agbonayinma was quoted by a news agency to have said that the strike was a deliberate plot to disrupt President Muhammadu Buhari’s return.
Omole asked Nigerian leaders to demonstrate the love they have for Nigeria by withdrawing their children in private universities both in Nigeria and abroad and stop health tourism by using the health facilities they provide for Nigerians.The ASUU boss said they were surprised that the Chairman of the Federal Government negotiation team was also losing sight of realities that there is a difference between implementation of agreement already signed and renegotiation of the agreement.
Meanwhile, the Ebonyi State University and the Benue State University (BSU) have joined the strike. This happened as the Unified Nigerian Youth Forum, UNYF questioned the intellectual reliability of ASUU leadership, saying that ineffectiveness of the union on policy and decision making has always led to continuous strike.
The youth forum said there was a need for ASUU to set up a think-tank team to proffer more effective alternatives to their continuous demand instead of embarking on strike every now and then.A statement by its President, Abdulsalam Muhammad Kazeem, called on government to, as a matter of urgency, declare a state of emergency in the education sector.