In August, a meeting was held at the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Pius Anyim, which was attended by the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Labour, Emeka Nwogwu; Minister of Education, Rukayyatu Rufai; with Mr. Suswam heading the government’s delegation. ASUU’s delegation was led by its chairman, Nasir Fagge.
Negotiations and re-negotiations
The president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Nasir Fagge, on Tuesday announced the suspension of the union’s industrial action after its National Executive Council, NEC, meeting held at the Federal University of Technology, Minna.
On November 4, after a thirteen-hour meeting with Mr. Jonathan, the union and the federal government agreed on some of the controversial issues.
The NEC meeting lasted over 12 hours and ended in the early hours of Tuesday.
“NEC resolved to suspend the strike embarked upon on the 1st July 2013, with effect from Tuesday December 17 and directs its branches to resume work forthwith,” Mr. Fagge announced to journalists at the university.
Shortly after the meeting, President Jonathan announced the immediate reshuffling of the Executive Council of the Federation, FEC. Amongst the affected Ministers was the Minster of Education, Mrs. Rufai. Nyesom Wike was then appointed as the supervising Minster of Education.
He said the council considered the reports from its national secretariat and various branches on the on-going strike and resolved to accept the resolutions signed between the union and the federal government on December 11.
Mr. Fagge, while appreciating the understanding and support of the Nigerian students during the strike, said that members of the union resolved to go the extra mile to cover the five months of non-academic activities.
In late November, government issued an ultimatum, asking the lecturers to return to work by December or risk being sacked. Most universities ignored the ultimatum and the strike continued.
The council also resolved that in suspending the strike the union would facilitate the inauguration of the Implementation and Monitoring Committee on the report of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Universities and ensure faithful compliance to the report.
On November 12, a former president of ASUU, Festus Iyayi, was killed in a car crash on his way to Kano to participate in the union’s National Executive Council meeting. The meeting was expected to discuss the outcome of the union’s meeting with Mr. Jonathan.
The ASUU President then urged the federal government not to renege but faithfully implement the resolutions reached and signed with his Union, especially in the area of non-victimisation of participants.
He said that the union hoped that all the provisions of the existing agreements for the revitalisation of the university system would immediately focus on the policy and legislative needs.
Eventually, on Wednesday, December 11, government and ASUU reached a compromise during a negotiation brokered by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Abdulwaheed Omar, which led to the signing of the MoU on Monday.
“We are returning to classes with the firm hope that parents will take actual interests in their children’s conditions of learning and living. We expect parents to actively demand better funding, better living conditions, better laboratories, better freedom for their children, in order to get on all-round education that will enable them compete with the rest of the world,” he said.
The inability of Mr. Sambo to resolve the strike led to the direct intervention of President Goodluck Jonathan.
The MoU mainly contained the outcome of the ASUU meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan.
“It is our hope that government will honour these resolutions as signed. That nobody shall be victimized in any way whatsoever for his/her role in the process leading to these resolution and agreement,” he added.
For almost six months, ASUU and the federal government were engaged in a battle over the ratification of an agreement reached in 2009 on conditions of service for university lecturers, and funding of infrastructural development in Nigerian universities.
The meeting was aimed at resolving ASUU’s demands based on the 2009 agreement. However, it ended in a deadlock as the SGF informed that government could not afford the N92 billion required to meet all the demands.
The strike was called off on Tuesday.
Early December, government announced the payment of N200 billion into a Central Bank account, called Revitalisation of Universities Infrastructure Account.
Three months into the strike, Mr. Suswam, as chairman of the implementing committee, was still to strike a deal with the resolute lecturers. The handling of the negotiations was subsequently ceded to the Vice President, Namadi Sambo.
In honour of the deceased unionist, ASUU decided to hold off all further negotiations until after his burial.
Mr. Fagge also said that council wanted areas in the ASUU-FGN agreement of 2009 that required policy and legislative steps to be promptly addressed for the challenges facing the system to be effectively taken care of.
Following the start of the lecturers’ strike on July 1, a subcommittee headed by the Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, was set up on July 7 to review the areas of conflict in the agreement. ASUU was not part of the committee.
With the suspension of the strike, public universities across the country can resume academic activities promptly; while some may delay resumption till after the Yuletide season.
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