The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila has summoned the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed; Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; and the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osedeke, to an emergency meeting on Thursday, November 18, 2021.
The ASUU President is summoned over the strike threat issued by the university lecturers on Monday.
Gbajabiamila disclosed this at the plenary on Tuesday based on a motion of urgent public importance moved by Chairman of the House Committee on Basic Education, Prof Julius Ihonvbere.
Ihonvbere had prayed the House to “urge the Federal Government to urgently take all necessary measures to open a realistic negotiation with ASUU to stop the strike and implement the signed agreement in the interest of our students, their parents, the education sector and the country.”
In his ruling after the lawmakers unanimously adopted the motion, the Speaker said, “The Committees on Education, Tertiary and Basic, should investigate and report back to the House. I will meet with the Minister of Finance, Minister of Education and representatives of ASUU in my office on Thursday.”
Moving the motion titled, ‘Motion on the Urgent Need for the Federal Government to Do All Within Its Powers to Stop the Impending ASUU Strike,’ Ihonvbere said, “The House notes with dismay that once again, ASUU in Nigeria is threatening to proceed on another industrial action on a matter that has been on the front burner for so long: the implementation of negotiated and signed agreements with the Federal Government.
“The House notes also that the Federal Government has not been quite forthcoming, neither has it attached any consistent seriousness to the urgent need to reposition and refocus the education sector in line with our developmental objectives.
“The House is aware that the ASUU President has threatened to call out his members across the nation, if all the issues, including those of unpaid academically earned allowances and the universities revitalisation fund, are not addressed within a period of three weeks.”
The lawmaker warned that the future of Nigerian students would “once again” be negatively impacted if the impending strike by ASUU was not prevented by the Federal Government.
The professor decried that incessant strikes disrupt the academic calendar and contribute significantly to the poor quality of graduates in the country, “with far-reaching implications for national development.”
Ihonvbere added, “The House is also acknowledging that strikes encourage brain drain, migration of students abroad and low world rankings of our academic institutions.
“The House is embarrassed that the Federal Government has, since the last strike was called off in December 2020, continued to pass the buck, make excuses and engage in diversions and distractions rather than meet the terms of agreement it signed with the union.”
ASUU has given the Federal Government a 21-day ultimatum over the failure of the government to implement the agreement reached with it.
This is as the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, claimed in an interview that the union had failed to submit a breakdown of the workers entitled to the N22.1bn earned allowances.
President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, at a press conference on Monday had blamed the Federal Government for failing to honour the agreement it signed with the union, which made it call off its strike in December 2020.
ASUU embarked on a nine-month strike in March 2020, following its disagreement with the Federal Government over the funding of universities and alleged ineffectiveness and discrepancies around the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System and others.
ASUU, however, developed the University Transparency and Accountability Solution to replace the IPPIS and had several meetings with the ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Employment, and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation before it was approved, but it has yet to be implemented.
Likewise, the government and ASUU signed an agreement aimed at addressing some of the demands of the union, a development that led to the suspension of the strike on December 23, 2020.
After a meeting with the government on August 2, 2021, Osodeke said the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency insisted that the UTAS must be re-presented to the end users.
At the meeting, the Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige, had assured ASUU that the N22.1bn earned allowances captured in the 2021 supplementary budget would soon be accessed by university workers.
The National Universities Commission had also promised to pay the sum of N30bn as revitalisation fund for federal universities.
Osodeke, however, told journalists on Monday that the Federal Government had yet to implement the agreements and was not giving cogent reasons for not doing so.
Contributing to the debate, the Deputy Majority Whip, Nkeiruka Onyejeocha, said if ASUU was allowed to go on strike, it would affect so many people. She stated that it was wrong for the government to sign the agreement and later renege.
In his contribution, Nicholas Ossai said the time had come for the parliament to put some certain sectors in the First Line Charge in the national budget.
The Majority Whip, Mohammed Monguno, said the House should take advantage of the ongoing work on the 2022 Appropriation Bill to allocate more funds to the education sector.
Monguno noted that it was the responsibility of the House to make sure that the education sector is well funded.
Gbajabiamila, however, argued that the issue was not about funding, decrying that the finance and education ministers are passing the bulk of where the money is.