• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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Updated: Relief for students as ASUU suspends 10-month-old strike

FG frustrating efforts to resolve issues – ASUU

Nigerian university students can now heave a sigh of relief following the suspension of the 10-month-old industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

ASUU president, Biodun Ogunyemi, told a news conference in Abuja on Wednesday, December 23, that the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union had decided to suspend the strike after some fruitful deliberations and agreements with the Federal Government team led by Chris Ngige, the minister of labour and employment, on Tuesday, December 22 in Abuja.

Ogunyemi, who said the strike action embarked upon on March 23 ended with effect from 12 am Thursday, December 24, 2020, however, warned that should government fail to fulfil its own part of the agreement, ASUU would resume its suspended strike as deemed necessary.

He said the strike was predicated on its insistence on the implementation of the 2009 agreement between the union and government, the 2013 memorandum of understanding (MoU), the 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoA) as well as the 2019 MoA, which were not significantly addressed.

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According to the ASUU president, the issues were “Funding for Revitalisation of Public Universities, Earn Academic Allowances (EAA), Salary shortfall, State Universities, Visitation Panels, and Reconstitution of the Government Renegotiating team and the issue of the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS).”

Others are: University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues.

The 2009 ASUU and Federal Government agreement was aimed at reversing the decay in the Nigerian university system in order to reposition it for greater responsibilities in national development; reverse the brain drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff, but also by disengaging them from the encumbrances of a unified civil service wage structure; to restore Nigerian universities, through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention, and to ensure genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.

“NEC resolved to accept the agreement reached between ASUU and the Federal Government on December 22. To also consciously and diligently monitor the implementation of Federal Government/ASUU agreements of December 22, in all branches.

“NEC also resolved to ensure that no ASUU member suffer any loss of deserved benefits as a result if participation in the strike,” Ogunyemi said.

He emphasised that NEC would pursue fervently the areas in the Federal Government-ASUU agreement of 2009 and the MoA 2013 that requires legislation, adding that the union would ensure the mainstreaming of EAA into the annual budget and the Executive Bill in respect of the National Universities Commission (NUC) Act, 2004.

According to Ogunyemi, ASUU’s expectation from both state and Federal Government is that government should faithfully implement all the agreements reached and signed with the union.

“Therefore, the implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC), which had already been constituted to the satisfaction of government and ASUU, will work diligently to ensure that funds released are used to meet genuine revitalisation needs of Nigerian public universities.

“This is with a strict and disciplined supervision of the implementation processes by the universities themselves. To this end, the students and their parents would see the fruits of the struggles of ASUU in their lives.

“The union expects the immediate release of EAA as agreed, the mainstreaming of EAA into annual budget using the agree formula.

“The union also expects government to immediately engage the universities and other research centres in the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is one of the challenges that the universities have been asking the government to throw to Nigerian academics,” he said, as he urged the government to expedite action on the test processes

He tasked the government to ensure the development of UTAS for the payment of salaries in the university system, stressing that the UTAS platform would assist government in its fight against corruption and strengthen accountability in the education sector.

The union expects that government and ASUU re-negotiation exercise would be concluded as specified in the timeline agreed by both parties, among others.

“On our part we are going back to rekindle the motivation and aspirations in our members to strive to encourage our students to excel, in all the expectations that governments will sincerely fulfil their own part of the bargain,” he said.

The union acknowledged and appreciated the “tremendous support which Nigeria students accorded the union during the strike,” adding, “Their open demonstration of support weakened the attempts of some agents to assault our members’ morale.”

Some of the students, who spoke with BusinessDay on Wednesday, expressed joy that the long nightmare of protracted strike was now over.

A 400-level student of History of the University of Abuja (UNIABUJA), who gave her name as Annabelle Emmanuel, said, “I feel excited because I need to go back to school and complete this degree programme. It is taking a whole lot of time. So, I am happy about the suspension of the strike.”

Another student of UNIABUJA, who gave his name as Michael, said, “I am happy to hear that ASUU has called off this strike and we are going back to school soon.” He however advised the union and the Federal Government to find a way to resolve issues in order to avert future strikes, adding that the “industrial action contributes in crippling the university system.”