Abuja – The Academic Staff Union of Universities will meet on Monday (today) to deliberate on the offers made by the Federal Government last Thursday in Abuja.
It was gathered on Sunday that the union would meet at zonal levels nationwide, where the members would determine whether to accept the offers made to them or not.
It was learnt the union would take a position on the ongoing strike which had paralysed academic activities in state and federal universities.
The Chairman, UNIAbuja chapter of ASUU, Dr. Ben Ugheoke, confirmed that the union would hold a crucial meeting on the labour action.
He explained that after the zonal meetings, the decisions would then be communicated to the national executive council of the union which would take a final position on the issues.
“After the zonal meetings on Monday, the outcomes of the meetings would go through another process before a final decision is taken, it is a tortuous process,” Ugheoke explained.
The Federal Government had during the meeting with the ASUU leadership in Abuja offered to pay N23bn and a monthly payment of N1.5bn pending the outcome of the forensic audit being carried out by the Ministry of Finance.
The government had also yielded to other demands by the ASUU leadership led by its President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, Vice-President, Emmanuel Osodeke, a former union president, Dr. Dipo Fashina, and another member.
The government team led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, was said to have rejected the union’s demand for exemption of universities from the Treasury Single Account.
Meanwhile, ASUU has dismissed a statement credited to a former Minister of Education, Oby Ezekwesili, in which she said the union’s demands were unrealistic.
The UNIAbuja ASUU Chairman said she should propose realistic alternatives rather than condemn the union’s demands which he said were meant to reform university education in the country.
Ugheoke explained that the N1.3tn university revitalisation fund would not go to ASUU, noting that the union had proposed to the government how the money should be utilised to ensure it did not end in private pockets.
The university teacher said when Ezekwesili was trying to get the government to privatise the unity schools as the education minister; she hinged her argument on the poor state of the schools.
He wondered why she was condemning ASUU’s demands which he described as “agitations for the poor.”
He said, “What is unrealistic about ASUU’s demands? It means she was engaged in cheap deceit of the highest order, she is unrealistic.
“Let her state those demands she feels are unrealistic and then propose alternatives and you would see that she would propose no alternatives other than raising of school fees. That is what she is going to come up with.”
The News Agency of Nigeria had earlier reported Ezekwesili on Sunday of saying that ASUU demands were unrealistic in the light of the current economic situation in Nigeria.
The former minster said the lasting solution to the crisis bedevilling the education sector could only be found from strong analysis of the issues raised by ASUU and evidenced-based policies.
“Money is not limitless and yet everyone must acknowledge that investment in education is crucial and it is key.
“There are, however, some fundamental reforms that the sector needs in order to ensure that it is not about the size of the funding but about the productivity of the funding.
“You cannot simply express a desire, it must be founded on reality and that means you must know what can be achieved within a given period,” she said.
According to her, a structural and policy change which allows public and private investments should be integrated into the university system.
“If you remember, the ASUU negotiation started in 2007 when I was the Minister of Education and we constituted a government negotiation team, led by the late Gamaliel Onosode.
“Even though that period was short, one of the major issues for me was for us to make sure that we were being evidenced-based in the way we were solving the problem.
“We considered issues like the existing model in countries similar to us in emerging economies,’’ she said.
The former minister said the team also considered what could be done by the public and private sectors about university funding among others.
“Those are the kinds of evidences that we had and on the basis of which we hinged our negotiation at that time,
“It was a very short period and then we had to leave and the next government that took over had to continue.
“I do not know the basis of the final agreement they reached with ASUU, but if it was not anchored on analytical evidence, I am not surprised that there has been inability to implement it.”
Ezekwesili urged both the Federal Government and ASUU to return to the negotiating table and work on the basis of analysis and evidence to find a lasting solution to the dispute. Punch report.