The federal government on Tuesday reached an agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) aimed at resolving the indefinite strike by the union.
The meeting came as the government urged the university lecturers to suspend their ongoing strike in the interest of the nation. ASUU had Monday embarked on strike following the failure to implement the agreement it reached with the federal government in 2009.
The meeting between leadership of the union and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, ended with an agreement to audit the N30 billion earlier given to the union in 2010. After the meeting, which lasted for more than four hours, both sides took significant steps towards resolving the issues raised by the union.
Confirming the development, the Deputy Director, Press Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, in a statement, assured Nigerians that efforts were being made to resolve the outstanding differences with the union.
“Particularly, the meeting agreed on the forensic audit of the sum of N30 billion earlier given to ASUU in 2010 and further agreed on monthly remittances to ASUU while the audit lasts".
“The minister hence wishes to assure members of ASUU and indeed Nigerians that government is already at work to resolve all outstanding issues in line with the resolve of the present administration to cast any form of disruption of universities’ academic calendar into the dust bin of history,” Olowookere stated.
He said the meeting would continue tomorrow.
Earlier yesterday, Ngige had promised that the Babalakin Committee which the federal government set up on February 13, 2017, was already addressing the issues raised by lecturers and urged them to suspend their ongoing strike in the interest of the nation. The minister said though the federal government did not wish to apportion blame, “it is important to note that ASUU did not follow due process in the declaration of the industrial action as it did not give the federal government, the mandatory 15 days notice as contained in the Section 41 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, 2004.
“In fact, it was on August 14, 2017 that the Office of the Minister received a letter dated August 13, 2017 from ASUU, that is, one full day after it commenced the strike.”
He further noted that the letter was to inform the federal government that ASUU has started strike and not a declaration of intention to go on strike as contained in the Trade Dispute Act, 2004.
The minister said since the case was being conciliated, it was against the spirit of Social Dialogue and Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) for ASUU to embark on strike as enunciated in the ILO Convention.
He said: “The federal government therefore wishes to appeal to ASUU to consider students who are currently writing degree and promotion examinations, call off the strike and return to the negotiation table,” adding that “the Ministry of Labour and Employment will ensure that a time frame will be tied to negotiation this time around.”
Ngige stressed that “Babalakin Committee was ever ready to continue the negotiation, indeed, has all the necessary ingredients for fruitful social dialogue as well as adequate powers to negotiate and make recommendations to the federal government.”
Meanwhile, the strike paralysed academic activities yesterday at the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) and the Ondo State-owned Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA).
This development made students of the institution to vacate their hostels, while those living outside the school were seen leaving their houses. It also led to the hike in prices of transportation especially Akure to Ibadan and Lagos.
As at the time of filing this report, the school has been deserted by students while offices of the lecturers were under lock and key.
The Chairman of FUTA branch of ASUU, Dr. Oniya Mobolanle Oladipo, said after a congress held at the university campus, the union decided to join the current action. Oladipo said the shortage in payment of salary to staff due to the implementation of Treasury Single Account (TSA) by the federal government has made academic activities to be comatose in the country. According to him, the strike action is total and no academic activities would take place in the institution until the national body of ASUU calls off the strike. He said students should leave the campus as no lecturer would attend to them until the strike action is called off.
At the AAUA, the Chairman of the local branch of ASUU, Dr Sola Fayose, said they had complied with the directive of the national body of the union to embark on strike action.
Fayose said there would not be examination and any academic activities until further notice as the strike action would be total.