Strike: FG-ASUU Negotiation Meeting to Reconvene Monday

The federal government has fixed another round of reconciliatory meeting with the striking lecturers for Monday next week.

Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige who spoke to journalists on the outcome of the meeting with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in his office in Abuja yesterday, said both sides resolved to address some great areas in the agreement.

He said officials of the Ministry Labour would be meeting the Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation to iron out outstanding issues on the implementation of the agreement with ASUU.

On when the talks would reconvene Ngige said: “Well, we wanted to reconvene on Thursday but they said that one of their trustees, Prof. Lasisi Asobie was bereaved. He lost the wife, so they said they were going there Thursday and Friday. I am hopeful that we can reconvene next Monday.”

Meanwhile, Ngige has assured that the government would do all it could to end the ongoing industrial action by ASUU.

He said the government was taken aback by the renewed strike, which started on February 14, 2022.

According to him, the federal government was surprised ASUU acted against the understanding and assurances it gave through the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar and the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Supo Ayokunle.

Ngige, who was in Botswana for the African Regional Labour Administrative Centre(ARLAC) meeting when ASUU declared the strike, pointed out that he believed that the union and education ministry would have resolved the disputes within days.

“I sincerely thought ASUU and the Ministry of Education would have resolved the issues, which hopefully are not major areas of dispute, warranting industrial action. To my surprise, I came back, and the strike is still on.

“Be that as it may, it is the mandate of my ministry to apprehend industrial disputes wherever they occur, and we have apprehended this,” explained the labour minister.

“From this negotiation we are having today (Tuesday), ASUU will appreciate that the government means no harm. This is because even if there are still lapses in the implementation of the agreement, they are not such that will lead to industrial action. To that extent, we have to do everything possible to resolve this.”

Ngige assured that the ongoing conciliation would prepare the ground for an expanded meeting that will involve NIREC.

“It is my mandate to apprehend industrial disputes, and this has been apprehended so we can discuss, and later expand to what is called tripartite plus meeting, involving members of NIREC who are top religious and traditional rulers, we cannot push aside,” he stressed. “And that is as soon as we are done and agree on issues here.”

The minister expressed optimism that the strike would be called off soon to enable students to return to classes.

“It should not be one-month strike. In fact, there is nothing like a one-month strike or warning strike in labour parlance. Strike is strike. We want this to end as soon as possible, as we sort out all grey areas in the agreement as to the ILO Principles At Work allows for renegotiation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” he noted.

The minister urged the government, “to be realistic and factual,” as far as this negotiation goes, admitting that, “I wear a double cap, first as a conciliator and then, a minister of the government of the federation.”

“We must keep to the timelines,” he further stated.

Ngige further debunked claims by ASUU that all the items in the 2020 MOA have not been fully implemented, stating that the ones not completed were in progress.

“I did a correspondence on the report by NITDA on UTAS to you (ASUU) in December 2021, and you sent your observation in a reply in February 2022. I made that available to all the parties involved that this is the observation from ASUU. So, as far as I’m concerned, it is a work in progress,” he argued.

“I’m not the minister of education. My ministry is not your direct employer. But I take these proactive measures to fast-track agreements and ensure we meet the timelines.”

He further mentioned that apart from that, “all the issues in the agreement are being religiously implemented,” including but not limited to the payment of Earned Academic Allowances through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation between November and December 2021.”

Speaking at the meeting, ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, blamed the government for the strike, alleging that apart from not implementing the 2020 MOA, the government also failed to convene the regular implementation monitoring meeting as agreed. He insisted that calling off the industrial action depended entirely on the government’s meeting ASUU’s demands.

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