The Academic Staff Union of Universities has hailed the House of Representatives for its intervention in the protracted crisis between university lecturers and the Federal Government.
The President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said, “For the first time, we have seen light at the end of the tunnel.”
This is just as the Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, who briefs the leadership of ASUU about his meetings with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), over the crisis, said he expected that the strike would be called off “in matter of days.”
Gbajabiamila and ASUU said the eight-month strike by university lecturers would soon be called off.
While Gbajabiamila said most of the issues that caused the protracted crisis between ASUU and the FG had been resolved and that the strike would end “in a matter of days,” the President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said for the first time since the lecturers downed tools, “we have seen light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Speaker had called a meetings with the national leadership of ASUU about his meetings with Buhari over the crisis.
The House had intervened in the crisis during which the lawmakers held three stakeholders’ meetings, and after which the parties made a seven-point resolution which Gbajabiamila presented to the President.
The Speaker had for the second time had a follow-up meeting with Buhari on Friday.
Before Gbajabiamila and Osodeke spoke on Monday, both parties met behind closed doors at the Speaker’s office for about one hour.
Emerging from the meeting, the Speaker said, “This is a recap to seal the deal on what has been a long fought battle, long hard road for everybody both for ASUU, the students and the government. As you will recall, some weeks ago, the House got involved in this crisis and we had long, tough, intense meetings with ASUU. We had meetings with those on the government side and we are happy to report that as the result of the consultation and intervention of the House, very significant progress has been made and we are more or less at the of the road, wave for dotting some “I”s and crossing some “T”s.
“We agreed with ASUU and the government on certain things, which we took to Mr President. I have visited the President twice. First time, we made our recommendations, with the government shifting some ground and ASUU shifting some ground. We spoke with Mr President. There was one sticking issue which was the issue of ‘no work no pay’ and the President did ask that he would digest the recommendations and would have one more meeting, which was done on Friday after the budget. That meeting was even better than the first one we had with him. And Mr President had agreed to settle things. I am not going to talk about that now, he would disclose whatever it is tomorrow – Tuesday, which is tomorrow – on that one remainder issue.”
Gbajabiamila added, “But beyond that, the other several issues have been taken care of. We were able to make sure that what ASUU was asking for in terms of revitalisation (of universities), salary, there has been significant improvement. Revitalisation has been provided for in the (2023) budget. We made sure of that. The salary structure has been looked at and there has been improvement as well, and we made sure of that.
“As you heard Mr President say during his budget presentation, he appealed to ASUU to go back to class and that N470bn total has been included in the budget. The issue of the IPPIS, which was another important issue, both ASUU and the Office of the Accountant General (of the Federation) and the government have agreed that they will work together and the peculiarities of UTAS that are required for the payment platform, IPPIS, they would sit down together…and the Chairman (of the House) Committee on Tertiary Education would also be part of that tripartite…sit down and make arrangement to include all those things that are required by ASUU in the IPPIS platform.
“I believe we have covered ground and covered most of the thorny issues. What we have agreed with ASUU is basically to put everything on paper and sign off, and I believe if we had met yesterday and the papers had been drawn up, ASUU, I am sure, would have called of the strike today. But we only just met behind closed doors now, and so we have to draw up the agreement. as I have stated to you.
“Hopefully in the next couple of days… Of course, ASUU has to get back to its bases as well. Once that is agreed, I am very hopeful and very excited about the possibility or probability the strike would be called of in a matter of days.”
The Speaker, who said he believed that the parties had “concluded positively,” noted that it was “for the sake of our students and children.” He said, “I hope it would be a thing of the past.”
Responding, the ASUU President said the leadership of the union would go back to its chapters for consultation. “We have met briefly in the Speaker’s office and looked at all the issues. He has briefed us. We have taken note of what they have covered. As you know, in my union, we operate bottom-up; we don’t take decision on their behalf without taking their consent,” he said.
Disclosing the outcome of the closed-door meeting, Osodeke said, “We have agreed that between now and tomorrow, we are going to get some documentations – signed— that we can take to our members. We will do that as quickly as possible in the interest of all of us, Nigerians and the students, so that this thing can be resolved as quickly as possible.
“From what we have seen today, for the first time since our action started, we are seeing light at the end of the tunnel, because this is the first time we are having such thing as an attempt by anybody or group to create something that will also make us to run into anything again. We do hope that this will be the final in the interest of our children.”
He added, “Our struggle – thank God the National Assembly are joining us – is for the educational system in Nigeria. We want to have a university in Nigeria where we should be earning money from students all over the world and paying in hard currency as we are paying (overseas) so that our system will grow. That is why we are in this struggle. We want to have a university where the remuneration is enough to attract lecturers from all over the world, just as our people are going outside.
“As we speak today, we are having problems but we have not noticed it. We are creating so many universities but there are no qualified people to teach in those universities because the good ones are leaving. We just put people there, which is not good enough. We must create the environment. We are the Giant of Africa and we must act as the Giant of Africa. We should have people coming in – in droves – not people leaving. That is why we are here.”
The ASUU President thanked the Speaker for his resilience and intervention, while urging the lawmakers to work with the union “and let us put a beautiful end to this thing we have started, so that every Nigerian will be proud that we have universities we can be proud of.”
Osodeke added, “We also extend our appreciation to the President for intervening. We do hope that this is the last one. I want to appeal that in future, we should not allow strike to linger. A strike should not go beyond two days. If the way the National Assembly has intervened; if we had done that long ago, from the beginning, to be allowed to do that all along; or those in charge of Labour and Education had done exactly this, we would not be where we are today. We would not have stayed more than two or three weeks in this strike.”