Ending The ASUU Strike

Ending The ASUU Strike

You could say it again: the negotiations over the last Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike, were perhaps, the most arduous in the history of strikes in Nigeria.

Initially, the President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, did not want to be involved directly. He only wanted to do so through proxies. 

It started with Governor Gabriel Suswam-led universities Needs Assessment Implementation Committee and later Namadi Sambo-led mediation committee, none of which succeeded in brokering agreements that could bring an end to the strike.

Much later, the Senate led by its President, David Mark, dismissed the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and the striking union as unrealistic, while the House of Representatives offered to approve a budgetary intervention to enable ASUU end the strike.

The Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, who was briefed by the Aminu Suleiman-led House Committee on Education asked to investigate and recommend solution appealed to the warring parties to resolve the issues involved in the interest of the students and the educational future of the nation. None of the arguments cut an ice with ASUU.

Crisis of confidence occasioned by unguarded remarks on the part of government negotiators, and suspicion, on the part of ASUU national officials led by the President, Dr. Nasir Isa Fagge, leading to prolonged impasse, eventually made Jonathan to personally wade into the matter, after ASUU had refused to call off the strike despite his pleas to it to do so, in many a public forum.

Setting the stage for a fruitful discussion

Whereas the Federal Government delegation led by Jonathan had on its team, the Vice President, Namadi Sambo, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, Chief of Staff to the President, Mike Oghiadomhe, Coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, supervising Minister of Education, Ezenwo Nyesom Wike, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu; National Universities Commission (NUC), Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie and other presidential aides, including Dr. Reuben Abati, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, the ASUU nine-man team led by Dr. Fagge, included former ASUU Presidents like Prof. Dipo Fashina and Prof. Festus Iyayi, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abduwaheed Omar; President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Boboyi Kaigama, Prof. Abdullahi Sule-Kano and Suleiman Abdul, among others.

Earlier while entering the conference room, Jonathan had said, in the course of exchanging pleasantries with Dr. Fagge: “My President, I am sure the problem will be over today. Our children must go back to school.” And, when he got to where Omar was seated, he said: “My President, with you here, it is signed and sealed.”

So, what was it that was discussed afterward that brought us to the stage where we are now? Both officials of ASUU and government representatives had kept sealed lips on the details of discussion and outcome of the 13-hour marathon meeting which started at 2.40 pm last Monday, and was adjourned about 7pm for a 15-minute break before being reconvened later in the evening and continuing into about 3am of the following day.

But Education Review understands from source close to the Presidency that after more banters inside the conference room, the meeting kicked off on a more earnest note with the President expressing his wish to see the end of the strike and to do anything within his power, to make whatever concessions he can to break the deadlock so that universities can be re-opened.

Reminding the audience of the various efforts he’d made and committees he set up to resolve the crisis, including the Suswam and Namadi Sambo-led committees, the President was said to have argued that  they showed his earnest desire to have the issues involved resolved amicably so that students and staff can go back to school. But he had to personally take it upon himself, to come in, he said, when stalemates ensued. Reiterating the commitment of his administration to adequately fund the universities and provide the necessary infrastructures to aid the education sector, he added that that was why he was anxious to see the matter resolved by inviting stakeholders present to the meeting at the State House. He noted that his administration is as concerned as ASUU, about the state of infrastructures in our universities and is determined to see that something is done about the situation within the limited resources available. It was because of this, he said, that he approved the setting up of the Needs Assessment Implementation Committee as well as the creation of TETFund (Tertiary Education Trust Fund) from the former ETF (Education Trust Fund).

Government has also increased the budget of education progressively from N234.8 billion in 2010 to N426.5 billion in 2013 with N55.74 billion allocated to the university sub-sector alone, he said.

Responding, Fagge while thanking the President for the gestures, was said to have, however, expressed his misgivings over what he calls the efforts of Federal government’s functionaries/representatives to blackmail the union by misrepresenting the facts of the case to the Nigerian public on the government’s inability to honour and implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached with the union in 2009.

Meeting points

It will be recalled that the agreements ASUU signed with the Federal government in 2009 included funding requirements for revitalisation of the Nigerian universities; Federal government assistance to state universities; establishment of NUPEMCO and progressive increase in annual budgetary allocation to education to 26 per cent between 2009 and 2020; and earned allowances.

In the agreement, ASUU had demanded for N1.5 trillion within a spate of three years from the federal government for the funding of universities outside the normal yearly budgetary allocation.

Aside the N1.5 trillion funds for universities from 2009-2011, ASUU equally demanded for ‘Earned Allowance’ outside its conventional monthly emoluments. They include allowances for the following: postgraduate supervision allowance, teaching practice/ industrial supervision/field trip allowance and honoraria for external / internal examiner. Others are honoraria for external moderation of undergraduate and postgraduate examination, post-graduate study grant, external assessment of readers or professors, call duty/clinical duty / clinic hazard, responsibility allowance and excess workload allowance.

But during last Monday’s talks with the President, sources privy to the meeting said that Fagge reportedly recalled that an Implementation Monitoring Committee for the 2009 agreement, made up of two members representing the Committee of Pro-Chancellors, The Chairman, Committee of Vice-Chancellors, one member representing the NUC Secretary, one member representing the Federal Ministry of Education, five members representing ASUU, NAAT, SSANU, NASU, one representative of the Senate Committee on Education, one representative of the House of Committee on Education, Chairman, Pro-Chancellor of State Universities, and Chairman, Committee of Vice-Chancellors of State Universities was set up and wondered why ASUU was being demonized over its reference to the state universities in the course of its agitation over the implementation of the 2009 agreement.

In addition, he was said to have politely begged to disagree with the President’s remarks during the his media chat in October that the major reason for the strike which he (the President) said, has been politicised, is the N79 billion Earned Allowance arrears. He argued that contrary to the government propaganda and misinformation, the strike was for the betterment of university education in the country, which he noted was in shambles.

Following apologies, assurances and corrections over mirespresentations and misconceptions of public speeches, the meeting reportedly went into a prolonged negotiation over the main agenda: the contentious 2009 Govt/ ASUU agreement. It was after exhaustive deliberations and negotiations that ran into hours that Jonathan offered N220 billion per annum over the next five years. He was also said to have withdrawn the no-work, no-pay threat, even as he assured the union that his administration was not thinking of forcefully reopening the universities, contrary to the rumours making the rounds in the media. The President also promised to personally sign the new MoU that will be reached, after the meeting of ASUU’s NEC (National Executive Council).

Source: Legit.ng

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