Striking university workers’ unions said their members would “consider” the appeal of the Nigerian Interfaith Council (NIREC) seeking the suspension of their ongoing strike while negotiations continue.
The unions include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
A statement issued by the Ministry of Labor and signed by its head of press and public relations, Olajide Oshundun, stated that the chairman of NIREC and Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, made the appeal on Thursday during a “tripartite -plus “meeting between the striking university workers’ unions and government representatives and other stakeholders.
The statement said that Mr. Abubakar expressed frustration over the continued closure of the universities, pointing out that the development posed danger, especially with the increasing activities before the 2023 general election.
The statement added that the monarch and religious leader said the universities should be reopened as soon as possible so that it does not provide an opportunity for those politicians who do not want things to go right, to use those children as political thugs . ”
Meanwhile, the leadership of ASUU and that of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of SSANU and NASU in their separate responses to PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday confirmed the appeal and promised that their members would give the final verdict.
About the appeal
According to the statement by the Ministry of Labor, Mr Abubakar called for a compromise between the parties.
“I do not think it will be so beneficial for us while our children are at home and threatening with violence across the country, blocking roads and airports and us as older people sitting and watching,” he said.
“The best thing is to go back to the classroom and continue negotiations. We will continue to sit together until the final solution is reached. It is not impossible. “
He added that it poses a danger to allow young people to “sit empty” at home.
“That is why we are pleading with the unions to see to it that it is necessary to strike the strike while we continue to negotiate.”
The statement also quoted the co-chair of NIREC and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Supo Ayokunle, pointing out that the poor funding of the universities not only started, “but carried out long periods of neglect. by previous governments, which have snowballed to our current situation. “
ASUU president Emmanuel Osodeke, a professor, told PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday that the union would consider the appeal and announce its decision.
He confirmed that NIREC had called on the striking unions on Thursday. He said such appeals are not new to ASUU.
“This is an appeal and our members will consider it. It is not a request, but an appeal and appeals are usually for consideration. “
However, Mr Osodeke did not say when the union would decide.
“Once the decision is made, everyone will know,” he said.
The national vice-president of SSANU for the Western zone, Abdussobur Salaam, responded on Saturday on behalf of JAC of SSANU and NASU that the unions referred the appeal to various organs of the unions for consideration.
According to Mr Salaam, members of NIREC are respected religious elders and role models in society. He appreciated them for their intervention.
However, he urged the members to also call on the government to always keep their promises and adopt a culture of trustworthiness.
“We are no stranger to appeals as parent forums, students’ bodies have also reached out at some point.
“Everyone is respected, and especially the NIREC leadership. But we found ourselves at this level because of the dishonesty of the government. It is therefore also important that an appeal is made to the government for a change of character.
“We have referred the appeal to the relevant bodies of our unions and I can assure you that our decision will be announced in the coming days.”
At the end of Thursday’s meeting, the Minister of Labor and Employment, Chris Ngige, expressed optimism that the agreements reached with the trade unions would start to bear fruit next week.
Mr Ngige said they had a cordial and fruitful discussion, and “looked at the issues with passion and reached some agreements, to the satisfaction of all present.”
“We discussed. Everyone was happy. We have reached some agreements and we hope that those agreements will start to mature by next week and the four unions will also inform their members so that they can strike. ”
The minister added that they had put timelines on some issues such as the 2009 agreement as it affected the renegotiation of terms of employment and wage review, which he said would be finalized next week.
The statement noted that the chairman of the meeting and chief of staff of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Gambari, a professor, lamented that the ongoing problems in the university system had resulted in the mutilation of the country’s educational calendar.
“When students graduate, they get automatic admission to higher education institutions elsewhere in the world. Not long ago, we had professors and students from universities in other countries who came to work at our universities.
“Not long ago, we had a calendar and predictability of when a student enters the university and when he or she can graduate. But we all know that all this has changed and the impact on our education system and even the reputation of our universities has been devastating. ”
Mr Gambari assured that the president was “determined to put an end to this negativity and get students and teachers back to the classroom so that students will be in the classrooms and not at home during the educational calendar year.”
The tripartite plus committee appointed Mr. Gambari and the Ministers of Education, and Labor and Employment, Adamu Adamu and Chris Ngige, exist. It also included members of NIREC.
They met with the leadership of all the striking university-based unions to find a way out of the ongoing strike that left the Nigerian public university closed for 89 days.
PREMIUM TIMES reported on Wednesday how the Minister of Labor had sent invitations to the parties involved for a meeting at the banquet hall of the State House.
Mr Buhari issued an order that the meeting be convened on February 1, but Mr. Gambari failed to give reasons for his failure to convene the meeting more than three months later.
ASUU, while announcing on Monday the extension of its strike by another three months, has implemented the failure of officials to implement the president’s mandate to convene the meeting and take industrial action as part of the reasons for the protracted strike.