From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Fred Ezeh, Adanna Nnamani, Abuja, Bimbola Oyesola and Chinyere Anyanwu
President Muhammadu Buhari has given the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, two weeks to resolve the impasse that led to the over five-month strike embarked up by Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), and three other university-based unions and report back to him.
He gave the directive after he received briefings from relevant government Ministries, Agencies and Departments involved in resolving the face-off with the university unions, yesterday.
ASUU had embarked on one-month warning strike on February 14, and was joined by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists, (NAAT) following inability of the government to meet their demands.
Yesterday’s meeting summoned by President Buhari was to get briefing from government team on why the strike has lingered. Sources at the meeting said President Buhari directed that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige must be in all the meetings to resolve the crisis.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation, (SGF), Boss Mustapha, sources say, was also mandated to be part of the team to interface with the striking unions.
Those at the meeting were Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, the Chairman of National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta, the Director-General Budget Office, Ben Akabueze.
However, ASUU National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, has said if government was sincere and seriously desiring an end to the strike, it should not take more than two days.
He said two weeks was too long since the issues involved have been discussed and agreement reached. “If we are serious and we really want to resolve this problem, it should not take two days. Two weeks is too long for resolution. They should just come back to us and say, ‘sign,” he said on a live television programme last night.
Earlier, while addressing a press conference in Abuja, Prof. Osodeke, said the contentious issues would have been resolved and the strike called off long ago if not for the “overzealousness” of Dr. Ngige. He accused the minister of hijacking the negotiation process at the early stage from the Ministry of Education, even when significant progress was being recorded towards resolving the strike.
It also accused Ngige of taking upon himself the role of unabashed protagonist in the ongoing dispute with Federal Government for some inexplicable reasons, even when he earlier said he was not the employer of university academics and advised the union to march to the Federal Ministry of Education with their grievances.
SSANU threatens to act against disparities in salary
Meanwhile, SSANU has warned that Professor Nimi-Briggs Committee renegotiating the 2009 Agreement that it will not accept any disparity in University staff salary and would take every legal action against such agenda.
National President of SSANU, Mohammed Ibrahim, stated this in a statement in Abuja on the alleged proposed salary disparity by the Nimi-Briggs Committee for university staff.
“We have read in the media that there is a proposal for the review of salary for University staff with a differential of teaching staff taking between 108 to 180 percent and unreasonable of 10 percent for non teaching staff. We are shocked to read that the Nimi Briggs Committee has submitted a report to the government while we only met with them twice. To say the least, SSANU is not happy with the pace of work in that committee.
“While we only met twice with them, we are aware that they have met with the teaching staff not less than ten times. We are surprised how the so-called percentage was allocated to non teaching staff. We have not had the opportunity of discussing salary review with them because the committee stated that they have not gotten the approval of their principal to discuss that. We are seriously shocked and taken aback by the media report that a certain miserable, unacceptable percentage was recommended to non teaching staff. We therefore advise that that committee should as a matter of urgency, conclude renegotiation with us.”
He also commended President Buhari for his intervention in the ongoing strike and praised Senator Ngige for what it described as his dexterity in ensuring that all university-based unions are carried along in the renegotiation exercise.
TUC rallies affiliates for NLC’s ASUU protest
Regardless of efforts to resolve the issues, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has vowed to team up with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on the two days nationwide protest against the lingering crisis in the educational sector.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 12th Triennial National Delegates Conference 2022 in Abuja, outgoing President of the Congress, Quadri Olaleye said the TUC and all its affiliates were in support of the two -day protest scheduled for next week.
The conference is holding in spite of a court injunction stopping it by a some aggrieved affiliate unions of the TUC over the decision of the next president
“We are in solidarity with the NLC on the protest coming soon and all our members will be on ground to ensure the success of the protest,” he said.