There seems to be no end in sight to the ongoing university lecturers’ strike, with the Federal Government saying yesterday that the 2009 agreement it signed with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) cannot be implemented.
The union went on strike early in the month over what it called the failure of the government to fully implement the agreement. It vowed not to go back to work, until the government implements the agreement. The government said the complexity of the agreement had been responsible for the continued breakdown of negotiations between the two parties.
Labour Minister Emeka Wogu stated this while briefing the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on the activities of his ministry. It was at the party’s national secretariat in Abuja. Wogu, however, said the government had entered into another round of talks with the varsity teachers, making some undisclosed offers to the teachers.
“We have made offer to ASUU. It is as complex as presented. Negotiation is ongoing. The National Assembly is equally involved. We believe they will soon call off the strike. I personally and passionately appeal to them to call off the strike. “It will not affect the negotiation, if they call off the strike. It is better for them to be inside than outside. Students have equally appealed to them.”
The minister added: “I inherited an agreement signed by the Federal Government with ASUU and that agreement is practically impossible for any administration to implement. We are still discussing with them. If I leave here, I am going to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) where we are meeting with them. I hope that very soon, we will resolve it.”
Wogu expressed the government’s reservations about the agreement it earlier signed with ASUU, which has necessitated the setting up of yet another negotiation team, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim. The nine-point agreement the government entered into with ASUU include: funding requirements for the revitalisation of Nigerian universities; Federal Government’s assistance to state universities; establishment of NUPEMCO; and progressive increase in annual budgetary allocation to the education sector to 26 per cent between 2009 and 2020.
Other components of the agreement are: payment of earned allowances; amendment to the pension/retirement age of academics non professorial cadre from 65 to 70 years; and reinstatement of prematurely dissolved Governing Councils. Also included in the agreement are: transfer of Federal Government’s landed property to the universities and setting up of research development councils and provision of research equipment to laboratories and classrooms in the nation’s universities.
On job creation efforts of the government, Wogu told the PDP leadership that the Community Service Scheme Women and Youth Empowerment Programme of the Subsidy Re-Investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) of the Federal Government had already engaged 120,000 persons out of the 185,000 targeted for employment this year. He said since social security is an evolving structure, Nigeria is still basically trying to grow the concept to an acceptable international standard. “We are at the stage of putting in place a social security policy that would reflect the nation’s needs and level of economic development, taking into consideration the traditional as well as the modern socio-cultural values and norms,” he said.
With the passing of the Employee Compensation Act in 2010, he said the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund was resuscitated and currently functioning, adding that it has the new mandate to provide social security services to the disadvantaged and vulnerable members of the society. Wogu said the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) was in the fore-front of job creation, especially in skills acquisition and empowerment of unemployed people.