The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke has wondered what manner of teaching the lecturers will give to students if they were forced by the courts to go back to the work against their will.
It will be ASUU has been on strike since February this year on the failure of government to implement agreement it entered with them, one of which was to improve the infrastructure on campuses.
Tired of the situation, the government took ASUU to court.
In a bid to resolve the impasse, the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila called for a tripartite meeting of ASUU, the government and the House leadership on Tuesday.
In attendance were the ASUU president and members of his executive, as well as the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Oppiah.
The meeting which began by 3pm later went into a closed door session.
However, before the closed, the Speaker had appealed to both ASUU and the government to shift grounds for the students to return to the classrooms.
He said: “We are here to see how we can close this dark chapter in our nation’s history. There is need for both sides to shift grounds by the Federal Government and ASUU. It should not be about my way or the highway. It should be about give and take. We have to seek to come to a resolution at the end of the day. We have to take a significant step towards achieving that. Both sides must shift grounds if we are interested in our education system,” he said.
In his presentation, the minister lauded the House leadership for their intervention.
He said that government had tired to placate ASUU to no avail.
“Indeed, the strike has been of concern to all stakeholders in the education sector especially with the ministry of education. The minister of education, Mallam Adamu Adamu who is unavoidably absent, Mr. Speaker, like you said, he is before the UN Education Summit in New York. We have all been very worried to tackle this matter, met with ASUU, did all manner of thinking and consultations that we thought would have been able to resolve this matter by now. But there is no solution so far.
“So, we appreciate this invitation and your intervention. Mr. Speaker, I think by way of information, I wish to let Mr. Speaker and the House know that about a week today ago, Mr. President granted audience to a committee of pro-chancellors of Nigerian universities who also took similar steps and Mr. President listened to both sides and resolved to make further consultation after which he will also come up with a final government stand on the issue. So, Mr. Speaker, this step is not out of place at all. It will rather add to the steps already being taken with the intention of finding quicker solution to the issue”, he said.
On this part, the ASUU President, Osodeke said that the government was shying away from addressing the real issues.
According to him, they have not been formally called to meeting to discuss the issue since the strike began.
He cautioned against forcing lecturers back to work against their will, using the instrumentality of the courts, saying that doing so would have its negative impact on the quality of service offered.
“I want to start by saying that how to resolve all the problems we have in this country is not to look at the symptoms of the problem but the real issues. We look at strike as the problem. But it’s just a symptom of the problem in the system. No body will go round our universities today and say that our universities are good whether It’s federal or state. This is the 7th month this strike is on. We have never been called to a formal meeting by the minister of education. No formal meeting. No one. We were only called to a meeting twice by the minister of labour, 27 of February and March 1. Between then and now, we have not been called to a formal meeting. I used the word “formal”.
“I challenge the Minister of education to show that he had called for any formal meeting. I can assure you that in the next 10 years, our public universities will be like public primary and secondary schools. We are meeting with the ministry of education and the committee of pro chancellors and vice chancellors and others. As we are doing this, the same ministry of labour ran to court.
“If the courts force the lecturers to go work tomorrow, which type of teaching will they do? If the courts force the Nigerian academics to go and teach against their will, just a like a court forcing a doctor to treat a patient against his will, how many of us will go to that doctor?” He queried.
The closed door meeting however ended at 7:50pm when Journalists were called in.
Briefing the press, the Speaker, Gbajabiamila said they have reached a truce.
He however said there will more meetings with the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, the accountant general and auditor general of the federation.
Gbajabiamila also said that they would wait for the return of President Muhammadu Buhari from the United Nations General Assembly, UNGA to convey their resolutions with ASUU, hoping he would buy into it to resolve the matter.
He said: “We have been here for hours now, deliberating on issues regarding the ongoing ASUU strike. We have covered a good ground. Let me just put it that way and we have made very good progress. Like I said earlier, ours is to interface directly with ASUU as an independent arm of government to find out exactly the details and how solutions can be offered like they said two heads are better than.
“Now that the legislative has come in, we are very hopeful based on our deliberations in the last 5 hours that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So, I thank them once again for making this time out in interest of our students.
“There are principally seven areas where ASUU has presented what we consider to be the requisitions for them to go back to class. We have looked at those areas and we have more or less agreed on certain things in pursuant it finalize what the meeting of our minds, we have asked that NITDA, Accountant-general and auditor general and the Wages and Salaries Commission would be invited. Unfortunately, it’s too late to invite them tomorrow because the letters can only go out tomorrow. They will be invited to meet with the leadership on Thursday so that we can dot the ‘i” and cross the ‘t”. Once that is done, the leadership of this House will await the return of Mr. President from the ongoing general assembly and we will meet Mr. President and lay before him the agreement made by this arm of government.
“And we are hopeful and believe that Mr. President will buy into the agreement and with that, I believe this matter will be speedily brought to a close. In the meantime, between and when Mr. President comes, ASUU itself will go back to its members with the resolutions we have come to today to get their buy-in. And I don’t believe there is an issue or a problem from what we discussed. I hope and pray there will not be a problem. Once that is done, I believe we will be good to go. And we will bring this sorry situation to an end.
“I did want to go into the details. They are not necessary at this time. What is most important is that at the end of the day, hopefully, we conclude on what we agreed on today”.
On his part, the ASUU President, Osodeke said ” I also want to thank the Speaker and members of the House for this intervention. I think it’s a good development and we are waiting for what they will send to us that can make our members wait. I believe that in the near future, this issue will be resolved.”