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ASUU strike may end in two days, says government

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Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu

• Ngige accuses ASUU of violating labour laws

The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, yesterday assured Nigerians that the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may end in two days.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian yesterday in Abuja, the minister noted that the administration led by President Muhammadu Buhari has a policy of engaging unions, including ASUU.

Adamu also held a closed-door meeting with the leader of the Federal Government Renegotiation Team, Dr. B. O Babalakin (SAN). The minister had, in January, inaugurated the 16-member team to renegotiate the 2009 agreement.

The committee, headed by Babalakin, was given the mandate to dialogue with ASUU, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Associated and Allied Institutions (NASU) to ensure sustainable peace and industrial harmony in tertiary institutions.

According to him, the Federal Government is doing all it can to address the frequent closure of universities in the country. “I hope and believe that this would be a one or two days strike. We have a policy of engaging the unions, including ASUU and I think now we are very serious. This is the first time in two years that ASUU is declaring a strike,” Adamu said.

When The Guardian spoke with Babalakin, shortly before the closed-door meeting with the minister, he confirmed the talks with ASUU after it embarked on an indefinite strike. Babalakin also assured that the industrial action would not be prolonged.

The Secretary-General, Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC), Prof. Michael Faborode, described the strike as a result of the “mishandling and non-demonstration of sincerity by the government on the state of our education from primary to tertiary level.”

Faborode who made the comment in a statement yesterday in Abuja, stated that the NEEDS Assessment conducted in 2012 was clear about some bad things in Nigerian universities. Yet government after government play around with the future and destiny of the country, while more and more government officials and the rich send their children to oversees leaving the institutions to decay.

“There should have been no strike with forthright engagement with the education sector, but we have been playing to the gallery, while serious apprehension persists about the state of our education from primary to tertiary level,” he said.

According to Faborode, Nigerians are too eager to complain about the quality of education and that no Nigerian university is highly rated globally.

“The way forward is a visible pragramme. It is very obvious that the nation is handling education with levity and disturbing insincerity and we have to face the reality. Pretending or hoping that we can continue to patch-patch without serious soul-searching and redefinition of purpose will be wishful thinking,” he said.

Meanwhile, ASUU, University of Ibadan chapter has inaugurated a strike monitoring committee to ensure an effective prosecution of the industrial action.

The committee headed by Prof. Gbenga Olujide is empowered to ensure that no member of the union engages in any sabotage or does anything that can jeopardise the collective interests of the union while the strike lasts.

Making the announcement at a well-attended congress of the union, ASUU chairman at UI, Dr. Deji Omole stated that the university teachers were pushed to the wall before taking the painful decision to embark on the strike after giving government sufficient time to attend to their demands without positive results.

According to Omole, all examinations in the university as well as all other academic activities including the delivery of inaugural lectures remain suspended.

Omole told the congress that the Federal Government and the ruling class were waging war against the poor masses by deliberately under-funding public universities where their future lies.

According to Omole, it is sad that after a six-month strike in 2013, only N200billion has been released and that till date the Federal Government is owing federal universities N880billion intervention fund as well as N128billion earned academic allowances.

He said that rather than funding existing universities, the Federal Government was more interested in turning the establishment of public universities to constituency projects, adding that the Buhari-led government had been dealing with ASUU deceitfully.

According to Omole, there is no way Nigerian universities can compete with others that are well-funded and equipped with modern facilities as well as have a well-motivated and well-paid workforce.

“How can we say change begins with me when those leading us are not leading by examples, or what can we say when the daughter of the president graduated abroad and that of the Senate president too? Even the Goodluck Jonathan administration did better in funds allocated to education.

“This APC government has allocated six per cent to all cadres of education from the primary to tertiary education level. That explains why Nigeria is not developing, since no nation can ever grow more than the quality of education of that country. We are prepared to suffer to secure the future of our children. All of us will suffer during this strike but we believe that nothing good comes easily,” he said.

But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige accused ASUU of not complying with the relevant labour laws in declaring industrial disputes with the Federal Government.

Ngige, who spoke in Abuja yesterday, through the Deputy Director (Press) in the ministry, Samuel Olowookere, specifically cited Section 41 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, 2004, which stipulates a notice of 15 days before a strike could be embarked upon by any union in the country.

“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 Monday 14th August, 2017 that the Office of the Minister received a letter dated 13th August, 2017 from ASUU, that is, one full day after it commenced the strike,” Ngige alleged.

The minister, who failed to enumerate steps taken so far to address the grievances of ASUU in the last two years, reminded the union that there was an ongoing renegotiation of the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and ASUU by the Babalakin Committee which the Federal Government set up on Monday 13th February 2017. He added that the committee was already addressing all the issues ASUU raised.

Educating ASUU on the workings of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, Ngige said 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 appealed to the university teachers to suspend the industrial action. “The Federal Government appeals to ASUU to consider students who are currently writing degree and promotion examinations and call off the strike and return to the negotiation table,” he said.

He pledged that this time around, his ministry would ensure that a time frame is tied to the negotiation.



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