The Academic Staff Union of Universities has said it will not suspend its ongoing strike until the four months salaries owed its members are paid.
The union also wants the immediate implementation of the N1.2tn offer by the Federal Government to public universities, starting with the release of N100bn this year. The balance of N1.1tn is to be spread over five years from 2014.
These were some of the resolutions reached by members of the National Executive Council of the union who converged on Kano on Friday to deliberate on whether to call off the over four- month-old industrial action or not.
A source, who was privy to the resolutions reached during the President Goodluck Jonathan – ASUU leadership meeting three weeks ago, told The PUNCH on Sunday, that the fresh demands were some of the issues to be tabled before Jonathan by the leadership during their next meeting. A date for the meeting is yet to be fixed.
According to the source, a strong commitment to two demands, among other pending issues, must be obtained from the President before the industrial action will be called off by the union.
He said, “The issue now is on trust and we do not want a situation where promises will not be kept. The authorities have failed us in the past and we do not want a repeat of that.
”That was why we decided at the NEC meeting that the government should pay us the arrears of salaries being owed us since we started the strike on July1 before the strike can be called off. The salaries should not be paid piecemeal.
“We also insist that the Federal Government should start the implementation of the offer made to us when we met the President some weeks ago.
“For instance, the N100bn he (Jonathan) agreed to inject into the university system in 2013 should be released to the universities immediately. So, we decided that before the strike could be called off, these two conditions and others must be met not by promises but by real action.”
The NEC members, who met behind closed doors at the Bayero University, Kano, were said to have reviewed the reports of the various university congresses on the strike.
Our source, who did not want his name in print, added that the death of a former National President of ASUU, Prof. Festus Iyayi, was discussed at the NEC meeting.
Iyayi, a University of Benin lecturer, died in an auto accident involving the convoy of the Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada and an ASUU vehicle, on his way to Kano for the meeting.The union’s National Welfare Officer, Dr. Ngozi Ilo, was injured.
Our source said the accident “almost led to the discontinuation of the ongoing negotiation with the Federal Government.
He added, “Some members expressed the belief that he (Iyayi) was killed by the government and therefore argued that the ongoing negotiation should be called off. Tempers rose but some members argued that the President should be respected because he had created the record of being the first Nigerian leader to meet with the leadership of ASUU on the issue of making the nation’s university system better. They also argued that students and parents should be considered.”
It was also learnt that after arguments for and against, about 60 per cent of the members of the NEC voted in favour of the discontinuation of the strike while the remaining 40 per cent voted no.
But it was gathered that the NEC members unanimously agreed that before the strike could be called off, the leadership should ask the government to pay the four-month salary arrears being owed university teachers while the offer made by the government should be implemented immediately.
A key component of the agreement reached by both ASUU and the Federal Government when the President led the government team was that government would inject N1.2tn into public universities.
The government also agreed that the N1.2tn would be domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria to show its commitment to the agreement.
The money is expected to be released on quarterly basis to the universities so that there won’t be any problem about implementing the deal.
The National Universities Commission and the Trade Union Congress will be the joint guarantors of the agreement while the Minister of Education will be the implementing officer. The government also agreed to revamp public universities by ensuring that all the issues that always lead to strike were dealt with once and for all.
A majority of the chapters of the union had agreed to the suspension of the strike following the fresh commitment the leadership of ASUU obtained from the government.
ASUU National President, Dr. Nassir Fagge, did not pick the several calls made to his telephone line by one of our correspondents on Sunday to confirm the fresh demands.
The University of Lagos chapter ASUU Chairman, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka, and his counterpart in the Lagos State University, Dr. Adekunle Idris, also refused to divulge information on the outcome of the NEC meeting.
ASUU had embarked on the strike to protest against the failure of the government to implement the agreement they signed in 2009.
The pact largely centered on better funding of the universities, a declaration of a state of emergency in tertiary education, better wages and payment of earned allowances to lecturers.
It had suspended the NEC meeting penultimate week following Iyayi’s death.