Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
Following the intervention of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) said that it will wait till February for the outcome of the mediatory talks between the federal government and the religious body.
The 50-member NIREC, under the Co-chairmanship of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III; and the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, is also backed by the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Bishop Mathew Kukah, among other Christian and Muslim leaders.
ASUU had resolved to embark on industrial action to compel the federal government to meet its demands.
However, following the intervention of NIREC, ASUU had opted to go for more consultations and to give the government a few days within January 2022 to address all outstanding issues arising from the December 2020 Memorandum of Action (MoA).
But ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodake, told THISDAY yesterday that the union had agreed to wait till February, adding that it has also submitted its position to NIREC which promised to help mediate and resolve the issues.
“ASUU leadership has agreed to wait till February to give NIREC and other stakeholders enough room to address the union’s grievances,” he said.
The decision of ASUU to suspend action till February is seen as bowing to pressure from prominent Nigerians and the leadership of NIREC comprising of the Sultan of Sokoto, the president of the CAN and other stakeholders.
Osodeke had disclosed that it took notice of efforts by many patriotic Nigerians both within and outside the country to ensure an amicable resolution of the dispute.
He, however, vowed that the union would resist any attempt to blackmail it and derail its patriotic struggle for a productive university system “by official propaganda founded on tokenism and crumb-sharing”.
Its earlier statement had summed up the decisions reached at the emergency National Executive Council (NEC) of the union held at its National Secretariat, University of Abuja.
The meeting was meant to review the level of government’s implementation of the FGN-ASUU Memorandum of Action (MoA) of December 23, 2020, and other related matters to decide on the way forward.
In deciding to stay action on strike, Osodake said: “NEC took full account of efforts by student union bodies, leading media organisations, traditional rulers, civil society organisations and other interest groups within and outside Nigeria to make government address all outstanding issues arising from the December 2020 MoA”.
In particular, the ASUU president said the union took special cognisance of the pledges made by the NIREC to make further consultations on the crisis in the coming days to find an amicable resolution.
He accused the government of reneging on its promise to set up an inter-ministerial committee to handle renegotiation of the 2009 agreement.
One of the issues in contention is the delay in approving the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) developed by ASUU.
ASUU said it was fully prepared to address all the reports of the “integrity test” on UTAS raised by the Nigeria Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to pave way for its deployment.
The statement read in part: “NEC was worried by the spirited efforts of government agents to reduce the demands of ASUU to a regime of intermittent payment of watered-down revitalisation fund and release of distorted and grossly devalued Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
“NEC condemns, in strong terms, the surreptitious moves to pooh-pooh our demands on the review of the NUC’s Act to curb the proliferation of universities by state governments who are not funding the existing ones; adoption of the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS) with concurrent discontinuance of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel accumulated promotion arrears.
“NEC concluded that government has failed to satisfactorily address all the issues raised in the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement and subsequent MoUs and MoAs.
“However, considering the ongoing intervention and consultation efforts, NEC resolved to review the situation at a later date to decide on the next line of action.”