As NLC Protest Looms, Buhari Gives Ministers Two Weeks To Resolve ASUU Crisis
As the two-day planned protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress ( NLC) draws near, coupled with the threat by the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) to go on strike in support of ASUU, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday ordered his minister to put an end to the crisis in two weeks
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the other hand, says the two-week ultimatum issued by the President to resolve the concerns raised by the union is too much.
The lecturers said it will not take more than two days to address the issues that have plunged the nation’s public university system into a prolonged strike that is currently in its fifth month.
ASUU Chairman, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, stated this in Abuja when he appeared as a guest on Tuesday’s edition of Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“Two weeks is too long,” he said. “The issue of renegotiation has been completed by both sides. Just come back to us and say ‘we have agreed’, that will not take two days. We were told they spent billions to feed children in school; is that correct, how many children have you seen being fed?
“Nigerians spend not less than N200 billion as school fees paid to Ghanaian universities every year. Government should prioritise education as number one in the country because all of us must pass through the school.”
Hours before Osodeke’s interview, President Muhammadu Buhari met with the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, and relevant members of his cabinet where he received briefings on the current face-off between the government and university unions, including ASUU.
At the meeting, he directed the education minister to proffer a solution to the continued industrial action by the lecturers and report back to him in two weeks.
President Buhari had also instructed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, as well as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who were also present, to be in attendance in all the meetings to speedily resolve the crisis.
While the ASUU president sees the President’s action as a welcome development, he is of the opinion that giving such a directive is not new.
He believes the government is still unserious with the lingering strike by the university lecturers, stressing that it does not require such a long timeframe to resolve the issues.
Professor Osodeke recalled the intervention of religious leaders in the crisis under the auspices of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) who met with the President over the matter.
Following the meeting in February, he explained that President Buhari set up a three-man committee comprising his Chief of Staff, Ngige, and Adamu, to quickly resolve the issue within one month.
“That committee didn’t invite us for a meeting until we rolled over the strike in May and we all went. Now another 12 days? If we are serious, if we really want to resolve this problem, it will not take two days.
“All issues have been discussed, government representatives have met with ASUU, and there is a draft joint agreement to look at and come back for the signature. Does it take you two weeks to look at what you have negotiated?” the ASUU president queried.
Addressing journalists in Abuja, yesterday, ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said the union is ready to call off the strike anytime there is a “strong commitment” by the government to sign and implement the renegotiated agreement is reached with the university lecturers.
He added: “ASUU has always had serious reservations about the claim of “conciliation” by someone who has taken sides in the dispute, or by an unabashed protagonist in the crisis such as the current Minister of Labour and Employment. It is antithetical to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions (98, 151 & 154) on collective bargaining.
“It is against the principle of natural justice and the doctrine of equality for Dr Ngige, who carries himself as if he has personal scores to settle with ASUU and shoots down the union everywhere it matters, to assume the role of conciliator.”
Meanwhile, the National Association of Aircraft Pilots and Engineers (NAAPE) has criticised the Federal Government over its handling of the crises in the nation’s educational sector.
In a statement signed by its Deputy General Secretary, Umoh Ofonime, NAAPE expressed worry over the impasse between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which has grounded academic activities in public universities across the country.
ASUU had commenced a nationwide strike on February 14 over the adoption of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) of the government as the payment system in the university sector.
Members had also decried the poor funding of universities, non-payment of salaries and allowances of some of their colleagues, as well as the inability of the government to pay earned academic allowance to lecturers, among other issues.
Since the industrial action began, several negotiations between the union and the government have ended in deadlock.
NAAPE, in its reaction, believes the government’s refusal to honour the agreement signed with ASUU for over a decade is disturbing, considering the negative impact the prolonged strike will create on students’ lives.
As a result, it declared its support for the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to commence a nationwide protest on Tuesday and Wednesday next week in solidarity with the trade unions in the public universities and others.
NAAPE, therefore, directed its branch chairmen and secretaries in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to encourage members to participate in the solidarity demonstration.
Worried by the lingering crises in the tertiary education sector, the NLC had announced plans to commence a two-day nationwide protest in solidarity with the striking members of unions in the public universities.
The announcement was contained in a circular dated July 15, 2022, and addressed to the chairpersons and secretaries of its state councils.
It directed that the protests should take off from NLC secretariats in the states, while that of Abuja should commence from the Labour House in the nation’s capital.
Also, Education Rights Campaign (ERC) hailed the decision by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to embark on a two-day national protest on July 26 and 27, 2022 to force the government to meet the demands of ASUU and related unions.
In a statement by its Deputy National Coordinator, Ogunjinmi Isaac, and National Mobilisation Officer, Adaramoye Michael Lenin, the group, yesterday, said the decision is a step in the right direction.
ERC urged the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to align with the position of the NLC and mobilise its members to jointly prosecute the two-day protest.
The body also called on students, student unions, radical student groups and civil society organisations to answer the call of the NLC by mobilising to join the protest.
Similarly, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) threw its weight behind the proposed two-day strike, pledging to mobilise its members in solidarity.
Speaking to newsmen in Awka, Anambra State, NUP Chairman (Anambra chapter), Comrade Dr Anthony Ugozor, said parents and guardians of affected students are pleased with the planned protest.