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FG REACHES AGREEMENT WITH ASUU -MINISTER

By NBF News
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With just one day of its week-long strike, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) reached an agreement with the Federal Government yesterday to suspend the industrial action, which grounded activities on campuses.

Speaking on the development in Abuja yesterday, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chief Emeka Wogu disclosed that the government had reached an agreement with ASUU to suspend the strike.

Wogu told State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja that what was most important was the state of the nation.

He asked: 'Are we going to be able to take the challenges that will come with shutting the universities? The answer is 'no' and they (ASUU) believe that we should not go to that extent. Because when you go to that extent; that means that you will drive people home, the students will now go into the streets and we are complaining that most of our students are being involved in some unwholesome activities. So they promised that they will quickly look into it, and urged government to equally keep terms with the agreement'.

The minister said the meeting agreed 'that the implementation committee that has been in place since 2009 should be expanded to include the Minister of Finance or the representative of the Finance Minister, who is equally the coordinating minister of the economy. It will include the Minister of Labour and Productivity and the Budget Office.

'The committee will look at the issues contained in that 2009 agreement and the issues that have militated against the implementation of that agreement and come up with a position that will indicate the challenges of government or indicate the challenges being faced by ASUU.

'By the time we come up with it, we will be able to harmonize these issues and be able to come up with a proper position and brief Mr. President on this and we believe that if Mr. President is fully briefed, he will understand the issues at stake. The issues that were put out at the public domain, was that of implementation of 70 years of age but it is more than that', Wogu stated. He, however, refused to mention other issues.

'People should not panic because government has appealed to ASUU to suspend the strike because at this stage, the government has done a lot to make sure that we do not get to that stage. I believe that ASUU will listen to the pleas of government. It is plea that is coming from a party to the agreement and they also have made their own pleas. So it is a consolidation of pleas'.

He disclosed that both parties agreed that it will not be in the interest of the nation for the nation to witness another round of closure of the universities at this time in her academic history.

But the one-week warning strike, which began yesterday, crippled academic activities at both federal and state universities.

The National Executive Council (NEC) of ASUU, after its meeting at the University of Ibadan (UI), directed its members to down tool starting from yesterday, following the failure of the Federal Government to meet their demands.

Visits to the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Lagos State University (LASU) revealed that ASUU members complied with the directive as they stayed away from work.

The lecture halls were empty while some academic staff stayed away from their offices with only the non-academic on duty.

ASUU's demands include upward review of retirement age for Professors from 65 to 70, adequate funding to revitalize the university system from 2009 to 2011, progressive increase of budgetary allocations to education by 26 per cent, transfer of Federal Government property to universities, setting up of research and development units by companies, payment of earned allowances and renegotiation of the signed agreement.

Some of the branch chairmen of ASUU defended the industrial action, insisting that strike is the only language the government understands and that the last minute meeting (Thursday) with its national officers was to buy time.

The UNILAG ASUU chairman, Dr. Karo Ogbinaka, denied that its members conducted examinations yesterday, insisting the strike was total on the campus as faculty meetings were cancelled in compliance with the NEC order.

According to him, UNILAG's Distance Learning Institute (DLI) used non-academic staff to conduct its examination yesterday and that even though the students are on holiday, his members kept away from meetings.

His LASU counterpart, Dr. Jamiu Oluwatoki, said the strike has taken effect as the classrooms were empty, first semester examination postponed and other associated academic activities were affected even as he hoped that with the warning strike, the government would be forced to do something.

His words: 'It pains ASUU to go on strike, we believe government will do the right thing. With the warning strike, we expect government will do something. We will not be deceived by the last minute meeting in Abuja with our national leaders. We want to see concrete things done on our demands.

'Strike is the only language the government understands. We have a government that does not respect every agreement it entered with various unions. We interacted with our students and we explained to them why we are going on strike.

'In LASU, we have not been paid any arrears and it is just last month that the management agreed to pay something. Nigeria has the money to fund education, Asian and even other smaller African countries spend up to 30 per cent on the sector'

His counterpart at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, Dr. Ife Adewunmi, also disclosed on phone that the strike was total as ASUU members were observing the warning strike and would await further directive from NEC.

Romanus Okoye reports that Anambra State University chapter has joined the one-week warning strike to demand for better conditions of service.

A statement issued by Dr. Jaja Nwanegbo, the chapter's chairman, said that in 2009, the union took up another major battle to make the government sustains a strong system led to the signing of the FGN/ASUU agreement.

'The 2009 agreement provides a benchmark for the improvement of the standard of teaching and learning; the idea is to reposition the universities', he said.

He appealed to Nigerians to understand the union's position and help them get the Federal Government get it right for the sake of the university education and youths.

At the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) and the Imo State University (IMSU), VAL OKARA reports that the two institutions were grounded.

He reported that the two affected universities in the state quickly concluded their second semester examinations at the weekend before embarking on one-week warning strike.

In a chat with FUTO ASUU Chairman, Dr Reginald Ejimofor, he said that his colleagues complied with the directives to observe the warning strike, saying that after the expiration of the strike, the National Working Committee (NWC) would review the situation.

Daily Sun's visit to both universities revealed that only non-academic staff were on their duty posts.

ABDULLAHI SHUAIBU reports that academic and other activities were at a standstill at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi following the warning strike

Some students have already left the campus following the one-week warning strike.

Chairman, Keffi chapter of ASUU, Comrade Yahaya Abdullahi Adadu, said the approach was necessary because it was the only option available to members particularly that the agreement is already due for review in 2012.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Shamsudeen Amale, could not be reached for comments when Daily Sun visited as he was said to be attending a meeting with the university's officials over the strike.

From PAUL ORUDE came a report that the strike paralysed academic activities at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi.

When Daily Sun visited the main campus at Yelwa at about 2pm, the usually bubbling university was deserted, even as some lecturers were seen gisting.

Most offices were closed even as students, some of who were yet to resume for the academic session, lamented the development, pointing out that it was affecting the quality of their education and appealed to both government and ASUU to reach an agreement once and for all to save the system from collapsing.

The Chairman, ATBU chapter of ASUU, Dr Lawan Abubakar, said that the branch complied in totality with ASUU NEC decision.

He said that compilation of results, committee meetings and other major activities were cancelled.

He blamed the current warning strike on the Federal Government for failing to honour the demands signed with ASUU since November 2009.

Abubakar then called on the National Assembly to facilitate the passage of the bill that has to do with the agreement signed between the Federal Government and ASUU regarding funding of universities, the 70 years retirement age for professors cadre as a way to lasting peace in the universities.

GBENGA ADESUYI reports that the authorities of the University of Ibadan (UI) have postponed the ongoing second semester examination till October 4, 2011.

There are indications that the Non- Academic Staff Union (NASU) Senior Staff Association (SSANU) may join the strike on October 4, a situation which may force the students to stay at home longer than expected.

Daily Sun, which monitored the strike, observed that academic activities in about seven faculties were paralyzed as none of the exams originally scheduled to start yesterday could hold, making students to wander about the campus.

In most of the halls of residence like Mellanby Hall, Kuti Hall, Bello Hall and Tedder Hall, students were seen playing football, table tennis and volleyball.

Most of the graduating students, who are yet to finish their exams lamented that the strike, if it lasts longer than expected, may prevent them from graduating this session. They, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to see to the demands of their lecturers so that real academic work could commence.

The ASUU chapter Chairman, Dr Ademola Aremu, described the strike as being 100 per cent effective and total at the institution.

He added that all examinations have been cancelled and rescheduled till the end of the strike, while noting that the strike could have been averted if the Federal Government had shown readiness in the full implementation of the 2009 agreement reached with the union.

Tony Osauzo also reports that academic activities at the University of Benin (UNIBEN) and Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Edo State, were yesterday grounded as academic members of both institutions joined their counterparts in the one-week warning

At UNIBEN, lecture theatres were shut while students were seen playing around.

Some of the students who spoke on the strike described it as 'unnecessary', while the chapter chairman of ASUU, Dr. Anthony Monye-Emina, told newsmen that the strike was effective.

'All offices are under lock and key. We are satisfied that the strike is 100 percent compliance. We have an interaction with the student's union body,' he said.

At AAU, Chairman ASUU Benin zone, Dr. Sunday Ighalo, described the strike action as 'total and comprehensive.'