The Federal Government and the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council on Thursday failed to convince the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities to call off their industrial action during a meeting called by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Agboola Gambari, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
The meeting which was also co-chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, and the Christian Association of Nigeria’s president, Dr. Supo Ayokunle, could not persuade the ASUU leaders to return to the classrooms while negotiations were ongoing to meet their demands.
It was gathered that the FG and NIREC attempted to persuade the union to return to the classrooms during the closed-door technical session, promising that their demands would be met, but the ASUU leadership reportedly said the government had to meet part of their demands which they could use in convincing their members to call off the ongoing strike.
The meeting, which was held at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was attended by other registered trade unions in universities, as well as identified interest groups and civil society groups.
But providing an update on the meeting, Ngige said that the Federal Government had reached an agreement with the union, adding that certain timelines had been set and that specific parts of the agreements would be implemented from next week.
According to the minister, the issues of wage review and renegotiation of the 2009 agreement would be addressed soon.
He stated, “We have reached some agreements and we hope that by next week, those agreements will be maturing and the different unions will have something to tell their members, so that they can call off the strike.
“We have put some timelines for some aspects like renegotiation of 2009 agreement in terms of condition of service and wage review. So, we are hopeful that by next weekend, the unions will see a conclusion of that area.”
Speaking earlier, Gambari admonished the university-based unions to put the interest of students in focus, noting that resources are not finite.
ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osedeke, recalled that NIREC had earlier intervened in the issues last November, noting that the Sultan and CAN leader also met with the President, Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who set up a three-man committee which met with the union for the first time on Thursday.
He stated, “Why our people are worried is this: even when we had gone on strike for 12 weeks, that committee is meeting with us for the first time today. Suppose we didn’t go on strike, it’s going to take three years. That is the problem we are having in the system. I believe these problems can be resolved within three days if the will is there on both sides.”
ASUU had, on Monday, extended its roll-over strike which started on February 14 by another 12 weeks.
Its demands include the funding for the revitalisation of public universities, the Earned Academic Allowances, the University Transparency Accountability Solution and promotion arrears.
Others are the renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement and the inconsistency in Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System.