By Uche Amunike
As part of the resolutions reached at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Monday, in Abuja, the Federal Government has been given a 3-week ultimatum to implement the Memorandum of Action they signed with ASUU before the suspension of the last industrial action, in order to avoid making another ASUU strike imminent.
Speaking to newsmen, Monday, after their National Executive Council meeting held at the University of Abuja on the 13th and 14th November 2021, ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke stated that the government should be held responsible if they are pushed to carry out another strike action, stating that even though the union met with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige in October 2021 so discuss the major outstanding problems which include unpaid academic earned allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) promotion arrears, funding for the university’s revitalization, renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement inconsistencies in IPPIS payment, those challenges are still yet to be addressed by the government almost a year after both parties reached an accord.
The ultimatum therefore informs part of the resolutions that were reached at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Abuja on Monday, failure of keeping it, certainly likely to make the ASUU strike imminent.
Recall that in March 2020, ASUU embarked on a Nationwide strike, owing to its disagreement with the Federal government over the funding of the universities and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), among other problems. It introduced the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to replace IPPIS.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, because of this, called for a series of meetings with leaders of academic union and stakeholders in government, to see if they could reach a common ground and have the strike called off.
The strike eventually lasted for several months and the negotiations ended in a deadlock, but the government and ASUU eventually signed a Memorandum of Action in December 2020 during the strike.
As a result of this, the protracted industrial action which lasted for nine months was suspended. This was before the government offered a cumulative N65billion to the lecturers to address earned academic allowances and revitalization of universities.
Concerning the IPPIS tussle, the agreement reached by both parties on the UTAS was that University lecturers’ salary arrears will be paid by the government on a different platform.
However, this will only make another ASUU strike imminent as the academic union already warned that if the government failed to meet its end of the bargain reached with the universities, they will definitely strike.
Osodeke maintained that ASUU remained fully committed towards advancing academic integrity in universities and striving to make them globally competitive. He also assured of promoting industrial harmony in the Nigerian universities system if all stakeholders showed commitment and willingness in playing their parts.
Hear him, ‘We call on all Vice-Chancellors, as the main drivers of the system, to join us in this mission to safeguard the waning image of our universities. They have no business trading honorary degrees and academic positions for personal and immediate gains; thereby smearing the collective integrity of committed scholars and other patriots who are working day and night to uplift the system that produced them’.
He promised that ASUU will always take the fight to administrators of Nigerian universities and internal or external agents who are bent on compromising the standard that ASUU has continuously fought to protect and improve. He called on patriotic Nigerians to appeal to the federal and state governments to act quickly in order to prevent a situation that will make ASUU strike imminent.