Education: Hope Brightens For ASUU Members To Return To The University Classroom As Government Makes Mouth Watery Offers To The Union

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By Adegbite Lateef

The Federal government Negotiating Team with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of  Universities, ASSU, may have known that the University Lecturers are not ready to shift ground  because of their plan to collapse the nation’s University system that they have  agreed to shift ground  for normal Academic programme to resume.

The Value News Investigations shows that some of the University Lecturers are  teaching in two or three Universities , while some are  Consulting for the Oil Companies. This may have informed why they have maintained a very hardline position to force the government to do their biddings or the Universities would remain closed.

While the Private Universities  had been session, since the government relaxed the lockdown in the country necessitated by the Wuhan  Town in Hebei Province of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, the students of the government owned  Universities had been out  of school since March 2020.  The situation is so worrisome that  the Law Students Association of Nigeria, described as baby Lawyers in legal circles,  had dragged ASUU to Court, challenging what they  described as ’’ incessant Strikes of the Union’’.

Buhari Receiving Report

The Association  which had filed a suit at a Federal High Court in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Friday, November 20, 2020,  is ‘’seeking an order  to compel the Striking University Lecturers  to return to the Classroom’’ as well as’’ order of perpetual injunction  to restrain the Union from embarking on further Strikes’’.

Blessing Agbomwere, President of the Association who was said to have filed the Suit on behalf of his members is also asking the Court ’’to Compel ASUU and  ‘’to pay N10 billion to Nigerian Students for  infringing on their right to Education’’  as enshrined on the 199 Constitution of Nigeria, as amended and Article 17 of the African Charter  on Human and Peoples Rights.

 Also included in the Suit were Biodun Ogunyemi, a Professor and Chairman of  ASUU ,Mallam Adamu Adamu,  minister of Education, Chris Ngige, a former governor of Anambara state and now minister of  Labour and Employment  including  Abubakar Malami, Attorney General of the Federation  and minister of Justice.  

The  Association are also pushing for ASUU ‘’to pay damages to all Nigerian Students  for the Psychological and emotional  torture  meted out to them  as well as the loss of valuable time following the continuous strike’’. Agbomwere, The Law Students Association President who could not hide his feelings had  confirmed the news that had been making the rounds over the years  that  the ASUU members had been short changing the government by teaching in more than one University.

An aggrieved Law studentS        Association President,  may have  further exposed the striking lecturers  when he said that most of them   were engaging in’’ Consultancy services in oil Companies and collecting  multiple salaries at the detriment of Nigerian students’’.

The Agbomwere led Association  may  have shown that the members also  know the  Law when they demanded  among other things’’ the declaration of the ASUU  strike as a breach of  the Right of members to Education’’.   Indeed, ASUU may have pushed the Nigerian Law  students to the wall with the incessant strikes that the students  have risen  up to the  Challenge to force them  back to the  Classroom. Education analysts believe that  the students are the losers, as  the Lecturers, no matter  how long they stay out of work, would  still be paid their salaries and allowances owed  them by the government. are the winners. This is because  their  salaries  and allowances for the eight months they have been out of work  must be paid by the government.

ASUU Team With Government

It is on record that the government and ASUU Negotiating Teams had met several times to resolve the impasse but no  luck.  President Muhammadu Buhari  may have known that the continuous  stay at home  of the University students at was a bad  advertisement to his government that he  may have put in  a word to the government  Team to make some concessions to resolve the impasse.

The source of friction between ASUU and the government had been the later insistence on adopting the Integrated  Payroll  and Personnel Information System, IPPIS,  Which was rejected by the Union. The ASUU  leadership and their members which have have the support of the University Authorities may have  had at the back of their mind that if the government is allowed to go ahead with the implementation of the PPPIS, it would expose the rot in the  nation’s University system. This may have given them the ammunition to down tools to force the  government  to soft-pedal.

The ASUU leadership, based on agreement with their members and who have the underhand backing of the various University Authorities,  were said to have suggested the use of University Transparency Account System, ,UTAS,  in settling their monthly Salaries and Allowances. But the government Negotiating Team was not ready to  take it .It was not surprising why the various  meetings to resolve impasse  had ended in a deadlock as each party maintained its position.  

There is  no gainsaying the fact  that the  ASUU leadership may  have  had their way. This is because the government has suspended the IPPIS, based on agreement  reached with the ASUU  leadership. The government may have agreed to  the striking University  Lecturers demand to pay them  through government  Integrated Financial Management  Information system, GIFMIS. The GIFMIS, would  be used for now, until the ASUU’S University Transparency  Solution  , UTASA, was ready.

Insiders told The Magazine that the  ASUU Leadership  may have arm twisted  the government Negotiation Team  as it forced down their throat  to agree for the  government to pay them their N65 billion Earned Allowances  and revitalisation.

 As a prelude to the  payment of the  earned salaries and  allowances, the  government was said to have  made the initial release of N15  billion from the amount  offered  , promising to make additional funds  available  for the revitalization of the Universities. True to its promise , it was said to  have made another payment  of N20 billion, thus  bringing the total payment to N35 billion to the Union.

 But the Account General of the Federation , Ngige said, had offered to release  N40 billion in the alternative, N35 billion  to be shared by the  registered Trade Unions in the Universities  after providing    all the necessary evidence  of having earned the allowance.

Perhaps to ensure that there would not be no hitch  in the payment exercise,  the Labour and Employment  minister  who could not hide his feelings said all the University Vice Chancellors  have been directed  ‘’to submit  details  of the EAA/EA, to the National Universities Commission, NUC, on or before November 30, 2020’’.

Ngige: Minister Of Labour And Employment And Arowhead Of Government Negotiation With ASUU

The former Anambra  state governor who is not ready to allow the Nigerian  Universities thrown into another round of endless strike at the instance of the Katsina state  born Nigerian President   had said that ‘’the ministry will review  the issue o ’ no work  no pay’’  as stipulated in  in section 43 of Trade Disputes Act , Cap 8, Laws  of the Fedration of Nigeria, 2004, with a view  to getting approval  for the upheld   AUU  members’  salaries and allowance to be paid’’ to the ASUU members.

HIS may have gladdened the heart of the striking Lecturers   who had  feared that they  may not be paid when he said  that they would be ‘’paid  on the old payment platform  pending the time when all the issues raised by ASUU would be resolved. Ogunyemi, the ASUU President  may have been impressed with the agreement reached with the government to resolve the impasse  and save the nation’s Education system  from imminent collapse that he has promised that  they ‘’ will take the new offer  to the organs’’  and then,’’ report back to the government about the position of their members’’.

He  may have given an  insight about the reopening  of the Universities when he aid ‘’the government has made  some new offers to the Union ‘’, noting that ‘’progress has been made in their Negotiations’’.   Going  by the ASUU President Statement, it is obvious that the Nigerian  University students who are still on forced holiday  may not resume school  until early next year.   

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