The federal government, in a departure from the norm, wednesday admitted that its failure to fulfil its side of the bargain with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) resulted in the strike action embarked upon by the lecturers of tertiary institutions on Sunday.
Briefing newsmen in the State House, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu said it was saddening that ASUU went on strike owing to the failure of the federal government to fulfil its side of the bargain with the union last year.
Adamu, however, said the federal government was not happy over the way ASUU proceeded on strike, observing that it failed to follow due process by giving the government reasonable notice as the case should be.
Nevertheless, he said he hoped to meet with the lecturers later wednesday or today and expressed optimism that both camps would strike a deal that could end the strike, just as he itemised the demands of ASUU and gave an update on each of them.
“It’s very sad that I am here and ASUU is on strike. Late last year, we had a meeting because ASUU gave a one-week notice of strike and we were able to work out some agreement.
“I must confess that government has not fulfilled its side of the bargain, even though we are unhappy that ASUU went on this strike without following due process and giving us good notice, we realised that we promised something and we did not fulfill it.
“I hope I will be meeting them later today or tomorrow and I’m sure we will be able to reach some agreement so that the strike will be called off as soon as possible. I’m sure you are aware of the issues we agreed on.
“There is the issue of re-negotiation which is the only one that they agreed government has done what it promised, because we set up the re-negotiation team and negotiations are already ongoing.
“There is the issue of unpaid earned allowances and I think because of some miscommunication, what we promised could not be done, but I am assuring ASUU and the whole nation that this is going to be done.
“There is the issue of registration of the Nigerian Universities Pension Commission. I think that one, there are few issues that need to be sorted out with the National Pension Commission. I believe there will be no problem with that.
“There is the issue of their staff schools, which I think the court has given them a verdict to go ahead with it. They have also requested that they should be allowed not to remit their funds to the TSA (Treasury Single Account) and I think government will not do this, but there are some peculiar funds in the university like the endowment funds which are monies kept and all the interest they generate, prices and so on are given.
“Government will exempt the endowment funds, but in universities, it is part of the peculiarities. I hope later on when I meet them today, there will be total agreement,” he said.
Also, the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said the council approved the award of a contract for the rehabilitation of the Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line and the completion of 12 railway stations in the country.
According to him, the contract was awarded to CCEC at the cost of $122.6 million, including all taxes and at the exchange rate of N305/$, with a completion period of 15 months.
He also said the council approved another memorandum from the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, for the interim construction of the narrow rail gauge system.
He said the second approval would aid the completion and full utilisation of the Lagos-Kano, Calabar-Maiduguri, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail lines from October this year.
He said the development “means that with effect from October this year, there will be new locomotives with about 17 wagons that will be in use; we’ll be able to move a million tonnes of our goods, and by this, preserve the lifespan of our roads”.
He also said the council approved the revised estimate cost for the construction of 1150MVA and 330, 132 KVA transformers for Birnin Kebbi and reinforcement of 330KVA sub-stations.
NANS Bemoans Strike
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has lamented that the strike embarked upon by ASUU would come with the attendant challenges and hardship to both university students and their parents.
The President of NANS, Mr. Chinonso Obasi, at a briefing in Abuja wednesday, said incessant strikes by ASUU translate to the distortion of learning and unnecessary delays and waste of time in the completion of courses of study.
Obasi also said the current strike poses a risk to the students who are forced to travel back and forth, amounts to a waste of scarce resources, adds pressure on the parents, and results in economic losses.
He called on the federal government to consider the monumental risk to the millions of idle and redundant young people by urgently addressing the lingering issues that led to the strike embarked upon by ASUU so that the students can return to school.
He said the NANS leadership was also questioning the imperative of the over N1 billion expended to develop the National Economic Recovery and Growth (NERG) plan that did not make provisions to address the critical challenges of Nigerian universities and its students.
“NANS is of the considered opinion that human capital development is an integral component of the nation’s economic development and growth and so excluding appropriate consideration for the sustainable development of the nation’s tertiary institutions in a strategic roadmap for building a prosperous future for the country, is not only an absurdity but an aberration that is grossly not acceptable,” he said.
According to Obasi, the NERG plan was purported to contain a holistic solution to the numerous challenges bedeviling the nation and designed to engender not only the recovery of the nation’s ailing economy but one that would move the country forward towards building a sustainable and prosperous future for the country with the youth at the center.
He emphasised that social inclusion and active participation of young people on issues that concerns them is a global trend, adding that Nigerian students and youths cannot continue to sit back and fold their arms while things go wrong.
He harped on the need for students and youths to become conversant with the NERG and how it directly impacts on their lives now and in the future and understand how they can actively participate in the implementation of the plan.