Contrary to expectations that the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will be called off soon, following a widely reported agreement between the union and the Federal Government on Tuesday, the union has said the strike would not be called off until all the offers made to it at the meeting are fully implemented.
As reported by Punch, National President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who spoke to the medium in an interview on Thursday in Lagos, members of the union said they want to see evidence of satisfactory implementation of all they have proposed before the strike can be called off, stressing that the federal government promised to release funds for the revitalisation of public universities last year, which was one of the demands of the union, but failed to do so.
“Last year, they promised to release the fund but they did not till November when the strike began. Long story short, our members are saying they do not want promises again, what they want is action, implementation or disbursement of funds. The government must act in a way to convince the union that agreement has not been set aside; to show that government has not set aside the agreement, they should release one tranche,” he said.
Explaining that the team of the union which met with the government on Tuesday did not reach any agreement with the Federal Government, Ogunyemi said:
“As for the proposal, it can be dis-aggregated. There are items there that require implementation. If they are setting up a committee on state universities, and they actually do, it is not something we need to agree on. It is about action.
“If they have implemented it, it is off the list. If the government says it will pay a shortfall of salaries on a certain date, and the date comes and they release the money, it is also implementation. There is no agreement on the matter.
“On the revitalisation fund, we presented to the government that five tranches of N220bn each were outstanding. The government has not said it will release one, even if it is spread over a period of one year. There is no agreement on that. What they are offering is not even up to one tranche.
According to the union president, in order to forestall a situation ASUU and the government would restart negotiations on arrears of earned academic allowances, both sides agreed that “it would be mainstreamed into the 2019 budget,” an agreement he said the government failed to honour.
“We are going to have a discussion on when to commence renegotiation because there are still grey areas. If the government can substantially address these issues, we will be more confident to face our members on the way forward. For now, the feeler we are getting is that our members do not actually want to accept this government proposal from us.
“They said they would pay the shortfall of salary arrears of what was removed from workers’ salaries. There are 20 universities identified. The money will be available by January 18. It is around the corner and we will see if it will come,” he added.
The leadership of the union is expected to return to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige with the outcome of its National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting over the offers made by government to the union on Friday.
Expectations remain high however especially among Nigerian students and their parents that the strike which started on November 4 will be called off soon.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.