Senate to intevene in ASUU strike, faults 2009 Agreement – Lawan
The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, yesterday assured that the Senate would intervene in the lingering dispute between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU) by bringing back the two parties to the negotiation table.
This is just as the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) has advised the federal government to immediately resolve all lingering issues with ASUU or be ready for any industrial action.
Lawan, made the promise to the officials of the National Association of Nigerian Students(NANS) who were led to his office by a concerned Methodist Bishop, Dr. Sunday Ndukwo Onuoha.
The NANS President, Sunday Asefon who spoke on behalf of his other colleagues lamented their continued stay at home and disruption of their academic programme and urged the Senate President to intervene in the dispute between the federal government and the university teachers.
Responding, the Senate President expressed unhappiness about the turn of events, recalling that the Senate had intervened in the past before everything broke down again.
He, however, promised that the Senate would wade in again and expressed optimism that the issues would soon be resolved.
“You are in the right place. We are going to intervene. We will make concerted and sustained efforts to bring back ASUU and the federal government to the negotiating table so that we are able to resolve as quickly as possible those issues that are now very knotty and have stopped our universities from reopening, that is now making our students walking the streets all over the country.
“But I want to appeal to you too, since we are going to make effort to bring back everybody back to the negotiating table, you should give us a chance to do that believing that we are going to find a solution because it is not only enough to bring them back to the negotiating table, but we will participate and I want to make sure that we find the solution when we start the negotiation again.
“Now that you have come here, we are going to make sure that everybody in this sector especially those in public sector who has responsibility and mandate perform their functions. We will make sure they do that.
“Because you have come, I think we also have some tonic enough in us. Time is of essence and we must do whatever is necessary to get this issue resolved,” the Senate president added.
Also responding to the threat by the students to disrupt political activities, Lawan appealed to them to continue in the path of consultation and avoid confrontation.
“I want to also advice, I don’t think it will be necessary to disrupt political activities. We shouldn’t do that and we don’t need to do that.
“What we need to do is to continue to follow the path of consultation, consolidation and avoid confrontation. It is when you emphasise consultation, it is much easier for us to find something that you can consolidate.
“Your prayer that you want the federal government and ASUU back to negotiate and resolve the issues. We have taken this prayer. We have endorsed it and we will work for it as quickly as possible.
“It is an opportunity for me also to appeal to ASUU to suspend this strike period because there is no way ASUU can negotiate with the Federal government when it is on strike.
“So it is an opportunity for us to have them, at least create a window, suspend the strike for a certain period and let us see how far we can go.
“I want to be very positive that we are going to resolve this issue as soon as possible by the Grace of God,” Lawan said.
The Senate President said the 2009 agreement which is the Crux of the matter was not properly thought out before it was signed.
“Somebody just wanted ASUU to go back to the classroom and just signed everything there. We must understand that there are things that when we promise we should do, we must do,” Lawan added.
An intervention by the Senate and a group, Vision Africa convinced the NANS to suspend the planned shutdown of Abuja during political parties’ primaries scheduled for the end of the month.
Asefon, had threatened to shut-down Abuja during the forthcoming political parties’ primaries.
However, the founder of Vision Africa and the Bishop, Methodist Diocese of Umuahia, intervened in the situation after considering the implications of the protest by the students who had been out of school for over three months.
The Bishop had during the series of meetings with the leadership of NANS, initiated a discussion with the leadership of the National Assembly which led to the suspension of the planned protest.
Onuoha went further to lead the leadership of the students to meet with the principal officers of the National Assembly.
Asefon said they had planned to shutdown Abuja, because the Minister of State for Education, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, “apparently don’t care about how they can resolve the ASUU and the federal government face-off.”
He added: “We decided that no political party will hold a primary in Abuja because the issue of the strike action embarked upon by ASUU for months has been neglected.
However, with the intervention of Vision Africa through Bishop Sunday Onuoha, we want ASUU and the federal government to go back to the negotiation table so that we can go back to school.
“The Senate has done it before, we are ready to allow for such an atmosphere,” Asefon said.
Meanwhile, the TUC and its affiliates have said they are unanimous on the return of students back to school, adding that government has no excuse whatsoever to further keep the students and their lecturers at home.
A statement signed by the President of TUC, Quadri Olaleye stated,” On behalf of the National Administrative Council of the TUC, we call on the federal government to immediately resolve all lingering issues with ASUU or be ready for any industrial action.”
Olaleye said the TUC was worried that a government that could raise money to feed children who were at home during the heat of Covid-19 cannot do same for the education sector now.
He said: “At this point, if the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige and Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu cannot resolve the issues at stake, they should quit.
“We strongly condemn the continued disruption of academic calendar in public institutions and the apathetic attitude of political office holders, who are busy buying nominations forms at N100 million while the economy is gasping for breath. They make politics expensive to disenfranchise Nigerians of conscience from the political space. The peak of the absurdity is that even serving politicians with no visible projects to their credit are also buying forms to be president!
“We wish to stress that the reason why politicians care less about the plight of Nigerians is because their children school and live abroad, what happens in Nigerian public universities is none of their business.”
TUC said the time had come for the organised labour and all well-meaning Nigerians to prevail on the federal government to honour the collective agreement reached with the university teachers.
It said the danger of keeping the students at home at a time the country was facing a serious security challenge was quite grave and unacceptable to us.
“Government must engage ASUU without further delay in constructive negotiations to find a lasting solution to their complaints now or get ready for a mass action,” it added.