From Punch ;
After five months and 10 days that the public universities have been on strike, the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Wednesday finally signed a fresh agreement.The fresh pact is the review of the Federal Government/ASUU 2012 Memorandum of Understanding reached on the 2009 agreement.Both parties, however, refused to reveal the details of the agreement to journalists who witnessed the signing of the agreement.The meeting was almost boycotted by the union until the intervention of stakeholders.ASUU had on Tuesday vowed not to attend the meeting because there was no commitment and proper invitation from the government.
The union had demanded for proof of the payment of the N200bn into a Central Bank of Nigeria account for public universities, non-victimisation clause, review of the agreement in 2014 and that a representative of government, preferably the Attorney-General of the Federation to sign the agreement as conditions to call off the strike which began on July 1.
Our correspondent, however, gathered that the union got three of its demands while it relinquished one to the government.
The Federal Government agreed to present evidence of payment, implement the non-victimisation clause and that the agreement was open to re-negotiation in 2014.
But it was the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education, MacJohn Nwaobiala, who signed the agreement on behalf of the government contrary to the demand of the union.
ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Faggae, signed on behalf of the union while the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulwaheed Omar, signed as a witness to the agreement.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, who presided over the meeting, said there was “no victor no vanquished” in the dispute.
He said the Federal Government was alive to its responsibility to restore normalcy to the university system.
Wike argued that government only directed the vice-chancellors of federal universities to immediately reopen the universities for academic activities pending when other minor discrepancies would be sorted out.
“Today, I am very pleased to announce that all contending issues between ASUU and the Federal Government have been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.
“Let me emphasise that we recognise and appreciate ASUU’s patriotic role and commitment towards ensuring that our universities are well-funded, resourced and run like their counterparts in other parts of the world.
“Thus, we are all partners in progress and there is no victor; no vanquished in the struggle of this nature for as long as our goals remain noble, not actuated by parochial interests, but targeted at moving our nation forward.”
The minister on behalf of President Goodluck Jonathan thanked Nigerians, the National Assembly, the labour unions, traditional rulers, parents and students for showing understanding.
In his response, Faggae commended the President for his intervention in the dispute.
He, however, stressed that the strike could not have lingered if government had agreed to document the agreement reached with the union.
“If what we have agreed with Mr. President at that 13-hour meeting had been judiciously documented and our members were convinced that it was going to be implemented, we wouldn’t have waited this while because we also have a lot of respect for the office of Mr. President and that of the Vice-President.
“But you see our members are intellectuals, I keep saying this. It is simply because over the years particularly since the signing of the 2009 agreement we have been pursuing government to get that agreement implemented.
“We rarely succeeded in getting a portion of that agreement implemented by the government. Here we are, we have gone for about four years but it is never too late to turn a new page and make sure we do what is right with our universities.”
Faggae said the country must place high premium on education if it hoped to catch up with developed world.
Faggae who said the decision to call-off the strike lied with the National Executive Council of the union, promised that the message would be delivered within one week for a final decision on the strike.
“We would now take this document to our members and we are confident that our members will do the appropriate thing.
“It was a sacrifice that was worth taking to ensure that we do what is right for our country,” he added.
In an interview, Faggae said ASUU would make its position known to government “within one week.”