3rd December, 2013
Barely twenty four hours to the expiration of the 4 December ultimatum Federal Government gave members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to resume classes or be sacked, the federal government this morning bowed to one of the demands of the lecturers by paying N200 billion into an account opened with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN.
Disclosing this on Channels Television programme ‘Sunrise Daily’ this morning, Dr. Doyin Okupe, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs confirmed that the N200b demanded by ASUU to be paid into an account with the CBN has been done. The amount is meant for renewal of infrastructure facilities in public universities in the country.
But ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Fage Isa, accused the government of being insincere in its dealing with the striking lecturers. He urged the government to respond to its letter demanding the fulfillment of some conditions for it to call off the strike.
Okupe said that from the government’s perspective, everything that needs to be done has been done and whether the strike would be called off or not now lies in the hands of the leadership of ASUU.
He said that most of the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, have been agreed upon at the 13-hour meeting they had with the President in October.
“At the end of that meeting, the Government proposed that everything that has been agreed should be put in a memorandum of agreement and that the two parties should sign, but the leadership of ASUU declined and said instead of that, they would rather have a letter of comfort expressing everything that has been resolved therein, and that will suffice for them.”
According to him, the Government agreed to their request and issued the said letter based on the agreement that the strike would be called off within 7 days. However, this did not happen “in spite of the fact that the ASUU leadership presented the letter of comfort to its chapters nationwide and a clear majority of them endorsed the resolutions reached and actually were more inclined towards calling off the strike.”
Dr. Okupe stressed that the attitude of the ASUU leadership showed that the seed of discord and evidence of bad faith already existed. “It is unfortunate that somebody died but notwithstanding, that cannot be a justification for delaying the implementation of an agreement for 21 or more days.
Reading from the ‘Letter of Comfort’ issued by the Federal Government in agreement with the leadership of ASUU, the government agreed that Nigerian universities must be revitalized for effective service delivery, all the provisions in the agreement and MoU for the revitalization shall be fully implemented as captured in the 2012 Needs Assessment and the Federal Government shall mobilize resource towards this goal.
“Based on this, it was also agreed that a sum of N1.3 trillion shall be made available to ASUU over the next six years starting from December 2013 with (the sum of) N200 billion. The FGN therefore request that the ASUU shall within 7 days call off its 4 month strike.”
Contrary to the Federal Government’s expectation that ASUU would call off the strike, ASUU in another document said that they “could not call off the strike because of certain uncertainties or gaps that are evident in the government’s report.”
Okupe asked fiercely, “what are these uncertainties? He accused ASUU of turning around to again state four new conditions for the strike to be called off. They demanded that the agreed N200 billion should be deposited in an account at the Central Bank within 2 weeks, while the negotiation of the 2009 agreement should be included in the final document.
The ASUU, according to Okupe also demanded that a non-victimization clause should be included as well as a new MoU signed by the Attorney-General.
Dismissing their requests, he said a demand for a memorandum is a waste of people’s time because this is ideally what should follow any agreement made between two parties in the first place, and that by International Labour Laws which Nigeria is guided by, no one is expected to be victimized for going on strike.
He also said that ASUU, asking that the MoU with Federal Government should be signed by the Attorney-General “does not make sense” because anyone of high standing in government can sign for it. He added that an account has already been opened for the N200 billion they are requesting for in the Central Bank.
Okupe added that the government has shown commitment by meeting with the leadership of ASUU, and agreeing to its demands, considering that previous governments did not give them such an opportunity to sit down and discuss. He called on ASUU to do the right thing for the benefit of the nation.
“The Government cannot be seen to be contesting with any sector of the economy or the country. This President is interested in moving Nigeria forward through a very well-articulated transformation agenda.”