After nine months of prosecuting an industrial dispute with the Federal Government amidst controversies and negotiations, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), yesterday, suspended its strike, signalling that academic activities in the nation’s ivory towers will resume soon.
President of ASUU, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who announced the suspension of the action in Abuja, said the suspension of strike takes effect from midnight of Wednesday, December 23.
According to Ogunyemi, the decision to suspend the strike was reached at a meeting of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the union after considering reports from its National Secretariat and various branches.
“After diligent and careful appraisal of the various reports, especially the agreements reached by ASUU with the Federal Government of Nigeria on 22nd December, 2020, NEC resolved as follows: “To accept the agreements reached between ASUU and the Federal Government on the 22nd December 2020, to consciously and diligently monitor the implementation of the FGN-ASUU Agreements of 22nd December 2020 in all branches.
“To ensure that no ASUU member suffers any loss of deserved benefits as a result of participation in the strike, to pursue fervently the areas in the FGN-ASUU Agreement on 2009 and the MoA 2013 that require legislation such as the mainstreaming of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) into the annual budget and the amendment of the Executive Bill in respect of the National Universities Commission (NUC) Act, 2004.
“Finally, NEC resolved to conditionally suspend the strike action embarked upon on 23rd March, 2020, with effect from 12:01a.m. on Thursday, 24th December 2020,” he said.
Ogunyemi maintained that ASUU was willing to return to the classrooms and laboratories to rekindle the motivation and aspiration of its members and to encourage their students to excel. He urged parents to take prime interest in their children’s welfare, learning, better funding, better laboratories and free development to enable them be at par and compete with their counterparts globally.
The union leader, who threw more light on ASUU’s insistence on implementation of the 2009 Agreement entered with government, noted that the objectives of the agreement were found to have been made even more potent by findings of the Federal Government Committee on the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Universities in 2012.
He stressed that the agreement, when implemented, would “reverse the decay in the Nigerian University System (NUS) in order to reposition it for greater responsibilities in national development.”
In addition, he said, the agreement, if implemented, will reverse the brain drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff, but also by disengaging them from the encumbrances of a unified civil service wage structure and restore Nigerian universities through immediate massive and sustained financial intervention. Ogunyemi said the agreement will also ensure genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.
The union, he said, had great expectations from the Federal and State Governments, adding that ASUU will continue to demand the implementation of all signed agreements, immediate release and mainstreaming of the Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) into the annual budget using the agreed formula and engagement of universities and other research centres in the fight against Coronavirus (COVID-19).
Other expectations include expediting action on the test processes to ensure deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), conclusion of the renegotiation within the agreed time frame and to honour the common position that no ASUU member would be victimised for roles played in the industrial action.
New Telegraph recalls that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, had, shortly before going into a closed door meeting with ASUU yesterday, assured that the strike would be called off soonest, disclosing that 98 per cent of the union’s demands had been met at that time.
Meanwhile, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has commended the Federal Government and ASUU, for reaching an agreement to end the union’s nine-monthold strike.
National President of NANS, Mr. Sunday Asefon, called for the involvement of the students’ body in future negotiations. Asefon stated that students’ involvement in future negotiations between the Federal Government and ASUU would bring a sense of urgency to the table during such negotiations.
The national president said students’ involvement would also compel government and ASUU to understand the need for prompt settlement of disputes.
“I welcome this development with nostalgia. I feel very concerned that our students had to stay for nine months at home before the FG and ASUU could resolve this impasse.
“At the same time, I feel elated that the ugly days are finally over for the Nigerian students, and we can all return to our different campuses. “Going forward, government and ASUU must find a progressive ground and alternative conflict resolution process in resolving their differences on labour actions.
“Students who seek education must not be allowed to bear the brunt of labour related issues.
“Never again should we have a repeat of this strike and stakeholders must make commitment to ensure that this ugly scenario does not repeat itself. “Government must be committed to fulfilling its agreement with ASUU at all times, while ASUU must be wary to go on strike.
“ASUU must seek to exhaust every window of alternative dispute resolution before deciding on strike,” he said. Asefon pledged the association’s commitment to do everything possible, to ensure that the nine-month strike would be the last in the country’s tertiary education sector.
Meanwhile, some students have also reacted to the development ahead of its final resolution.
Miss Eneh Edoh, a 300-level student of the Benue University, commended the efforts of both parties, saying that this had shown that government had the interest of Nigerian youths at heart.
“The nine months strike has been a long one and I have been waiting for this day for a very long time. “I was shocked when I heard the news this morning, because it was like this day would never come. “I had similar hope before, but it got shattered because I never believed it would last this long. “Now I am happy that very soon,
I will again be in the classroom. Now, I also know that government has the interest of young adults and students in mind.” Miss Favour Rotimi, a student of Mass Communication,
Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, noted that some of her friends in private universities that gained admission same time with her were now in their second year of study.
Similarly, Mr. Ayomide Adeyemi, a 200-level student of Political Science, Federal University, Maiduguri, praised government and the leadership of ASUU for reaching a compromise to end the strike. Adeyemi, however, pleaded with the labour union to always put the interest of the students at heart, to forestall future recurrence