Politics: Gbajabiamila raises hope on end to Fed Govt/ASUU face-off Daily Parrot

By Nicholas Kalu, Adebisi Onanuga, Yinka Adeniran, and AbdulGafar Alabelewe

House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila yesterday raised hope that the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would soon be over.

Gbajabiamila gave the hint after meeting behind closed doors with ASUU leadership and Minister of State for Education Goodluck Oppiah in Abuja.

Before the closed-door session, the Speaker urged the Federal Government and ASUU to make concessions on the contentious issues that have prolonged the strike.

The issues in contention are the non-implementation of a Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed in December 2020 on funding for the revitalisation of the public universities; non-payment of

Earned Academic Allowances of lecturers; non-renegotiation of a 2009 agreement and government’s refusal to deploy the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a platform for payment of ASUU members’ wages.

The government had on September 8 dragged ASUU to the National Industrial Court (NiC), Abuja, over the strike, which began on February 14.

In the suit, government asked the court to direct the union members to return to the classrooms. It also asked NiC to determine whether it was right or wrong for ASUU to insist on payment of its members’ salaries for the period they have been off duty.

ASUU counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), has, however, asked government to withdraw the matter, which comes up for ruling today.

After his meeting with the ASUU team, led by Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, and Minister Oppiah, the Speaker said the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA); Accountant-General of the Federation, Aghughu Arhotomhenla; Acting Auditor–General of the Federation Sylva Okolieaboh and the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission would appear before the House tomorrow over the matter.

He said: “We have been here for hours now, deliberating on issues regarding the ongoing ASUU strike. We have covered good ground. Let me just put it that way we have made very good progress.

“As I said earlier, ours is to interface directly with ASUU as an independent arm of government to find out exactly the details and how solutions can be offered like they said two heads are better than one.

Read Also; ASUU strike: NANS protest paralyses activities at Lagos Airport

“Now that the legislature has come in, we are very hopeful based on our deliberations in the last four or five hours that there is light at the end of the tunnel. So, I thank them once again for making this time out in the interest of our students.

“There are principally seven areas where ASUU has presented what we consider to be the requisitions for them to go back to class. We have looked at those areas and we have more or less agreed on certain things.

“We have asked that NITDA, Accountant-General and Auditor General, and the Wages and Salaries Commission would be invited. Unfortunately, it’s too late to invite them tomorrow (today)  because the letters can only go out tomorrow. They will be invited to meet with the leadership on Thursday so that we can dot the “I”s and cross the “T”s.

“Once that is done, the leadership of this House will await the return of Mr. President (Muhammadu Buhari) from the ongoing United Nations General Assembly and we will meet him and lay before him the agreement made by this arm of government.

“We are hopeful and believe that Mr. President will buy into the agreement and with that, I believe this matter will be speedily brought to a close.

“In the meantime, between now and when Mr. President comes, ASUU itself will go back to its members with the resolutions we have come to today(yesterday) to get their buy-in.

“And I don’t believe there is an issue or a problem from what we discussed. I hope and pray there will not be a problem. Once that is done, I believe we will be good to go. And we will bring this sorry situation to an end.”

ASUU President Osodeke thanked the Speaker and members of the House for their intervention.

He said: “I think it’s a good development, I believe that in the near future, this issue will be resolved.”

Gbajabiamila had suggested a “give and take” approach by the two parties to end the strike.

Osodeke also warned that it would not bode well for students, if the courts forced members of the union to return to the classrooms.

But in Oyo State, University of Ibadan Chairman of ASUU Ayoola Akinwole accused some ministers of feeding the people with lies about the  strike.

Akinwole expressed doubts that the House meeting with the union leadership would yield positive results.

He recalled that ASUU wrote the House of Representatives and Senate in September and October 2021, but there was no fruitful intervention before the strike commenced.

Warning that ASUU would not allow itself to be taken for a ride again, the chairman said government was not a monster that could not be challenged.

Government, according to him, should fund universities to stop capital flight, and sign new agreements that can retain the best brains in Nigeria.

Also, yesterday Falana  accused the Minister of Labour and Employment,   Chris Ngige, of disregard for the industrial court.

He asked Ngige to withdraw the case in which he (Ngige) “arrogantly asked the court to issue an order directing ASUU members to resume work.”

The lawyer said the application by the government was argued on Monday before presiding Justice Polycap Hamman adjourned the case to today for ruling.

Falana argued that in “utter disregard” for the court,   Ngige took advantage of an event in Abuja the same Monday to conduct his own proceedings on the pending case.

Kaduna govt to NANS: Don’t barricade road

The Kaduna State Government has warned against the barricading of the Kaduna-Abuja highway by students.

In a statement by its Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Samuel Aruwan, the government said the move to block the highway was unacceptable.

He said: “The Kaduna State Government wishes to remind members of the general public that any move to block the Kaduna-Abuja Road (or a2ny routes) in order to express dissatisfaction, is unacceptable and a prelude to a breakdown of law and order.”

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