Nigeria: We May Embark On Another Strike If… – ASUU

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has directed lecturers to resume duties with immediate effect, after suspending the eight-month industrial action, saying however that its demands had not been satisfactorily addressed.

ASUU’s National Executive Council (NEC) took the decision to suspend the industrial action during its overnight meeting that was concluded in the early hours of yesterday.

In a memo signed by the union’s president, Emmanuel Osodeke, it said some of its issues remained unresolved.

The Thursday meeting had reviewed developments since the union declared an indefinite strike action which started on February 14, 2022.

Osodeke listed some of the sticking points in the negotiations with the National Assembly and the federal government.

He said; “For the avoidance of doubt, the issues include funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, proliferation of public universities, visitation panels/release of white papers, university transparency and accountability solution (UTAS) as a broad spectrum software to stop illegality and provide for an alternative payment platform in the university system, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement.

“While appreciating the commendable efforts of the leadership of the House of Representatives and other patriotic Nigerians who waded into the matter, NEC noted with regret that the issues in dispute are yet to be satisfactorily addressed.”

“During the intervening period, the Minister of Labour and Employment, through a referral, approached the National Industrial Court (NIC) for the interpretation of “the provision of sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 & 18 (1) of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, whether the on-going prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities which started since 14th February, 2022 is legal even after statutory apprehension by the Minister of Labour and Employment?” In addition, he asked for an interlocutory order against the continuation of the strike.

“The National Industrial Court in its wisdom gave an order compelling ASUU to resume work pending the determination of the substantive suit. Given the nature of the order, and in the opinion of our counsel, there was the need to appeal the interlocutory injunction granted against our Union at the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal acknowledged the validity of the grounds of the Union’s appeal but still upheld the order of the lower court and ordered our Union to comply with the ruling of the lower court as condition precedent for the appeal to be heard.

“NEC noted the series of meetings with the leadership of the House of Representatives led by the Hon. Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as intervention efforts of other well-meaning Nigerians both within and outside government and the progress made so far.

“NEC deliberated on the recommendations of the Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila-led Committee within the framework of the FGN/ASUU’s Memorandum of Action(MoA) of 2020 on the contending issues that led to the strike action. For the avoidance of doubt, the issues include: Funding for Revitalisation of public universities, Earned Academic Allowances, Proliferation of public Universities, Visitation Panels/Release of White Papers, University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a broad spectrum software to stop illegality and provide for an alternative payment platform in the university system. Renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement.

“While appreciating the commendable efforts of the leadership of the House of Representatives and other patriotic Nigerians who waded into the matter, NEC noted with regrets that the issues in dispute are yet to be satisfactorily addressed.

“However, as a law-abiding Union and in deference to appeals by the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria. His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, and in recognition of the efforts of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, and other well meaning Nigerians, ASUU NEC resolved to suspend the strike action embarked upon on 14th February 2022. Consequently, all members of ASUU are hereby directed to resume all services hitherto withdrawn with effect from 12:01 on Friday, 14th October, 2022.”

Meanwhile, the executive secretary of Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), Architect Sonny Echono, has called for a new funding architecture for tertiary institutions to address the current issues.

ASUU’s National Executive Council (NEC) took the decision to suspend the industrial action during its overnight meeting that was rounded up in the early hours of Friday.

In a memo signed by the union’s president, Emmanuel Osodeke, the Union made it clear that some of its issues remain unresolved.

Until the suspension, announced overnight, ASUU had been on a nationwide strike since February 14 to press home its demands, including funding for the revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, implementation of the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and promotion arrears.

Reacting to the suspension of the strike, Echono said government alone can’t bear the burden of funding tertiary education.

“We need to rethink the whole idea of education funding to expand it to include all those grade levels in participation of all actors, universities working extremely hard to generate internal revenue, to attract access grants, to attract endowments and through the IGR, to work towards self sustaining.

“Government should grant them autonomy, government should take another look at its own policy. When you say free tuition in tertiary education what does that mean? Because somebody has to pay and government should not take up burdens it cannot meet

“So if you need to share those burdens government can limit its involvement to those who are vulnerable, very poor, the indigents or also encourage the very best, the most brilliant so that they can also excel and contribute to the country.

“But government must admit that it cannot bear the burden alone but collectively we should design a new funding architecture for tertiary institutions to address these issues.

“If you are able to harness the resources properly then you can pay lecturers promptly because nobody pretend that what they are earning now is satisfactory, it is not but you need to be able to generate revenue first because before you talk about the expenditure side and when you grant them the autonomy I’m sure the governing council should be in a position to look at the balance sheet,” he said.

Echono further said ASUU is a principal stakeholders in the activities of the Fund and the suspension of the strike will help the two parties to recommence engagement.

“On ASUU, the truth is that we have been waiting for them. We are one of the people that suffered most from the ASUU strike because they are very important partner in what we do. We like to get feedback from them.

“They have the right structure on each campus so we even involve them in the monitoring of our projects, similar to what we did in the ministry with our needs assessment which they’re were very pleased with.”

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