The Federal Government has commenced the meeting with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the lingering strike.
Chris Ngige, the minister of Labour and Employment, is in attendance along with the striking lecturers.
The Minister says he is worried over the delay in suspending the strike after the last meeting where some funds were released by the Federal Government to pay salaries shortfalls.
But the President of ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi said that they want the Federal government to get it right this time around, especially issues revolving around University revitalization in order to ensure that graduates from Nigeria Universities can be proud of their certificates.
As the economic situation continues to bite hard in Nigeria, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Chairman for the University of Lagos, Mr Adelaja Odukoya believes that “the whole idea of recession is not to say that there is no money in the country, it is about setting our priorities right”.
While on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily, he said this in response to the popular opinion that the economic recession has however threatened any promise of funds made by the government.
This follows the recent threats by the Union to commence another strike action on Wednesday, if the federal government fails to deliver on its 2009 Agreement and 2013 MoU.
The Universities have claimed that the government is owing over 800 billion, funds which the ASUU chairman says were meant to upgrade the university system, in attempts to make them globally competitive.
Explaining that the problem has persisted over a long period of time, he said “we have passed this road before, in 2013, we were on a prolonged six month strike, and the issue at stake then was the need to properly fund the university system.
“There was a 13-hour meeting with the then President, Good Luck Jonathan, and although a lot of promises were made, nothing much was being done,” he said.
Mr Odukoya stated that apart from the 800 billion Naira, there are allowances for academics that are yet to be paid from as far back as 2013.
According to him the monies had accumulated
He explained that after ASUU’s agitation that universities are in a state of decay, the Needs Assessment Committee was set up by the federal government, in 2012 that went around public universities in the country.
“They came to a conclusion that about 1.3 trillion was needed to revitalize the Nigerian Universities
“After the strike, some parts of this fund was released and there was also an agreement that every year, within the next three to four years, 200 billion Naira would be released.
He then explained that the monies accumulated over the years, now sums up to the 800 billion Naira.
Furthermore, Odukoya stressed that despite ASUU’s payment of about 660 million Naira as the cost of registration for NUPENCO, the body responsible for universities pension, “members are retiring without any pension to go with”.
The state government was not left out, as he accused them of not rising to the responsibilities expected of it, while still partaking of Federal Government benefits for the tertiary institutions.
“They want to implement what favours them. Rather than even funding existing universities, state governments have turned the establishment of Universities into constituency projects.
Citing examples in Edo, Ogun and Osun states, he emphasised that the state had refused to fund their Universities, which has led to various crisis.
“State governments are not releasing funds as a matter of fact, the template is that they want student fees which are internally generated revenue, to be the only bases of funding these universities.”
This according to him is putting so much burden on students as a result of the “commercialization of education in this country”.
Contrary to reports that the government has asked ASUU to exercise some patience and to suspend the strike as it is ready for dialogue, Mr Odukoya says the union is yet to get any formal word from the government or the key ministries involved.
The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused the Federal Government of failing to implement the 2009 Agreement to progressively increase budgetary allocation to the education sector.
Addressing a news conference in Abuja, President of the Union, Dr Nasir Isa Fagge, decried the eight percent allocated to education in this year’s budget, maintaining that the poor allocation contradicts the promise of the government to ensure quality higher education for Nigerians.
The Union also took a swipe at the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the recent removal of some vice chancellors by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The union restated its commitment to working for the revival of a Nigerian university system that is nationally productive and globally competitive.
The President, however, noted that addressing the agreement between the union and the Federal Government will no doubt prevent a strike.
A public affairs analyst, Mr Bola Bakara has urged Nigerians to brace up for the problems that will continue to face the Nigerian educational system, especially strikes by lecturers of universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
“We have a big problem in our hands” he said, adding that “the strikes that have been on and on is going to be a recurring decimal either from ASUU or ASUP” on Tuesday during Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
Despite agreeing that the strikes are a “form of social engineering for them to demand more pay” he noted that the unions have not delivered their own part of the bargain insisting that “it is based on one major factor, which is money”.
He praised the 6-3-3-4 system of education but berated the implementation of the policy which would have seen to the churning out of graduates that will be employable in any part of the world.
He called on the authorities to lay more emphasis on “primary and secondary education” noting that “when it comes to tertiary; that is professional specialisation”. He also added that “if we get that (primary and secondary) right, we are 70 per cent home.
“If we can have a good 6-3-3, we are in fantastic business”.
He was also of the opinion that the Nigerian education system has not achieved any success in implementing policies that will strengthen the primary and secondary education.
Mr Bakare, who is a representative of the Truth Be Told Network, pinpointed funding as one of the major problems of the education system arguing that “Nigeria is not short of funds”.
He added that “Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) has over N200 billion idle, Universal Basic Education (UBE) has N50 billion idle” because states are required to provide counterpart funding for the implementation.
He however agreed, in the case of TETFUND, that the funds could not be accessed due to the inability of tertiary institutions to come up with certain documents and proposals on what they needed funds for.
He argued that “coming from the national level where the policies are being implemented, where were they when the tertiary institutions were performing on the funds given prior?”
The Federal Government in January berated state governors for refusing to access the N41 billion counterpart funds for the implementation of UBE in their states.
Minister of State for Education, Mr Nyesom Wike, who expressed government’s disappointment at the 11th Quarterly Meeting of UBEC Management with Executive Chairmen of State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEB), in Osogbo, Osun State, said it was sad that the money was yet to be accessed by states, lamenting that the situation was unhealthy for development of basic education in the country.
The minister, in a statement by the Principal Public Relations Officer of UBEC, Mr. David Apeh, said he was particularly worried that a lot of improvement could be done in existing schools and new schools established across the country with such huge funds not accessed by states.
”Nothing can justify the situation where billions of naira meant to expand access and improve the quality of basic education delivery are deliberately left un-accessed and, therefore, un-utilised, while the problems facing effective basic education delivery continue to stare at us as a nation,” Wike lamented.
The Nigerian government has been asked to make the evidence of the 200 billion Naira it claims to have paid into a Central Bank Account, as agreed with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), public.
The call came a day after a government spokesman, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said that the Federal Government had deposited the money as agreed with the union into a CBN Account.
But a public affairs analyst, Mr. Victor Odunaiya, described the statement as a strategy by the government to find justification for its actions, insisting that an evidence is needed.
“The government has not complied with the agreement and it is insincerity on their part,” he told Channels Television on Wednesday’s edition of Sunrise Daily.
Mr. Odunaiya, who is also a lawyer, urged the government to justify its claims by sending a copy of the evidence of payment to the leadership of the union.
“The government says it has made payment but ASUU is not notified. If they were notified then they would not be justified for continuing the strike.
“What is wrong with Okupe bringing a copy of the payment and handing it over to the union or what is wrong with the CBN Governor, Lamido Sanusi , calling the leadership of the union to confirm payment?” he questioned.
The lawyer described as ‘political language’ Okupe’s statement that the meeting between President Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of the union was enough for ASUU to have called off the strike, as it showed the government’s commitment to resolving the issue.
He pointed out that since 2009, the Federal Government had not deemed it feat to meet their obligations towards the union.
“How do you expect them to accept oral speech or comments?” he also questioned.
He supported the view that an agreement should be enforceable among the parties that reached the agreement and must carry in it clauses that would ensure its enforcement.
Mr. Odunaiya called on both the government and the union to reconsider their positions as the parents and students were bearing the burden of the effect of the combat.
The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr Nasir Issa-Fagge on Tuesday queried the Federal Government for not formally communicating the opening of an account credited with the sum of N200 billion in the Central Bank to the union.
Noting that ASUU operates as a democratic institution, Fagge revealed that the union “requested that once that is done (bank account opening) and the committee that is supposed to disburse the funds start working, our members will have no reason not to suspend the strike action” insisting that the “most important part of this thing at this point is that let there be documentation”.
He said the union is insisting on documentation for the fear of not having to re-embark on another action “for government not meeting the requirement, particularly the promises Mr President has made”.
“Why won’t government make available this money so that we know the money is there and the universities commence drawing from this money to address the problem of decay in infrastructure, teaching and research facilities? When that is done, our members will suspend the strike” he promised.
Speaking from the Abuja studios of Channels Television during Sunrise Daily, he berated the fact that other unions had to re-embark on the strike actions due to the failure of the Federal Government to keep to promises made to the striking unions.
Debunking claims that the ASUU is not speaking with one voice, Fagge maintained that “Our members do not play a role in closing or opening universities, if the university administration decides to open a university, they can go ahead and do that” noting that “it is their own responsibility” insisting that “our members will not be there to teach”.
Fagge expressed disappointment in the way a previous memoranda signed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education and authored by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was “disowned virtually by government” explaining the reason behind the union’s request that a person higher than the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education sign the recent document, and not necessarily the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The fiery-speaking Fagge revealed that members of the union also have children in the closed universities, while noting that many members of the union are also students pursuing their Ph.d, MSc, MA degrees.
He refuted the claim that the opposition had infiltrated the ranks of the union and charged the Federal Government to sort the issues on ground and the union will suspend the strike.
The federal government has directed all vice-chancellors of federal universities currently on strike to immediately re-open for academic activities as directed by their vice-chancellors. The Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike who gave the directive also asked the vice-chancellors to ensure that lecturers who resume for work are provided with the enabling environment to carry out academic activities.
He said any lecturer who failed to resume on the 4th of December automatically ceases to be a staff of the institution and that vice-chancellors are allowed to advertise vacancies for their positions
The minister said the federal government has exhausted all available avenues to end the impasse hence the decision. The president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Mr Peter Esele has however called on the government to rescind the decision describing it as military.
With a December 4th deadline by the federal government for the lecturers to resume work, it remains to be seen who blinks first.
The Pro-Chancellor of the University Of Benin, Senator Effiong Bob, has appealed to the striking university lecturers to return to the classroom in honour of the Late Professor Festus Iyayi.
The Former President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) died in a road accident involving the convoy of the Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, near Lokoja, on his way to the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the union in Kano.
While on a condolence visit to the bereaved family, Senator Bob pointed out that Professor Iyayi died while trying to resolve the four-month strike by ASUU and ending the strike in his honour would be a well deserved one.
The Primate of the Anglican Church, Most Reverend Nicholas Okoh has urged the federal government to give the Academic Staff Union of Universities the funds required for the development of the nation’s universities.
The primate made the call while speaking on the state of the nation at a media briefing in Abuja.
Most Reverend Okoh said the union must live up to expectation by being proper managers of the funds allocated to them by the government.
He also condemned the quality of graduates produced by the nation’s universities, saying the system has lost its quality and efficiency.
Fillers coming from the Federal Government suggest that resolution may be in sight for the ongoing industrial action embarked on by Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Nigeria.
Rising from a meeting between the President and the leadership of ASUU, the Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu who spoke to Channels Television State House Correspondent on behalf of the Federal Government said that considerable progress has been made and that Nigerians should expect a positive reaction from the striking lecturers.
The meeting which lasted 13 hours raised hopes among Nigerians, and there were expectations that the President stepping in personally would yield an immediate result, but ASUU President, Nasir Fagge insisted that it was too soon for the union to make any statement until members are briefed on the meeting.
“We now have a message from Mr. President that we are going to take to our members, and we are expecting that our members will respond appropriately to the message of Mr. President.”
When asked about the possibility of going back to the classrooms, Mr. Faggie said “that is up to our members.”
It will be recalled that the legislative arm of the government had stepped into the 4 month old ASUU crisis by appealing to the lectures to embrace a dialogue with the government towards finding a “win-win” resolution to it.
Senate President, David Mark remarked that “national interest is at stake as students have been out of classrooms for about 4 months now and that is not in the interest of anybody. We are not happy, the parents are not happy and the Government is not happy…it’s only proper that we have it resolved as quickly as possible.”
President Goodluck Jonathan has met with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as part of the ongoing efforts to end the industrial action by the lecturers.
The meeting which took place at the Presidential Villa came on the heels of several failed attempts to get the lecturers to return to the classrooms.
Channels Television State House Correspondent, Chukwuma Onukekwusi, reported that President Jonathan gave the assurance that all the issues must be resolved immediately, and that Nigerian students must go back to school.
The meeting also had in attendance, Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, Minister of Education, Yesom Wike, President of the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, Mr. Abdulwaheed Omar and the Chairman of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Julius Okojie.
The ASUU team was led by its President, Nasir Fagge.