PARENTS and students in public universities who have been at home for six months following the ongoing strike by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, are keeping their ears wide open to hear the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting between the union and the federal government team which held at a secret location in Abuja.
Contrary to practice, whereby the two sides usually meet in either the Federal Ministry of Education office or the National Universities Commission, NUC, Complex, the meeting was taken to another venue to avoid the prying eyes of journalists and others interested in the matter.
Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, led the government team that also included officials of the Ministry of Finance, Salaries and Wages Commission, members of the Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee set up to renegotiate the 2009 Agreement between the two parties among others.
Efforts by our reporter to trace the venue where the two parties are meeting, proved futile as at the time of filing this report.
The meeting was at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, and meant to address major demands of ASUU, among which include the adoption of the Universities Transparency Accountability System, UTAS, as the payment system in universities, payment of Earned Academic Allowance, and the salaries of the striking lecturers which have been stopped since March 2022.
The meeting is expected to put an end to the incessant strike affecting public universities as well as reposition universities in Nigeria.
ASUU National President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, giving hint on the meeting earlier, on Tuesday, had promised that his union would call off the strike if certain demands were met
He said already the renegotiation committee had reached an agreement with the government to adopt the UTAS as the payment platform of lecturers and suspend the strike.
Osodeke said ASUU would suspend the strike if the federal government agrees to its demands at the meeting.
“We have not had any serious communication though they have invited us for a meeting on one issue on Tuesday, which is the issue of renegotiation. You know that there are seven issues why we are on strike. They are inviting us for discussion on the issue of renegotiation.”
However, even if the union and the government are able to reach an accord at the meeting, unless the national leadership of ASUU calls for an emergency National Executive Council, NEC, meeting, the strike might still drag till the end of August.
At its last NEC meeting in Abuja, the union extended its strike by four weeks for a possible review and that terminates on August 29. It is only the NEC of the union that can call for a strike or suspend same.
Recall that the public university lecturers have been on strike since February 14 over the government’s failure to implement its demands on salaries and allowances of lecturers, improved funding for universities as well as the adoption of UTAS against the federal government’s preferred payment platform — Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS.
Several pleas by prominent Nigerians including President Buhari to ASUU to allow students return to class, have yielded no positive response.
The ASUU president who accused the government of not being sincere in the renegotiation, however, said the “issues of IPPIS and UTAS have been put to rest.”
He said the test on UTAS had been done and it was agreed with the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, that UTAS would be implemented to cover the university system.
Meanwhile, the government’s team is also scheduled to meet other staff unions in the university system.
This Friday, the leadership of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, is to meet with the FG team, while National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, and the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU, would late have their dates later. The non-academic staff unions are also on strike.