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FG, ASUU have no option than to continue talking – Adamu

By Rosemary Ogbonnaya

Minister of Federal Ministry of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu has insisted that Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities,ASUU have no option than to continue talking, until Nigerian Universities have reopened their doors to students to return to classroom.

Adamu who said this at the Meeting of Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities, at the National Universities Commission on Tuesday reacted on the President of ASUU’s comment that said the Union would no longer negotiate with the current Federal Government.

Maintaining that students were the principal victims of the seemingly unending strikes, Adamu called on all Councils and Senates of the federal Universities to rise up to their responsibilities.

He said that federal government has done its best to resolve the ongoing strike except in the area of ” No work, No pay”, saying that government made it clear that it would not break the law.

“We have done the best that we can in the circumstance. After Inter-ministerial consultations and rounds of hard negotiations with all government agencies, we interacted with the Unions. I personally, gave it all it required to resolve the current challenges. I met the Unions anywhere and everywhere possible with facts, with figures, and with absolute sincerity. For example, I directly met with ASUU leadership in my house, in my office and at the ASUU Secretariat on several different occasions, in addition to other formal engagements going on.

“To be frank with all the Unions, especially with ASUU, one major issue over which Government and the Unions could not reach amicable agreement was the issue of the law on “No work, No pay”. In the spirit of sincerity, Government made it clear that it would not break the law. And on this, I must, openly and once again, thank all the Unions which made the sacrifice of understanding the position of Government on the matter,” he said.

Giving the details of what federal government has done since the ongoing strike, the Minister explained that, “This meeting has become necessary and urgent due to certain. misconceptions and misinformation in the public domain, regarding the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). Not only is our interaction today necessary, it is also urgent to clarify the current industrial action in our Public Universities started on 14th February, 2022 when ASUU commenced a two-week warning strike over the non Implementation of agreements reached between Government and the Union, including the following: Funding for the revitalisation of Public Universities; Payment of earned academic allowances; Reconstitution of the FGN/ASUU 2009 Renegotiation Committee; iv. University Transparency Accountability Solutions, UTAS; Release of White Paper on the reports of the Visitation Panels to Universities; Proliferation of State Universities, and Withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues.

” To confound matters further, the three other university non-teaching staff unions – SSANU, NASU and NAAT also declared trade disputes against the Federal Government and commenced nationwide Industrial actions a few weeks later. NAAT started its strike on March 17, 2022 while the Joint Action Committee of SSANU and NASU followed suit on March 27, 2022.

“In response to the Unions’ demands, the Federal Government reconstituted the FGN/University-based Unions 2009 Agreement Renegotiation Committee, with Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs as Chairman on 7th March, 2022. The Committee was charged with the responsibility of concluding the ongoing Federal Government renegotiation efforts with the University-based Unions and producing appropriate solutions, workable and enduring agreements for the improvement of the Nigerian University System (NUS).

While the Briggs Committee was busy interacting with the Unions on all the issues, a Federal Government Inter-ministerial Team, under the leadership of the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, was simultaneously engaging the Unions and resolving some of their minor demands, such as salary shortages and payment of arrears of the minimum wage consequential adjustments as well as payment of promotion arrears. The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning was able to resolve most of these issues by the end of July, 2022.

“On May 12, 2022, about three months into the strike, a high powered Tripartite Plus Conciliation Meeting was held at State House Banquet Hall, at the instance of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, with a view to finding solutions to those issues that were considered thorny and generic to both the teaching staff (ASUU) and non-teaching staff Unions (SSANU, NASU and NAAT). Two of the issues specified during the meeting were categorised under the following: University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) by ASUU and the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System (U3PS); delay in Re-Negotiation of 2009 Agreements-conditions of service, wages and allowances.”

Speaking further he said, “It is important to note that this special conciliation meeting was chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President, Professor Ibrahim Gambari and had in attendance the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Ministers of Labour, Education and Finance, the Head of Service and top government officials. The meeting was also attended by the Sultan of Sokoto, the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and all the other critical stakeholders, including the leadership of the four University-based Unions (ASUU, NASU, SSANU and NAAT).

“There were two major outcomes of the meeting. The first was the decision to test the two proposed salary payment solutions, developed by the Unions namely, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) proposed by ASUU, and the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll system (U3PS), jointly proposed by SSANU and NASU, The two solutions were to be tested alongside the existing Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The report of the Presidential Committee that was charged with the responsibility of harmonizing the three payment platforms for effective deployment in the system, would be made public as soon as the process is concluded.

” The second outcome of the meeting was an agreement on the need to speedily conclude the renegotiation process in a manner that would be in tune with the realities of the national economy. This would require the Government to carefully and critically examine and review any draft agreement emanating from the Renegotiation Committee to ensure that the financial implications contained therein are sustainable by the current realities of the national economy.

Soon after the Conciliatory Tripartite Meeting in May, the Nimi Briggs Team concluded the re-negotiation with ASUU and produced a Draft Agreement, which was forwarded to the Federal Government, through the Honourable Minister of Education, for consideration and approval. Similarly, the re-negotiation with the non-teaching staff unions had since commenced, and an appreciable progress had been made towards producing the desired agreements for consideration and approval by their respective principals.”

The Education Minister disclosed that in the course of the exercise, the FGN Team made several attempts to wade into the Industrial crises between the FGN and the University-based Unions, with a view to finding a lasting and amicable solution to the challenges.

Speaking on government offer, Adamu said that the Federal Government can only afford a 23.5% salary increase for all category of the workforce in Federal Universities, except for the professorial cadre which will enjoy a 35% upward review.

He said that federal government offered that henceforth allowances that pertain to ad-hoc duties of the academic and non-academic staff shall be paid as at when due by the Governing Councils of Universities to which such services are rendered and to the staff who perform them;

Also, government agreed that a sum of 150 billion Naira shall be provided for in the 2023 Budget as funds for the revitalization of Federal Universities, to be disbursed to the Institutions in the First Quarter of the year, and

It also offered that sum of 50 billion Naira shall be provided for in the 2023 Budget for the payment of outstanding areas of earned academic allowances, to be paid in the First Quarter of the year.

According to him, the four University-based Unions, in separate letters addressed to the Chairman of the Government Re-negotiating Team, rejected Government’s offer which they described as inadequate to meet their respective demands needed to tackle the challenges confronting the university system.

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