Forget Agreements, ASUU Strike 2013 Not Ending Soon!!

Asked when the lecturers would call off the strike, he said, “I doubt if the strike is ending soon. The problem is with the Finance Minister. Where is government getting N1trn from?

Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU have given the Federal Government certain conditions to be met before the union could call off its four-month old strike.

Part of this condition, is that all federal parastatals in charge of fund, labour, and education must sign the agreement purportedly reached between its leadership and the Federal Government on Tuesday.

A prominent member of the union, who craved anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the union, told our corespondent that doing this would give the association the confidence that “the Federal Government knows what it is doing when it signed the agreement.”

He said, “I must tell you that our mandate remains. The only mandate we have is that 2009 agreement must be met. We have not reached any agreement with the Federal Government.

“Since the Federal Government wants to be releasing N220bn every year for five years, then all monetary and regulatory agencies must sign. The Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministries of Finance and Labour, National Assembly, Office of the Presidency, National Universities Commission, Tertiary Education Trust Fund, Trade Union Congress and our umbrella body, the Nigeria Labour Congress, must sign with consequences stated.

“The reason we will ensure this is that we don’t want argument tomorrow that the agreement was entered in error or that they don’t know the implication of signing the agreement. If possible, documents that will provide for automatic deduction of the agreed money at a particular/agreed date must be provided.”

The leadership of the union had engaged in a 13-hour marathon meeting with government delegation led by President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja between Monday and Tuesday.

Though it was generally perceived that both ASUU and the Federal Government achieved breakthrough in negotiation for the first time after the lengthy meeting with the President, Saturday PUNCH learnt that the lecturers might not be in a hurry to go back to class.

Another source close to ASUU who was also part of the marathon meeting with the President in Abuja, said there was nothing new in what the President promised members of the union.

According to him, government had always failed in implementing agreements reached with ASUU. He said, “Truly the President sat down for more than 13 hours with us. He told us that we were not leaving the venue until the issues were resolved.

The Federal Government also promised to inject funds into the system, but a promissory note is not enough.

“Where would the money come from? There is no assurance that government will provide money especially with the mop-up policy in place that ensures that unspent money is refunded to government’s coffers at the end of every year.’’

Asked when the lecturers would call off the strike, he said, “I doubt if the strike is ending soon. The problem is with the Finance Minister. Where is government getting N1trn from?

A government that could not implement agreement between 2009 and 2013, what is the guarantee that they would honour this agreement.

“It is all politics. We are still awaiting directives from our branches. We have told them the outcome of the meeting with the President but we are waiting for them to tell us what they think of government’s proposal.

“Imagine the Minister of Education has travelled out of the country. He was appointed Vice President for UNESCO General Assembly. How can he travel out of the country without resolving the crisis in the education sector?’’

He said the Federal Government should spend the trillions of dollars in its Sovereign Wealth Fund to finance University education and improve infrastructure in the country.

The Director, Press and Public Relations of the Ministry of education, Mr. Olu Lipide, told one of our correspondents on Thursday that government was waiting for ASUU to take the necessary steps.

VNTI ASUU

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