President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday issued a two weeks ultimatum to the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu to resolve the lingering industrial crisis that have shut the country’s tertiary institutions for almost five months.
The President gave the directive at the State House after being briefed by relevant government Ministries, Agencies and Departments involved in resolving the face-off with the university unions.
The University-based unions include Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
President Buhari after being briefed by the relevant government Ministries, Agencies and Departments involved in resolving the face-off with the university unions gave Adamu two weeks to address the situation and report back to him.
Recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, had proceeded on one month warning strike on February 14, and other unions also withdrew their services after that as a result of the alleged inability of the federal government to meet up with their demands.
President Buhari summoned the Tuesday meeting to receive briefing from the government team on while the strike has lingered for too long.
Sources at the meeting also said that President Buhari directed that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige must be in any of the meetings to resolve the crisis.
The sources further said that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Mr. Boss Mustapha should be part of the team to interface with the striking unions.
One of the sources said that the President commended Ngige in his efforts so far to resolve the face-off.
Those at the meeting were the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu, the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige, the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan, the Chairman of National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta, the Director-General Budget Office, Ben Akabueze.
Meanwhile, ASUU has said that the biased postures of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, who is the “chief conciliator” has been the brain behind the prolonged strike in the Nigerian universities.
Addressing journalists in Abuja late Tuesday, ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, accused Ngige for continuously creating more chaos in the resolution process.
Osodeke said the Union will never suspend strike until the right thing is done so as to put a permanent end to the industrial crisis in the university system.
Some of the demands of ASUU includes the government’s investment in the nation’s university infrastructure, and payment of members’ salaries through the recommended University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), among several others.
“ASUU therefore makes bold to say that the Minister of Labour and Employment has taken upon himself the role of unabashed protagonist in our ongoing dispute with the government of Nigeria for some inexplicable reasons.
“Dr Ngige earlier told whoever cared to listen that he was not the employer of university academics and advised the union to march to the Ministry of Education. Nigerians may wish to know why he has suddenly turned around to constitute himself into impediment to an amicable resolution of the ongoing crisis.”
The Union said it remains focused on its goal of making the Nigerian University system internationally competitive and getting its products to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their peers in any part of the world.
“We appreciate the teeming Nigerians for identifying with our vision in this respect. We specifically acknowledge the support and sacrifices of our students (including our members who are running their postgraduate programmes) as well as their parents; they are our critical partners in this transformation project. We in ASUU shall do our utmost best not to let you down.
“ASUU appreciates your concerns and sympathetic support. We are as bothered as you are because we share a common interest in the Nigeria project. However, ASUU shall continue to be guided by the sacred canons of integrity, objectivity, and responsibility to which both academics and media practitioners subscribe.
“It is our fervent hope and desire that the current groundswell of interests would culminate in a convergence of solutions to this avoidable crisis in the overall interest of Nigeria Together, we shall win. The struggle continues,” he said.
Speaking further, Osodeke said if Ngige means well as a “conciliator, he won’t be putting roadblocks on the path to completing a process that has dragged for more than five years.
“The Ministry of Labour and Employment, as the chief labour ministry of the country, is principally expected to apprehend disputes between employers and employees with a view to settling such disputes.
“The Ministry shall normally await reports of disputes by either side to the disputes for settlement. When the Minister apprehends a dispute, he/she must communicate to the parties or their representatives, his or her own proposal for the resolution of the dispute.
“However, ASUU has always had serious reservations about the claim of “conciliation” by someone who has taken sides in the dispute, or by unabashed protagonist in the crisis such as the current Minister of Labour and Employment. It is antithetical to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions (98, 151 & 154) on collective bargaining.