The President, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, has said the union was wiling to end its seven-month old strike if concrete agreements were reached with the Federal Government.
Government recently sued ASUU at the industrial court in an attempt to end the strike. The union embarked on strike on February 14, accusing government of reneging on agreements it reached in order to suspend its last industrial action in 2020.
The union also blamed its ongoing strike on the Federal Government’s attitude toward renegotiation of salaries and allowances, as well as adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) payroll software. The lecturers’ are also demanding funding for revitalisation of public universities and promotion arrears.
Speaking at a National Town Hall Meeting on Tertiary Education tagged: ‘The locked gates of our citadels -A national emergency,’ in Abuja, yesterday, Osedeke said: “On all these issues, we have given the government a minimum that we can accept, but they have not responded on issue of revitilisation, on issue of earned allowance and on issues that we have all discussed. We negotiated and agreed that they should sign and this is very simple, not more than one day. On UTAS and IPPIS, we say release the report of the test you did and let’s look at the one who came first and take it as we agreed. So, we have given them the minimum we want and we have to come down and they can do it in one day if there is a will,” he said.
Osodeke, therefore, reiterated the union’s commitment to return to school if the Federal Government puts its proposal on the table, saying that negotiation could be reached if the government was willing.
“If the government loves this country, these children and their parents, then they should come to the table and let us resolve these issues in one day. Just as we did in 2014, they should come and ensure that we do that, we can even have the meeting openly so that Nigeria will see what we are discussing.”
The ASUU president expressed sadness over the lingering strike resulting to government taking the union to court. He said suing the union was not an option as it would worsen the situation of the students and tertiary education in the country.
He said if the court forces the lecturers to return to school, they would not force them to teach with open minds, saying students would be at the receiving end.
He commended the Committee of Vice Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors for stepping in to resolve the issues
He, therefore, called on parents and students to appeal to government to do the needful so that the strike would come to an end once and for all, rather than attacking the union.
Mrs Vivian Bello , Convener, Save Public Education Campaign, an NGO, pleaded with both parties to resolve the problems saying that the students are not the only people feeling the negative impact, but also the union.
Bello said it behooves on both sides to bring the crisis to a perpetual end for the sake of the students as well as the development of education in the country.
In continuation of its nationwide protest, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), yesterday, defied the Federal Government as its members blocked the Ibadan – Ile-Ife-Ilesa Expressway, leaving motorists and commuters stranded for several hours.
All entreaties to the aggrieved students by motorists and commuters, did not yield any result as they refused bluntly to open the road.
Even the presence of the security personnel, especially the police, Federal Road Safety Corps, could not help matter as the students insisted that they would not leave until their demands were met by the Federal Government.
The protesting students, armed with placards of various inscriptions, chanted solidarity songs, saying they were tired of staying at home and demanded an end to the strike.
The students started the protest on Tuesday at the Sagamu interchange, when they blocked all roads leading to Lagos, Abeokuta and the southern part of the country.
Meanwhile, Pro-Chancellors of state-owned universities have backed the decision of the Federal Government to withhold the seven months salaries of university lecturers.
They encouraged the Federal Government to be courageous to enforce the extant rule on “no work no pay” as failure to apply such rules in the past led to impunity in the society.
Secretary of the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of state-owned universities, Marcus Awobifa, in a statement, indicated that the decision was taken at the end of the quarterly meeting of the Committee held in Abuja.
He said the Committee admitted that state universities have the right to adopt or reject agreement reached with ASUU by the Federal Government because education is on the concurrent legislative list.
He reiterated that the Committee would not be coerced to adopt hook, line and sinker any agreement to which it was not a party abinitio, hence he pledged that State-owned universities will continue to negotiate with its employees in accordance with the terms and conditions of their engagements.
The Pro-Chancellors maintained its support for reforms in the education sector, restating that the ongoing strike which has been unnecessarily prolonged was obsolete, and ASUU cannot continue to apply the same strategy and expect a different result.
“The university system lost over 50 months to strikes since 1999 resulting in elongated academic calendars with the nation paying heavy price, while the students, parents and the university workforce have been put in perpetual position to miss and lose many life opportunities.”