ASUU: Issues in Dispute Yet to Be Satisfactorily Addressed

* Reluctantly suspends strike, directs lecturers to resume immediately

 Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday suspended its eight-month strike, and directed lecturers to resume immediately.
The decision was taken after its National Executive Council meeting held at the ASUU secretariat in Abuja. But the union noted in a press statement that the issues in its disputes with the federal government had not been well addressed.
ASUU embarked on strike action on February 14, 2022 to protest the non-implementation of the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding reached with it by the federal government.

The press statement, which was signed by the National President of the union, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, however, hailed the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The statement reads, “The National Industrial Court, in its wisdom, gave an order compelling ASUU to resume work pending the determination of the substantive suit. Given the nature of the order, and in the opinion of our counsel, there was the need to appeal the interlocutory injunction granted against our union at the Court of Appeal.

“The Court of Appeal acknowledged the validity of the grounds of the union’s appeal but still upheld the order of the lower court and ordered our union to comply with the ruling of the lower court as a condition precedent for the appeal to be heard.
“NEC noted the series of meetings with the leadership of the House of Representatives led by the Hon. Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as intervention efforts of other well-meaning Nigerians both within and outside the government and the progress made so far.”

Speaking further on the status of negotiations, the union said, “While appreciating the commendable efforts of the leadership of the House of Representatives and other patriotic Nigerians who waded into the matter, NEC noted with regret that the issues in dispute were yet to be satisfactorily addressed.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the issues include: Funding for Revitalisation of public universities, Earned Academic Allowances, Proliferation of public Universities, Visitation Panels/Release of White Papers

“University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a broad-spectrum software to stop illegality and provide for an alternative payment platform in the university system. Renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement.
“However, as a law-abiding union and in deference to appeals by the President, and in recognition of the efforts of Gbajabiamila, and other well-meaning Nigerians, ASUU NEC resolved to suspend the strike action embarked upon on February 14, 2022. Consequently, all members of ASUU are hereby directed to resume all services hitherto withdrawn with effect from 12:01 on Friday (yesterday), October 14, 2022.”

FG Apologises to Parents, Students

The Ministry of Labour and Employment has apologised to all students and parents over the prolonged ASUU strike that ended yesterday.
It expressed gratitude to all Nigerians who participated in various ways in the negotiations leading to the calling off of the strike.
A statement by the Deputy Director Press in the Ministry, Olajide Oshundun, yesterday assured Nigerians that with the steps the federal government is taking, Nigerian students will be saved from the unpalatable experience of intermittent, prolonged industrial actions in future.  

“In a special way, the Minister of Labour recognises the patriotic efforts of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, the former President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev. Supo Ayokunle and all members of Nigeria Inter Religious Council (NIREC) whose wisdom and intervention raised a ray of hope while the strike was at infancy but for ASUU’s intransigence to negotiation.

“We were forced to migrate the matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) created by the 1999 Constitution as amended, for the settlement of industrial disputes because every channel of negotiation including the tripartite plus, in which eminent Nigerians participated failed. We were left with no other option than to trigger Section 17 of the Trade Disputes Act .CAP T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 on dispute resolution mechanism in seeking the intervention of the National Industrial Court.  

“It is our hope that now that the strike has been called off, the National Industrial Court will deal with the substantive issues as contained in the referral letter by the Honourable Minister. This is to ensure that justice is given to all parties including ASUU and their employers- the Federal Ministry of Education -who acts on behalf of the federal government.”

Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities

The Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities, yesterday noted the existence of “trust issues” between the federal government and university-based unions such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, among others.

Speaking in Abuja during the 60th anniversary of the CVCNU, the Secretary-General of the committee, Professor Yakubu Ochefu, also admonished the government to tackle the issues causing distrust.

The CVCNU also noted its desire “to see a situation where never again Nigeria will have disengagement of academic activities and see all issues that drove the process of the 2022 strike in Nigerian universities resolved.

Ochefu said, “We stated right from day one that there is a fundamental trust issue between the federal government and ASUU, as well as the unions operating in the universities. That trust issue arises from the fact that the FG will agree on issues that have caused the strike and make commitment to pay or deliver certain reports, they commit themselves to resolving issues that have caused the strike, and then they implement that position onto a point and they go to sleep.”

The Court of Appeal, Abuja Division had on October 7 ordered the ASUU members back to work.

The three-man panel of the appellate court ruled that ASUU must first obey the order of an Industrial Court, Abuja, ordering them back to work before coming to the court for leave to appeal the order of the lower court.

The appellate court gave the order while ruling in a motion by ASUU seeking leave to appeal the order of Justice Polycarp Hamman of the National Industrial Court.

Following the breakdown of negations between the federal government and ASUU, the federal government through the Ministry of Labour had dragged ASUU before the Abuja Division of the Industrial Court, seeking an order that will compel ASUU to go back to the classroom pending the resolution of disagreement that brought the strike in the first place.

Justice Hamman, on September 21, ordered ASUU to go back to the classroom in the interest of the nation and suffering students.

But rather than comply, the striking lecturers, approached the appellate court for leave to appeal Justice Hamman’s order, as well as another request for the same to be set aside.

The appellate court held that if the union complied with the order, then it should file its appeal within seven days.

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