Education Minister Apologises to Striking Varsity Workers
*ASUU to Buhari: Fund education, sign our agreement to preserve Nigeria’s future
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu has tendered an apology to the workers in the federal universities for not responding promptly to their demands.
The Permanent Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Education, Andrew David Adejo who represented his boss at a reconciliatory meeting brokered by the Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige, yesterday, told the leadership of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non Academic Staff Union that the ministry had not abandoned their issues but that circumstances had made it look as such.
The apology came just as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), yesterday said a smarter way to preserve the future of Nigeria was for the President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government to provide funding for the education sector and sign a decent agreement with the union.
Adejo while speaking at the meeting, said the minister specifically, “asked me to come and plead for forgiveness. It seems as if your employer, the Ministry of Education has abandoned you, but this is not true, that is not the true picture.
“It in that spirit of forgiveness of just ended Ramadan fast that we feel that we fixed the meeting to discuss and resolve the issues.
“As was captured in the communiqué issued at your last meeting with the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the social apartheid the present strike is causing is leading to so many other problems that the earlier we sit down to solve it the better for the country.”
Speaking further, he said: “We want to let you know that whatever sins the Ministry had committed before should be forgiven. We have repented and we will not sin anymore. We want you to see us as partners in progress,” he said.
In his responds, the President of SSANU, said he hoped that apology offered by the Minister came from his heart and that the government was sincere and ready to address the grievances of the workers.
Also, spokesman of the Joint Action Committee of SSANU and NASU, Mr. Adeyemi Peters said he hoped that the Ministry of Education was now ready to fulfil its own part of the bargain by Implementing the agreement reached with the unions.
He thanked Ngige for all efforts to resolve the issues in dispute.
“We believe that if the Ministry of Education and other relevant government agencies do their own part, the matter will be resolved once and for all,” he added.
Peters blamed the government for being responsible for the current strike by refusing to act decisively on the demands of the workers.
He said the government forced the industrial action on the unions by ignoring all the warning letters and ultimatum issued by the union.
According to him, both unions were ready to go back to work as soon as federal government attends to the promises made to the unions in the last two years.
While welcoming the parties to the meeting, Ngige expressed optimism that with the presence of the Ministry of Education at the discussion, a lot of progress would be made and the strike called off for school to reopen.
Both SSANU and NASU have been on nationwide strike for almost one month over demands for Implementation of agreements with the government.
The reconciliatory meeting later went into close door.
Meanwhile, ASUU has said a smarter way to preserve the future of Nigeria was for the federal government to provide funding for the education sector and sign a decent agreement with the union.
This, the university lecturers said would bring to an end their over two months old strike.
This is just as union said the attitude of the president and his appointees to the industrial action since it commenced over two months ago showed that they do not have the mind to liberate the poor children of the masses as well as give them quality education through committed funding.
The Chairman, University of Ibadan chapter of the union, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, in a statement yesterday, said funding the education sector remains the best way to shape the minds of youths to constructive development of the society, stating that government ought to see that more children are getting out of school and are useful pawns to youths fighting back against the society that neglected them.
According to him, the union was concerned about the future of the country, saying, “it seems more money is being pumped into security for war entrepreneurs to become millionaires and billionaires without addressing the causes of insurgency and terrorism.”
ASUU had started the ongoing strike on February 14, 2022 to force government to implement outstanding 2009 agreements on revitalization funding, earned academic allowances, proliferation of universities and sign a re-negotiated agreement with the union.
While government has stopped payment of salaries to the striking lecturers, Akinwole said weaponising hunger would not make the union suspend the strike but be more energized, “to fight to have a country and a future for the children of the poor from the traders of collective patrimony in government.”
He said, “If those in government are smart, they should have seen evidences that pumping trillions of naira into fighting insecurity without getting result is a result of not doing the right thing.
“If you fund education, the minds of the educated youths will be built to resist being used for criminality but since government has been irresponsive, funding war may have become another opportunity where some people are making millions.
“They don’t care about the increasing number of out of school children and they are not concerned about what facilities Nigerian children are exposed to.
“For ASUU, a smarter way of controlling growing insecurity and redirecting the minds of Nigerian youths to constructive and developmental activities is to build their human capacity and minds through purposeful funding of education by federal, state and local governments in Nigeria.”