Gbajabiamila begs ASUU, lecturers vow to continue strike
The House Representatives on Thursday met with officials of the Federal Government and leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities over the ongoing two-week warning strike by ASUU.
The National President, Prof. Abiodun Ogunyemi, however, insisted that the strike would continue until the state chapters of the union agreed to accept the pleas by the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, who led the leadership of the House to the meeting held at his office in Abuja on Thursday.
Ogunyemi said he would get back to the Speaker “early next week.”
The House had on Tuesday resolved to intervene in the crisis over the government’s failure to implement the agreements it reached with university lecturers in 2019.
The leadership of the House had consequently scheduled a meeting with the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu; Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige; and ASUU.
Gbajabiamila expressed concern that the strike by ASUU had dire consequences that could only be imagined, stating that students should not be allowed to face disruption in their academic pursuits.
Gbajabiamila, who suggested that the House should be part of the scheduled meeting between ASUU and the Federal ministries of Labour, Employment and Productivity; and Education, asked the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFund to attend the meeting.
The Speaker asked why the Federal Government could not meet its commitment more than 10 years after it signed an agreement with ASUU.
Gbajabiamila also appealed to ASUU to support the government’s efforts in the fight against corruption in the country by allowing its members on the IPPIS platform.
He said, “On the 2009 agreement, there has to be something called sanctity of agreement. But if you have an agreement and there’s dwindling revenue, how does the government respect that? But I’ll blame that on the part of government; and we’re a part of government, even though we didn’t sign an agreement with ASUU.
“On the issue of IPPIS, I’ve heard and read your position. Your union is even divided on this. Much as you argue that you can’t be part of IPPIS, we live in a country governed by laws. If government comes up with a policy for good, we should support that and be part of it. Honestly, much as you may have a point, I think the option may not be for you.
“Give the issue of IPPIS another thought, and if government can take care of your fears, I think you should agree on that. I’m appealing to ASUU that if you can hold on for the sake of our children, let us see what we can achieve in the next two weeks. This new agreement will be a tripartite agreement now. Give us that confidence.”
In his response, the ASUU President said it had become public knowledge that government could not respect the 2009 agreement it reached with the union, which resulted in disagreement with the union.
He said, “That is why ASUU is always reluctant to go on strike. The structures we are talking about are not in Abuja. People will have to come from different parts of the country. The best we can promise here is that you give us to early next week to consult and we’ll get back to you.”
On the IPPIS, Ogunyemi said it was in the interest of the nation that ASUU did not allow the Federal Ministry of Finance to impose the system on universities.
He said, “We challenge them to tell us anywhere in the world where IPPIS is implemented in the universities. IPPIS will shut the door against foreign scholars, contract officers and researchers that we need most dearly. We are opening new universities every day. Ask them how many competent scholars they have in the pool. They have to poach from existing universities.”
READ ALSO: FG proposes merger of IPPIS, ASUU payment platform
The Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Productivity, Mr Festus Keyamo (SAN), said ASUU did not notify the ministry before embarking on the strike, as required by the Trade Dispute Act.
‘Your protest against IPPIS needless’
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), has told striking ASUU to accept the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System.
Buhari, who spoke on Thursday at the 14th convocation ceremonies of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, described ASUU’s protest against the payment system as “needless.”
Represented by the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, Buhari said IPPIS was not meant to diminish the university autonomy.
Buhari said the transparency which IPPIS sought to achieve should be an important moral pillar of all universities.
He said, “I should not end this address without touching on IPPIS, which has been a bone of contention and a needless one at that, between the Federal Government and ASUU.
“I assure you all that IPPIS is not intended to trample upon university autonomy nor is it designed to subsume the university into the civil service.
“The primary intention of IPPIS is to enhance greater efficiency, transparency and better management of university finances. And this should be an important moral pillar of all universities where students are graduated based on character and learning.
“All universities must be committed to these cherished values if they are to serve as moral compass to the larger society.”
We’ll not be intimidated – PH ASUU
However, the Port Harcourt Zone of ASUU said on Thursday the union was not intimidated by the description of the union’s strike as illegal.
Speaking at the ASUU Secretariat in the University of Port Harcourt, the Zonal Coordinator, Uzo Onyebinama, said contrary to the statement credited to Ngige, the ongoing ASUU strike was not illegal.
Onyebinama said, “ASUU strike cannot be illegal because we merely suspended the last strike; it was not called off. So, the current strike is a continuation and until government begins to keep its promises, they cannot hide under any technicality to avoid the continuity.”
UI postpones inaugural lecture
In a related development, the management of the University of Ibadan on Thursday rescheduled the 2018/2019 inaugural and academic lectures earlier fixed for this week and next week in view of the ongoing strike by staff of the university.
The university management, in a statement, said,
“The strike is expected to end on March 23. Consequently, management is constrained to postpone the remaining two inaugural lectures and the university lecture for the 2018/2019 session by two weeks.”
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