FG to start Implementation of fresh agreement with varsity workers next week
The Federal Government is optimistic that fresh agreements reached at its tripartite-plus meeting with the university unions would start yielding fruits next week.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, stated this after the meeting held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, last Thursday night.
The four university-based unions that are currently on strike include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
Ngige said the government and the unions had a cordial and fruitful discussion, looked at the issues dispassionately and reached some agreements to the satisfaction of everybody in attendance.
He explained that the discussion was moved out of the Labour Ministry to make it tripartite-plus, adding that the government brought in some interested parties such as the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) headed by the Sultan of Sokoto as Chairman and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Sampson Ayokunle as Co-Chairman.
He said: “We discussed. Everybody was happy. We reached some agreements and we hope that by next week, those agreements will start maturing and the four unions will also go and brief their members, so that they can call off the strike.”
The Minister added that they put some timelines on some issues like the 2009 agreement as it affects the renegotiation of conditions of service and wage review, which would be concluded next week.
Earlier in his opening remarks, the Chief of Staff to the President and Chairman of the tripartite meeting, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, recalled that the President on the prompting of NIREC, directed that he should lead a team, comprising the Ministers of Labour, Finance and Education to work with leaders of ASUU and other unions as well as other stakeholders to find a lasting solution to the perennial problems in the country’s educational system.
Gambari lamented that the perennial problems have culminated in the mutilation of the nation’s educational calendar.
He assured that President Muhammadu Buhari was determined to put an end to this negativity and get students and teachers back to the classrooms, so that students would be in the classrooms and not at home during the educational calendar year. He noted that professors belong to the classrooms and research laboratories and should not always be on strike.
Gambari, however, noted that there were still some areas that have not been resolved, saying the meeting provides an opportunity to identify where progress has been made and the areas remaining.
Noting that the country had a stable education system in the past, Gambari stressed the need to return to the past to create a future of sustainable quality education for the children.
In his remarks, Sultan Abubakar assured that all hope was not lost in the resolution of the strikes in the university system. He said as NIREC, they came on board to offer their own voices to all concerned to show that they were worried and concerned that the children are at home, since an idle mind is the devil’s playground.
He said they also took into consideration the political activities this year, leading to the general election next year. He warned that an opportunity should not be provided for politicians who don’t want things to go right so as to use children as political thugs.
In his remark, CAN President, Ayokunle, thanked the government for the confidence reposed in them to be part of the meeting. He noted that the poor funding of the universities did not start with this government but borne out of long periods of neglect by previous governments, which snowballed to the present situation.
He equally appealed to the unions to back down on their strikes and return to work in the interest of the children and future of the country.
In their separate remarks, the leadership of the unions expressed displeasure at the incessant strikes, which could be avoided if government gives quality attention to education.