The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe has commended the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, for ending their 5 month old strike.
Okupe, in an interview with Channels Television in Abuja, saluted the patriotism of the university lecturers and their commitment to the development of education in the country.
“It’s very heartwarming news to hear that the long strike has been finally put aside. This is a great relief to government and to the students, parents and stakeholders generally.
“I want to assure that the agreement that has been signed or the agreement that has been reached will be fully discharged by this administration. I have said it before that this administration does not have any credibility issue whatsoever, and the President and his government will honour their word.”
He urged the lecturers to ensure that the fund provided by the government is used for the provision of infrastructure in the nation’s ivory towers. He said: “the monies provided have been painstakingly sought for and they should be applied to good use for the educational advancement of our institutions.”
Dr. Okupe had been a major feature in the saga between the union of Nigerian university lecturers and the Federal Government while the industrial action lasted.
He appeared on Channels Television a number of times to communicate the government’s stance at different points in the protracted negotiation.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has suspended its over five months old strike.
ASUU Chairman, University of Lagos Chapter, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka told Channels Television that the union decided to suspend the strike after a marathon meeting held in Minna, Niger State capital on Monday.
In attendance at the meeting, which ran till late in the evening, were all the ASUU branch chairmen and secretaries, the national executive members of the body, coordinators and past leaders, including 56 members from 52 universities.
Dr. Ogbinaka said that, in line with procedures, the different chapters of ASUU would hold congress meetings on Wednesday to inform members and managements of the institutions of the latest development.
“We expect the students to resume and expect their members to go back to class immediately after the congress meeting and we expect the government to keep to the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU),” Dr. Ogninaka stated.
He said that the union and the government would hold meetings in 2014 to look at gray areas that may arise and come to a common ground.
The Federal Government and ASUU had reached a compromise during a negotiation brokered by the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Abdulwaheed Omar on Wednesday, December 11, which led to the signing of the MoU.
Speaking to journalists after the agreement with the government on Wednesday, the National President of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Isa Fagge, said that the union would consult with its National Executive Council and would intimate Nigerians of its decision on the strike within one week, expressing optimism that the outcome of the consultation would be positive.
It was gathered that the MoU addressed all the resolutions that the leadership of the ASUU and the Federal Government agreed to in their 13-hour meeting with President Jonathan on November 4, as well as their widely criticised fresh demands.
ASUU’s demands include the upward review of the retirement age for professors from 65 to 70; adequate funding to revitalise the university system; progressive increase of budgetary allocations to the education sector by 26%; transfer of Federal Government property to universities; setting up of research and development units by the companies; and renegotiation of the signed agreement.
The fresh demands include a non-victimisation clause, provision and deposit of N200 billion infrastructure revitalisation funds in an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) details of disbursement of the funds and payment of salary arrears which has accrued to the teachers during the strike.
The Wednesday agreement between the two which is reportedly due for renegotiation in 2014 was reached barely 24 hours after the Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe presented a proof of payment of N200 billion into an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
Nigeria’s university lecturers have been on strike since July 1, 2013 to demand full implementation of the 2009 agreement it reached with the Federal Government on conditions of service for university lecturers, and funding of infrastructural development in Nigerian universities.
Earlier video of a telephone conversation with the Chairman of ASUU Chapter of the University of Lagos.
The Presidency has produced evidence of payment of 200 billion Naira for universities infrastructure revitalisation.
At a media briefing in Abuja, the Senior Special Assistant to the President On Public Affairs, Doyin Okupe, presented a letter from the Central Bank of Nigeria, confirming that a sum of 200 billion Naira, agreed with the Academic Staff Union Of Universities at a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on November 4, 2013, has been fully paid into a Revitalization of Universities Infrastructure account.
In the letter, signed by the Deputy Governor of the CBN, Mr Tunde Lemo and addressed to the Accountant General of the Federation, the apex bank confirmed that the total sum was paid in three tranches of 129.3 billion Naira, 20.7 billion Naira and 50 billion Naira, into the account as directed.
The presidential aide added that “the Federal Government does not intend to victimize anyone who participates in a legitimate strike action in view of the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to the International Labour Organisation convention which guarantees workers’ rights to strikes convened in line with due processes.”
The impasse between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities reached a crescendo in the past week with ASUU expressing lack of confidence in the government in keeping the agreements it reached with the Presidency on its issues and had requested for evidences of the Government’s financial commitment to the ASUU course.
In a statement by the ASUU President, Dr Nasir Issa-Fagge, while appearing on Channels Television on Tuesday, December 3, the union stated that once the bank account opening was done and the committee that would disburse the funds start working, “our members will have no reason not to suspend the strike” insisting that the “most important part of this thing at this point is that let there be documentation”.
He said the union insisted on documentation to ensure that it would not embark on another industrial action, as a result of the government not meeting the requirement, particularly the promises by the President.
“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.
The Presidency is expected to maintain its earlier stance that “from the government’s perspective, everything that needs to be done has been done and whether the strike would be called off or not now lies in the hands of the leadership of ASUU”.
The Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, has stated that there is no reason for the ongoing industrial action by Nigerian university lecturers to continue.
He was guest on Channels Television flagship breakfast programme, ‘Sunrise Daily’ to discuss the issues.
Okupe said that from the Government’s perspective, everything that needs to be done has been done and whether the strike would be called off or not now lies in the hands of the leadership of ASUU.
He said that most of the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, have been agreed upon at the 13-hour meeting they had with the President in October.
“At the end of that meeting, the Government proposed that everything that has been agreed should be put in a memorandum of agreement and that the two parties should sign, but the leadership of ASUU declined and said instead of that, they would rather have a letter of comfort expressing everything that has been resolved therein, and that will suffice for them.”
According to him, the Government agreed to their request and issued the said letter based on the agreement that the strike would be called off within 7 days. However, this did not happen “in spite of the fact that the ASUU leadership presented the letter of comfort to its chapters nationwide and a clear majority of them endorsed the resolutions reached and actually were more inclined towards calling off the strike.”
Dr Okupe stressed that the attitude of the ASUU leadership showed that the seed of discord and evidence of bad faith already existed. “It is unfortunate that somebody died but notwithstanding, that cannot be a justification for delaying the implementation of an agreement for 21 or more days.
Reading from the ‘Letter of Comfort’ issued by the Federal Government in agreement with the leadership of ASUU, the government agreed that Nigerian universities must be revitalized for effective service delivery, all the provisions in the agreement and MoU for the revitalization shall be fully implemented as captured in the 2012 Needs Assessment and the Federal Government shall mobilize resource towards this goal.
“Based on this, it was also agreed that a sum of N1.3 trillion shall be made available to ASUU over the next 6 years starting from December 2013 with (the sum of) N200 billion. The FGN therefore request that the ASUU shall within 7 days call off its 4 month strike.”
Contrary to the Federal Government’s expectation that ASUU would call off the strike, ASUU in another document said that they “could not call off the strike because of certain uncertainties or gaps that are evident in the government’s report.”
Okupe asked fiercely, “what are these uncertainties? He accused ASUU of turning around to again state four new conditions for the strike to be called off. They demanded that the agreed N200 billion should be deposited in an account at the Central Bank within 2 weeks, while the negotiation of the 2009 agreement should be included in the final document.
The ASUU, according to Okupe also demanded that a non-victimization clause should be included as well as a new MoU signed by the Attorney-General.
Dismissing their requests, he said a demand for a memorandum is a waste of people’s time because this is ideally what should follow any agreement made between two parties in the first place, and that by International Labour Laws which Nigeria is guided by, no one is expected to be victimized for going on strike.
He also said that ASUU, asking that the MoU with Federal Government should be signed by the Attorney-General “does not make sense” because anyone of high standing in Government can sign for it. He added that an account has already been opened for the N200 billion they are requesting for in the Central Bank.
Okupe added that the government has shown commitment by meeting with the leadership of ASUU, and agreeing to its demands, considering that previous governments did not give them such an opportunity to sit down and discuss. He called on ASUU to do the right thing for the benefit of the nation.
“The Government cannot be seen to be contesting with any sector of the economy or the country. This President is interested in moving Nigeria forward through a very well-articulated transformation agenda.”