ASUU, FG Disagree Over Reasons Why Negotiations Broke Down

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Strike: FG Meets ASUU In Industrial Court

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government have both given conflicting accounts on why negotiations broke down during their last Tuesday’s meeting.

The New Diplomat had reported negotiations between ASUU and FG hit a stumbling block on Tuesday, a development which meant Nigerian students will remain at their house having spent over six months at home already.

Giving account of what transpired at the last Tuesday with the FG through the Prof. Nimi Briggs committee, ASUU said negotiations broke down because the committee presented “award of a Recommended Consolidated University Academic Salary Structure (CONUASS), prepared by the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission” to it.

ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said this in a statement on Thursday. He said the ‘award salary’ recommemded by FG was “against the principle of collective bargaining, based on the Wages Boards and Industrial Council’s Decree No 1 of 1973, the Trade Dispute Act (1976), ILO Conventions 49 (1948), 91(1950), 154 (1988) and recommendation 153 (1981), Udoji Commission Report of 1974, and Cookey Commission Report of 1981.”

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He stressed that the government’s surreptitious move to set aside the principle of collective bargaining, which is global in practice, has the potential of damaging lecturers’ psyche and destroying commitment to the university system.

Osodeke asked the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, to return to the New Draft Agreement of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Renegotiation Committee whose work spanned a total of five and half years as a demonstration of good faith.

The statement read, “The major reason given by the Federal Government for the miserly offer, paucity of revenue, is not tenable. This is because of several reasons chief of which is poor management of the economy. This has given rise to leakages in the revenue of governments at all levels.

“There is wasteful spending, misappropriation of funds, and outright stealing of our collective patrimony. ASUU believes that if the leakages in the management of the country’s resources are stopped, there will be more than enough to meet the nation’s revenue and expenditure targets without borrowing and plunging the country into a debt crisis as is the case now.

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“The Munzali Jibril-led renegotiation committee submitted the first Draft Agreement in May 2021 but the government’s official response did not come until about one year later! Again, Award presented by the Nimi Briggs-led Team came across in a manner of take-it-or-leave-it on a sheet of paper. No serious country in the world treats their scholars this way.

“Rejecting a salary package arrived at through collective bargaining is a repudiation of government’s pronouncements on reversing “brain drain”. It is common knowledge that, more now than in the 1980s and 1990s, Nigerian scholars, especially in scarce areas like science and medicine, are migrating in droves to Europe, America and many parts of Africa such as South Africa, Rwanda, and Ghana with supportive environment to ply their trades as well as competitive reward systems for intellectual efforts. Does the Nigerian government care about what becomes of public universities in another five or ten years if this trend continues?”

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Also, it stated that the New Draft Agreement has other major recommendations for the funding of major components of the renegotiated 2009 FGN/ ASUU Agreement, saying “one of such recommendations is the tax on cellphone and communication lines. Ironically, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning recently announced its readiness to implement ASUU’s recommendation, as a revenue source, but not for education, without acknowledging the Union!”

The statement stressed that at the commencement of the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ ASUU Agreement on 16th March 2017, both the Federal Government and ASUU teams agreed to be guided by the following principles as their terms of reference: “Reversal of the decay in the Nigerian University System, in order to reposition it for its responsibilities in national development; Reversal of the brain drain, not only by enhancing the remuneration of academic staff but also by disengaging them from the encumbrance of a unified civil service wage structure; Restoration of Nigerian Universities, through immediate, massive and sustained financial intervention; and Ensuring genuine university autonomy and academic freedom.”

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However, Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, while speaking during the Ministerial Media Briefing organized by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, said the insistence of ASUU that they must be paid six months’ salaries during the strike period is the reason the Tuesday’s talks broke down.

The minister explained that President Muhammadu Buhari had rejected it outrightly the arguments of ASUU and insisted on the “no-work-no-pay” policy.

Adamu also confirmed that five of the striking university-based unions will return to work within the next one week, whereas ASUU’s return remain uncertain.

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The minister explained: “The President never gave me any deadline. I promised that I could do it within the shortest possible time. And for your information, one week after that pledge, I had already finished my job because I had given all the six unions the offer made by the government, and I want to tell you, in principle, all of them accepted it. The only exception was ASUU that gave me two other conditions, which I told them would not be acceptable to the government.

“Let me seize the opportunity to commend ASUP (Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics). ASUP were on strike. But at the time I was given this (negotiation) responsibility, they were threatening to go back. So, I called ASUP and I made them withdraw the threat and they agreed.

“The next I met were the College of Education Academic Staff Union, they are on strike already. I gave them the offer and this is a final offer. And they accepted it. But you know the mechanism of acceptance, they will not just tell me, okay, the strike is called off. They have to go and tell their unions. And that is what is happening with NASU. I met NASU and SSANU. And they have accepted but they need time to go and tell the unions. The last group I met was NAAT.

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“So, I can tell you within the next one week, these five unions will call off the strike. But I cannot say the same for ASUU because what they’re asking is, they can accept this offer if the federal government will agree to pay the salary for the month they have not worked. And I told them the federal government will not. All contentious issues between the government and ASUU had been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of strike be paid, a demand that Buhari has flatly rejected.”

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