February 19, 2024
ASUU strike: Buhari told us not to sign agreement govt cannot implement

ASUU strike: Buhari told us not to sign agreement govt cannot implement

Malam Adamu Adamu, Minister of Education, revealed on Tuesday that President Muhammadu Buhari warned the government team negotiating with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, against signing an agreement that the government would be unable to implement.

In his speech at the ongoing meeting of Pro-Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors of Federal Universities at the National Universities Commission, the minister stated that the meeting was convened at the request of the NUC because “certain misconceptions and misinformation in the public domain, regarding the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU,”

“Our interaction today is not only necessary; it is also urgent to clarify the misrepresentations and draw your attention to the facts that you, as Managers of our Universities, should be aware of by virtue of your assigned duties.” “It is one of your statutory duties to negotiate with your employees about their welfare and working conditions,” he said.

He recalled that the “current industrial action in our Public Universities began on February 14, 2022, when ASUU began a two-week warning strike over the failure to implement agreements reached between Government and the Union.”

“Our guide in everything we’ve done has been Mr President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive, namely, that while unions should be persuaded to return to work, the government should not repeat the past mistakes of agreeing to sign an agreement it won’t be able to implement.” “Government should not sow seeds for future disruptions under the guise of resolving current challenges,” he said.

“To further complicate matters, the three other university non-teaching staff unions – SSANU, NASU, and NAAT – also declared trade disputes against the Federal Government and began nationwide industrial actions a few weeks later,” he regretted. The NAAT began its strike on March 17, 2022, and the SSANU and NASU Joint Action Committee followed suit on March 27, 2022.”

“In response to union demands, the Federal Government reconstituted the FGN/University-based Unions 2009 Agreement Renegotiation Committee on March 7, 2022, with Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs as Chairman.” “The Committee was tasked with 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),” he explained.

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“While the Briggs Committee was busy interacting with the Unions on all issues, a Federal Government Inter-ministerial Team, led by 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 minister said in his speech. Most of these issues were resolved by the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning by the end of July 2022.

“On May 12, 2022, approximately three months into the strike, a high-powered Tripartite Plus Conciliation Meeting was held at State House Banquet Hall, at the request 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 raised during the meeting were classified as follows: ASUU’s University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) and the University’s Distinctive Personnel and Payroll System (U3PS) b. Delay in renegotiating 2009 agreements—service conditions, wages, and allowances.

It is worth noting that this special conciliation meeting was presided over by the President’s Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, and was attended by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), the Ministers of Labour, Education, and Finance, the Head of Service, and other top government officials. The Sultan of Sokoto, the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), and all other critical stakeholders, including the leadership of the four university-based unions, also attended the meeting (ASUU, NASU, SSANU and NAAT).

“The meeting had two major outcomes.” The first decision was to put to the 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 National Information Technology Development Agency planned to test the two solutions alongside the existing Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) (NITDA). As soon as the process is completed, the report of the Presidential Committee charged with harmonizing the three payment platforms for effective deployment in the system will be made public.

The second outcome of the meeting was agreement on the need to conclude the renegotiation process as soon as possible in a manner consistent with the realities of the national economy. This would necessitate the government carefully and critically examining and reviewing any draft agreement emanating from the Renegotiation Committee in order to ensure that the financial implications contained therein are sustainable in light of the current realities of the national economy. Soon after the Conciliatory Tripartite Meeting in May, the Nimi Briggs Team completed the re-negotiation with ASUU and produced a Draft Agreement, which was forwarded to the Federal Government for consideration and approval through the Honourable Minister of Education.

Similarly, re-negotiations with non-teaching staff unions had begun, and significant progress had been made toward producing the desired agreements for consideration and approval by their respective principals. Throughout the exercise, the FGN Team attempted to wade into the industrial crises between the FGN and the university-based unions in order to find a long-term and amicable solution to the challenges.

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“Following a series of meetings with His Excellency Mr President and the Ministers of Finance, Budget, and National Planning; Labour and Productivity; Communications and Digital Economy, as well as the DG of Budget and the Chairman, Salaries and Wages Commission, and Education, the Draft Agreement was critically reviewed, with the proposed salary increment deemed unrealistic and out of step with current national economic realities.”

“It was at this meeting that Mr. President approved that the Minister of Education take over the negotiation and resolution of the crisis,” he said of the government’s offer. Following the meeting, the Minister of Education communicated the Federal Government’s offer to the Nimi Briggs Renegotiation Committee as well as each of the four Unions.

“The offered package was centered on the four positions agreed upon by the government.” It goes like this: That the Federal Government can only afford a 23.5% salary increase for all categories of employees in Federal Universities, with the exception of the professorial cadre, which will receive a 35% raise; “That allowances for ad hoc duties of academic and non-academic staff shall be paid as and when due by the Governing Councils of Universities to which such services are rendered and to the staff who perform them;

That a sum of 150 billion Naira be included in the 2023 Budget as funds for the revitalization of Federal Universities, with the funds being distributed to the institutions in the first quarter of the year, and

“That in the 2023 Budget, a sum of 50 billion Naira be provided for the payment of outstanding areas of earned academic allowances, to be paid in the first quarter of the year.”

In separate letters to the Chairman of the Government Re-negotiating Team, the four university-based unions rejected the government’s offer, describing it as insufficient to meet their respective demands for addressing the challenges confronting the university system.

“Following the aforementioned development, I held several meetings with the individual striking University-based Unions, during which I explained how the current economic situation limits the government’s ability to meet all of their demands. On those occasions, I also urged the unions to consider and accept the government’s offer and end the ongoing strikes in the interests of the nation’s educational system. As a result, the NASU/SSANU and NAAT Joint Action Committee suspended their strike. Surprisingly, and fortunately, ASUU decided to extend its strike indefinitely on Monday, August 29, 2022. However, I want to state unequivocally that all is not lost: we have achieved success elsewhere.”

Vanguard

ASUU strike: Buhari told us not to sign agreement govt cannot implement

ASUU strike: Buhari told us not to sign agreement govt cannot implement

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