ASUU may withdraw strike threat, Gbajabiamila, others intervene, FG promises payments

The National Executive Council of the Academic Staff Union of Universities will meet to consider the Thursday’s intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, and the next line of action on the ultimatum given the Federal Government, UGAMATV  has learnt.

The union’s President, Emmanuel Osodeke, disclosed this in an interview  after leading other officials of the union to a meeting with Gbajabiamila in Abuja.

 When asked if the union would call off the ultimatum based on the intervention, Osodeke said, “I alone cannot decide for the union, but after this meeting, the NEC would meet and deliberate on the new development.

“I do not know what the decisions would be yet, but be rest assured that we will communicate our decision after the NEC meeting.”

Earlier in the day, Gbajabiamila had intervened in the crisis between the Federal Government and university lecturers.

He succeeded in making both parties to agree on four major contending issues.

The Speaker stated that Nigeria cannot afford another strike by the university lecturers.

He said, “It will be irresponsible of us, as leaders, to sit and watch things deteriorate. We have to be mindful of the unintended consequences of this planned strike action that can be far-reaching, knowing how important education is to the children and the future of our country.

“Whatever the issues, strikes cannot continue to be a perennial exercise; strikes cannot be the tool we use at all times but only when things finally break down.

“On the other hand, the government should also not go into agreements it cannot honour. While everybody has an equal share of the blame, how to resolve the issue; this is the most important thing and that is why we are here.”

The government’s delegation agreed to commence payment of the N30bn University Revitalisation fund and that the N22bn Earned Academic Allowances component of the education sector’s budget would be sorted out.

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The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zaynab Ahmed, said the government was not opposed to the University Transparency and Accountability Solution payment platform developed by ASUU, which is being proposed as replacement for the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System currently in operation.

 The minister, however, noted that the report of the Nigerian Information Technology Development Agency on UTAS would determine the next line of action by the government.

She expressed shock that some lecturers were being owed salaries of up to 17 months and asked the union to make a formal presentation saying “we only have information from about four universities and we are working on that already,”

She assured them that all payment to the union will be sorted out within the next one week, but was quick to add that the N22.1bn earned allowance.

 The meeting also resolved that re-negotiation of the N1.3 trillion universities’ revitalisation agreement between ASUU and the government in 2009 would commence within one week.

Earlier, Osodeke recalled that ASUU had to issue a three-week strike notice due to the government’s alleged habit of reneging on agreements.

He said the issues in contention started with the 2009 agreement whose implementation did not start until 2013 when former President Goodluck Jonathan convened a meeting where an agreement was reached on modalities for implementation of the agreement.

Ahmed and the Minister of State for Education, Emeke Nwajiuba, however, said the government was on the verge of releasing funds for the revitalisation of universities as well as the EAA.

 While assuring the ASUU leadership that the minister would fulfil their promises, Gbajabiamila said, “It will be the best for ASUU to please step down the impending strike, since there is no issue that has been left unresolved.

 “The renegotiation of the N200bn tranche of the initial agreement of N1.3tn will commence next week Thursday, with the House Committees on Education as well as Information and Communication Technology fully involved.”

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