The ends may be in sight for the eight-month-old strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as a meeting holds between the government and the union ended on a positive note.
The government said it has made new proposals to the union which ASUU said it is immediately taking to its members for consideration, speaking with journalists after the meeting, labour minister Chris Ngige said the two parties have agreed on the core issues at the heart of their prolonged dispute.
These include funding for the revitalisation of universities, earned allowances, the shortfall in salaries, visitation panels for universities and use of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
“In our last meeting, we agreed on so many things. Today we have discussed the issues again. As you know, there are about eight issues. We have done justice to all these and ASUU is supposed to take our conclusions to their organs. I do hope as a conciliator that there is a light at the end of the tunnel as I do hope ASUU will come back to us,” Mr Ngige said.
He also said the meeting gave some assignments to the government side “on visitation panels to universities, the UTAS, remittances of check-up dues and payment of withheld salaries.” We will conclude the assignment given to the government,” Mr Ngige added.
Although neither side disclosed the content of the new proposals, a source told our reporter that the mood of the union leaders changed after the government pledged to release N40 billion for the Earned Allowance and N30 billion for the revitalisation of the university system. These add up to N70 billion, N5 billion higher than what the government previously offered.
It was gathered that the government last week offered N65 billion for payment of earned allowances and revitalisation of universities to the universities to address some of the lecturers’ demands. The source, who asked not to be named because they were not authorised to speak to the media, also said the government agreed to settle the arrears of salaries of the teachers before December 31.
ASUU National President, Biodun Ogunyemi, corroborated all that Mr Ngige said but did not give details of the new proposals. “As the minister of labour has said, we have had fruitful deliberations and some issues came up during deliberations. We
have some new proposals that we are taking back to our members. We believe that very soon we will conclude with our members and get back to the ministry,” he said.
Our source said the union would not make the proposals public until they have been considered by its members.
The source said the strike would be called off if the members accepted the proposal. ASUU embarked on a nationwide strike on March 23 to demand the revitalisation of the universities, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), renegotiation of the 2009 agreement, and visitation panels for universities, among others. The union also proposed the use of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) platform in universities in place for the controversial IPPIS.