ASUU President, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie
By Bukola Olatunji and Linda Eroke
Relief came the way of Nigerians as the Academic Staff Union of Univer-sities (ASUU) and the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), which called its members out on strike, have suspended their industrial actions.
ASUU suspended its action after two months, with a call on the Federal Government “to fulfil its obligation in respect of funding and all other matters contained in its offers”.
ASUU President, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, who briefed journalists in Abuja yesterday, said the Federal Government, at the end of the discussions, communicated its position vide a letter dated January 24, which was considered by all its branches nationwide.
Among the Federal Government’s commitment are the following: “Government will immediately stimulate the process with the sum of N100 billion and will build this up to a yearly sum of N400 billion in the next three years. These interventions will be based on identified prioritised needs.
“As soon as the legislative procedures for the Bill on 70 years Retirement Age for Academics at the professorial cadre are concluded, the president shall assent to it, not later than the end of February 2012.
‘The state universities shall continue to enjoy special and other statutory interventions. Government will improve, significantly, the budgetary allocation to education from 2013 to 2020.
“Government accepts in principle the payment of the Earned Academic Allowances (EEA). However, there is need to work out practical and sustainable ways to do this. Consequently, the mandate of the IMC (Implementation Monitoring Committee) has been expanded to include proposing practical and sustainable ways of paying the EEA and the report is expected in 60 days. Government shall direct the universities to support internal staff development of all those not covered under the TET Fund intervention on capacity building.
“Government undertakes to reinstate governing councils of various universities on or before February 12, 2012, but may make changes in external membership where it deems necessary. The tenure of the councils thus reinstated shall end in February 2013.”
In suspending its action, which was declared three days ago, NUPENG directed its Petrol Tanker Drivers’ (PTD) section to immediately commence the lifting of petroleum products across the country.
The industrial action was in protest against alleged illegal deductions of N4,896,000 from the salaries of workers by the management of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC).
The union alleged that the deductions were made without the consent of workers. The union also accused the management of Shell of conniving with the suspended branch executive particularly the Chairman, Mr. Fidelis Okandeji, whom NUPENG accused of anti-union activities including the recent sale of some oil blocks without the knowledge of the national head office.
Prior to the intervention by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), there was heavy traffic along Marina/CMS roads in Lagos as the aggrieved officials of NUPENG yesterday morning picketed the offices of SPDC including its corporate head office in Lagos.
However, THISDAY gathered that the NNPC had summoned the management of Shell and the union leaders to a meeting in Abuja in a bid to resolve the crisis.
Confirming the suspension of the strike, Chairman of the Western zone of NUPENG, Comrade Tokunbo Korodo, said: “We have suspended all actions. That is, the picketing of SPDC and loading of products. This is due to the intervention of NNPC. As we speak, members of PTD have started loading products. We did not want to punish Nigerians for the sins of Shell, but wanted government or appropriate authorities to call Shell to order. Now that NNPC has waded into the issue, we have no other choice that to suspend the actions until further notice.”