Government not saying anything new to end strike, ASUU President finally speaks

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Biodun Ogunyemi

The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Biodun Ogunyemi has disclosed that government was not saying anything new in its negotiations with university teachers who had been on strike since 4th November.

He said this late Tuesday evening on a Channels Television programme monitored by EduCeleb.com in Abuja.

Professor Ogunyemi also denied media reports that he and his colleagues walked out on Federal Government officials in their meeting on Monday, 17th December.

According to him, the meeting ended successfully but he saw no need to address journalists waiting outside the Ministry of Labour and Employment venue since there was nothing new to say.

“We did not walk out. It is just that government is not saying anything new,”

“We keep telling them that all we have been having in the last six weeks were promises.”

Shortly before the lastest in the series of five meetings with the union, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige had assured journalists that the strike was ending soon.

But the ASUU President said such a statement worried him and his members.

“In fact, we were worried when the honourable minister of labour and employment went to the public to say we would conclude discussions yesterday (Monday). We were disappointed because as at yesterday, there was nothing new on the table.”

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When asked about what could pacify the striking workers, he noted the need to implement all previous agreements reached with the union.

“It is not about pacification. It is about concrete demands. In September 2017, a Memorandum of Action (MOA) was signed. The essence of the memorandum of action is that for every item, there is a timeline.”

Issues keeping the strike on

The university don listed four “contending issues” with the government that had to be resolved before the strike may be called off. These are revitalisation, earned allowances, shortfall and the treatment of members in state universities. 

On revitalisation, he revealed that government was owing 1.1 trillion naira.

“Government is owing 1.1 trillion naira that we need to transform our universities and reposition them for reckoning and global competition,” he said.

This is in apparent reference to the 2013 agreement with universities that government was going to spend 1.3 trillion naira on what was widely known as the universities revitalisation funds.

EduCeleb.com recalls that the agreement reached under the Goodluck Jonathan administration required that government released the funds in tranches over the course of five years.

With 200 billion naira released for 2013, the government had agreed to release 220 billion naira for each year against the following four years that would have elapsed in 2018.

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Another issue raised was on earned academic allowances, which government was yet to pay fully. 

“The report of the forensic audit is out and what was in the MOA was that government would pay the balance once the audit was carried out. It has been carried out and the report has been done.”

“The third issue is shortfall. We have submitted the list of universities that are having shortfall and government has taken it from us. The list is with them and we expect them to tell us when they will pay the arrears of shortfalls that they owe our people.”

Last on the list was ASUU’s worries about how governors manage their universities with regards to remuneration. He said “goverment promised to establish a platform but that is yet to emerge.”

No concessions without action

Ogunyemi emphasised that all the four issues were of importance to the union and reaching a concession is dependent on what government brings to the table as action.

“All the four areas are important. What we have told government is that if they cannot give 1.1 trillion that we need to transform our universities, government can tell us.

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“There are five tranches involved. Are they going to release two tranches? Are they going to release three? And government said it would look into the number of tranches it could release.

“We are waiting for the outcome of that. When they do that, we would know that the issue of revitalisation has been addressed.” 

“The total amount owed for earned academic allowances has been calculated. Government would have tell us what they can pay now.

Regarding the issue of shortfall, he said “government has to pay workers who are owed salaries.”

For the relationship with state governments, he called for concerted efforts on creating a platform to interact with states on that regard.

“It is about our universities. It is about establishing a platform so that we can interface with state governors on what they are doing wrongly in the management of state universities.”

He ended up saying that government had not clearly stated which amount it could pay. Thus, the strike may continue until government declares its specific action towards the union’s demands.

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