The federal government of Nigeria has disclosed that it will resume negotiation with the Academic Staff Union Of Universities, ASUU next week over its demands. This was disclosed by the minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, who stated that the federal government is hopeful that they arrive at a reasonable agreement with the union this time around.
He however disclosed that ASUU members do not take advantage of the open door policies with the federal government. The minister has assured that the government is working tirelessly to tackle all the disputes in the educational sector with a holistic approach, knowing full well that none of the unions could function effectively without others.
He further added that he has met with NASU and SSANU, and they were ecstatic, adding that issues that have delayed negotiations with ASUU include money and welfare, as well as old arrears of 2009 renegotiation of conditions and service. The minister disclosed that the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement would not be immediate because the Education ministry had put in place a committee to handle it.
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Recall that ASUU had earlier accused the Minister of Labour and employment, Sen. Chris Ngige of being responsible for the prolonged ongoing strike, and for showing disdain towards the educational system in Nigeria.
The union further stated that the minister has failed to effectively play the role of an unbiased umpire in moderating the whole issue as he always takes sides with the government even when they are wrong. They accused the minister of one time disclosing to the nation that the striking lecturers have been paid salaries up to date, meanwhile, it was false, as they were still owed salaries.
In a rebuttal to these accusations, the minister blamed the union for the prolonged strike actions, stating that they are making the negotiation very difficult. He accused ASUU of boycotting the sitting of the re-negotiation committee set up to look into grey areas of the contentious 2009 agreement.
He further disclosed that for the strike to end, ASUU has to come down from its high horse, and also they should desist from imposing their demands down the throat of the federal government, whether it is acceptable or not.
The minister gave an instance where the union determined its choice of salary payment platform, which is the University Transparency And Accountability Solution (UTAS), meanwhile according to the federal government, the platform has failed its integrity and vulnerability test, which makes it unfit for payment of salaries.
This is not the first time the federal government and ASUU will resume talks on the ongoing strike, as most of the time, it ends in a dispute without resolving anything. Both parties are engrossed in the blame game brouhaha, faulting each other claims, without anyone taking responsibility for their actions.
What I can deduce from this whole disagreement between ASUU and the federal government is that ASUU had for a long time demanded the federal government to implement the agreement it signed with the union in 2009, which the government has handled with levity also refusing to meet the demands enshrined in the agreement.
The government on the other hand has disclosed that such funds are not available to meet its obligations in the signed agreement with ASUU, which is also currently what has led to the prolonged strike. The union has lamented that the government has money for meaningless projects, vacations, frivolities, and selfish personal ambitions, but when it comes to investing in the country’s educational sector they will say there is no money, stating that such statement reeks of incompetence.
As it stands, the union is fed up with lies from the government and has stated that if their demands are not met, there is no going back on strike action. Hopefully, as they resume talks next week, the outcome will be a favorable one for the union and the Nigerian students in general.
It’s high time the government properly funds the educational sector because it remains poorly funded in the country, which is not ideal. A nation cannot thrive without having quality education as a priority. The government should also ensure to pay the union the owed debt to avoid future strike actions when this one is eventually called off. The future of Nigerian students should not be toiled with, as they are needed to improve the human capital in the country.