ASUU prescribes conditions for ending strike …lambasts FG for claiming inability to meet Union demands

By The Citizen

The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Dr. Nasir Fagge, on Thursday vowed that the union would continue its on-going strike until the union's demands were met by the Federal Government.

Fagge made the declaration while addressing journalists at the University of Lagos on the latest development on the strike.

He said, 'I wish to state clearly our position so far in the whole process of the negotiations with government since the strike commenced. We are currently calling on government to meet our demands as presented in the agreements we both signed in 2009 and then we can start talking about any other form of re-negotiation.

'A lot of people are asking us to shift grounds by accepting government's offer of N30bn and going back to class while we reach an agreement on when the next instalments will be paid.

'I do not see that as being acceptable to us for now because we had made that mistake before, whereby only the salary component of the agreement was singled out and so we cannot afford to make such a mistake again.

'I want to make it categorically clear that until this whole agreement is fully implemented, we are not going to call off this strike.'

The university lecturers have since June 30 embarked on what they described as a 'total, comprehensive and indefinite strike in public universities across the country.'

Members of the union had before now, been holding deliberations with representatives of government, headed by Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State on ways of resolving the strike.

Fagge explained that both the government and ASUU had presented their demands in 2006 and after three years of negotiations, the parties succeeded in reaching an agreement in 2009.

According to the ASUU president, agreements are not negotiable and that is why the union is insisting on the implementation of the agreements.

He said that members of the union were determined to prosecute the strike to its logical conclusion.

Fagge said that the implementation of the agreement was a cardinal issue that must be accomplished by the union as this would give the much needed impetus for transforming the country's ivory towers.

He noted that this would not only transform the universities but would equally make Nigeria visible on the global radar of development.

He stressed that the struggle was not just to re-position the education sector, particularly the university system, but to salvage the country.

He said that members of academia had taken it upon themselves to reposition the country, so that within the shortest possible time, Nigeria would find itself amongst the comity of nations that would be adjudged by the international community as developed.

Fagge, however, regretted that contrary to subsisting operational procedures, about 75 per cent of the fund meant for the revitalisation of the universities were not going to be released directly to the union.

He said that the Suswanm-led committee planned to hand it over to the National Universities Commission for implementation, saying that this was 'unacceptable'.

'Until and unless the Suswam committee gives the union a guarantee that it will not serve as another means of recycling TETFUND money or divert funds meant for universities, ASUU representatives will not continue to participate in the deliberation of the committee,' he said.

Meanwhile, ASUU Bauchi Zone, has described as unfortunate the statement credited to the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, that the amount needed to settle the entitlements of university lecturers was outrageous and could not be met by the government.

The union said the insinuation that the Federal Government could not meet the demands of ASUU was not only embarrassing, but also dangerous to the future of education in Nigeria.

The ASUU  Zonal Coordinator in Bauchi, Dr. Usman Abubakar, told journalists at a briefing in Bauchi on Thursday that the union was dismayed at the statement as it did not sound reconciliatory, which is what every stakeholder in the education sector need at this time.

The ASUU Bauchi zone comprised of eight Universities in the North-East zone, including Plateau State.

Abubakar said, 'ASUU Bauchi zone is dismayed at the uncoordinated and highly embarrassing statements credited to Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala that the Federal Government cannot meet the demands of ASUU which according to the Minister isN92 billion

'The Union views these pronouncements as a deliberate and calculated attempt to cheaply blackmail it and confuse the Nigerian public by a deliberate attempt to reduce the noble and patriotic cause that ASUU is struggling for to mere payment of allowances, allowances that are actually a debt on the Federal Government for the past four years and which are payable to all University staff.

'It has therefore become necessary for us to put the records straight and to educate the public on the implication of the minister's pronouncements on the future of education in Nigeria.'

Abubakar said that contrary to the minister's assertion that ASUU was demanding for N92b, the amount was a debt the governing owed both academic and non-academic staff of federal government-owned institution over a period of four years.

Meanwhile, members of the Ondo State branch of the University of Lagos Alumni Association on Thursday pleaded with the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities to resolve the current industrial action embarked upon by the lecturers in the interest of the students.

The ex-students noted that an early resolution of the strike in the ivory towers would save the students from indulging in negative acts.

Vice-Chairman of the association, Mr. Ola Akinmoladun, stated this at a news conference he addressed on behalf of his colleagues on the inauguration of the pioneer executive of the state branch of the Alumni Association slated for today (Friday).

Akinmoladun, who said the event would hold at the Owena Motel, Akure, added that there would also be a fund-raising of N1bn for the alumni secretariat.