By Modupe Gbadeyanka
President Muhammadu Buhari has taken a bold step to avert another strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), promising to honour agreements with the union.
The leadership of the university lecturers had given the federal government till the end of February to fulfil the deal both parties entered, threatening to embark on another industrial action.
But on Tuesday, President Buhari, while receiving members of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), said his administration remains committed to honouring promises made to the union, though he said fiscal pressures were making it look otherwise.
He, however, appealed to NIREC co-chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, Mr Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Mr Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, to pass this message to ASUU in their subsequent consultations.
“They should be cognizant of the fiscal pressures that we are currently facing. Nevertheless, we remain committed to honouring our promises.
”For their part, I would like to encourage ASUU to continue to work with us towards finding resolutions to the challenges that confront us.
”My administration is committed to this engagement and dialogue, and I urge them to stay the course towards a joint resolution in the best interest of our children and nation,” Mr Buhari said.
Responding to issues raised by the leadership of NIREC on finding sustainable solutions to the perennial and disruptive strikes that threaten the sanctity and integrity of the nation’s university system, the President said he had directed his Chief of Staff, the Ministers of Labour and Employment and Education to make resolving this issue a priority.
President Buhari said he had received a briefing from the Minister of Labour, detailing the position of the government, which include making several payments over the last six months, providing funding for infrastructure development across several public universities.
“Finally, and perhaps the most contentious of issues regarding the decision to use either the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) or the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS).
“As you may be aware, IPPIS was introduced as a means of blocking leakages. Through IPPIS, the Federal Government was able to save over N100 billion annually from the core civil service alone. In view of the resistance from ASUU, we devised UTAS which is now on the table.
“I have also been informed that the System Assessment Report conducted by NITDA has been shared by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy to all stakeholders including ASUU, and they are to make the appropriate modifications and report their recommendations,” he said.
CAN President, while speaking on behalf of the council, said the meeting with the President was on the single point of averting strikes in the universities and the challenges of ASUU, which they consider to be of national interest.
He told the President that from NIREC’s meeting with ASUU on January 10, 2022, the university lecturers outlined that the bone of contention between the union and the federal government centred on eight issues including inconclusive renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, UTAS, IPPIS and distortion in salary payment challenges.
According to him, other contentious issues are visitation panels to federal universities report issues, funding for revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowance, state universities and promotion arrears.
The NIREC leadership, while acknowledging that some of the issues have been addressed by the government, appealed to President Buhari to direct the immediate return to the table to conclude the re-negotiation of the 2009 agreement.
“If the renegotiation process continues to a conclusion, issues that the government is not comfortable with can be re-negotiated with a view to reaching only implementable agreements.
“We believe that with renegotiation in place, other issues will be adequately addressed along the line,” the NIREC co-chair said.
Telco Wants Robust Technology-Based Education System in Oyo
By Modupe Gbadeyanka
A Nigerian multinational telecommunications company, Globacom, has expressed its readiness to collaborate with the Oyo State government to create robust technology-based education system in the state.
The Regional Head of Public Sector Enterprise for Glo in Southwest, Mr Adewale Adiatu, said the company could provide its e-learning packages and school data packs to the state government for the use of pupils in the state.
“At Globacom, we believe education is key, and we have come to seek collaboration with your board on e-learning and other school starter packs for pupils,” he said when he visited the chairman of the Oyo State Universal Basic Education Board, Mr Nureni Aderemi Adeniran, in Ibadan, the state capital.
“Globacom hopes the Board will utilize the science of learning we offer. We have E-learning packages and School data packs, where every pupil could attend classes remotely,” he added.
In his remarks, Mr Adeniran hinted that the Oyo State government places premium importance on expanding its education sector and increasing pupils’ access to quality education.
“In Oyo State, we recognise the need to expand our education sector through the contribution of the private sector. We are ready to work with you on encouraging learning in Oyo State, bearing in mind that our government is known for providing quality basic education. The Board will gladly partner with you or any other private organizations to increase our children’s access to education,” he said.
Mr Adeniran said the board was open to limitless opportunities driven by technology for the benefit of pupils and students in Oyo State, adding that the Board has ensured the provision of quality education at no cost to pupils in the State.
“However, we are still exploring more means to reach out to our children.
“We know the importance of expanding education and increasing access to basic education for our pupils. Therefore, we are open to innovative and creative ideas that will expand our Basic Education sector,” he concluded.
Court Orders ASUU to Call Off Seven-Month Strike
By Adedapo Adesanya
The National Industrial Court (NIC) has ordered the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off its ongoing strike.
Delivering a ruling on the interlocutory injunction filed by the federal government on Wednesday, Justice Polycarp Hamman restrained ASUU from continuing with the industrial action pending the determination of the suit.
Justice Hamman, who is a vacation judge, ordered that the case filed should be returned to the president of the industrial court for reassignment to another judge.
The judge further held that the industrial action was detrimental to public university students who cannot afford to attend private tertiary institutions.
He said the Trade Dispute Act mandates workers not to embark on strike once an issue has been referred to the industrial court.
Justice Hamman also upheld the application of the federal government, saying it was meritorious and granted.
The court, therefore, restrained “ASUU, whether by themselves, members, agents, privies or howsoever called, from taking further steps and doing any act in continuance of the strike action pending the hearing and determination of the suit filed.”
The judge also refused to sanction the federal government as demanded by ASUU.
This order comes a few hours after the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) threatened not to allow any political campaign hold across the country till students of public universities return to classrooms.
ASUU has been on strike for the last seven months, precisely since February 14, to protest poor funding of education by the federal government, as well as demand for improved welfare conditions among others.
After several failed attempts to get the striking lecturers back to work while negotiations continue, the government opted for the current court action and prayed the court to compel ASUU to end the near seven-month-old strike in the interest of the nation and the Nigerian students who are suffering the most from the strike.
ASUU Strike: Reps Invite Finance Minister, Others for Clarification on UTAS/IPPIS Controversy
By Aduragbemi Omiyale
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, has been invited by the House of Representatives along with other agencies of the federal government to clarify the disagreement over the use of a payment platform for university lecturers in the country.
The government had said it would pay the salaries of the teachers via the Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) but members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) want the Universities Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), arguing that the platform captures the peculiarity of the university system.
The lecturers have been on strike over this issue and others since February 14, 2022. On Tuesday, the leadership of the House of Representatives, led by its Speaker, Mr Femi Gbajabiamila, had a meeting with the leaders of ASUU led by Professor Emmanuel Osodeke to iron out some issues to resolve the matter.
Mr Gbajabiamila, while addressing journalists after a 4-hour meeting with the leadership of ASUU and the officials of the Ministry of Education led by the Minister of State for Education, Mr Goodluck Opiah, at the National Assembly in Abuja, noted that the Finance Minister is expected to brief the legislature on the issue of the deployment of the payment platform.
He said Mrs Ahmed would be required to appear on Thursday alongside the Accountant General of the Federation, the Auditor General of the Federation, the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) and the Chairman of the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission.
The Speaker said after the meeting on Thursday, the House would meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on his return from the 77th session of the United National General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to present the agreement reached with the striking workers.
Mr Gbajabiamila described the meeting on Tuesday as encouraging because some resolutions were reached.
The Speaker said as an independent arm of government, the meeting with the leadership of ASUU was meant to find a solution to the lingering labour dispute and the seven areas of their demands with the hope of resolving them, so the striking lecturers to go back to school.
According to him, the meeting enabled the House leadership to present the agreed demands to the President with the hope that the matter would be speedily brought to an end.
While thanking the labour leaders, Mr Gbajabiamila also expressed his conviction that the labour leaders would go back to their members and convince them of the need to buy into the solution with the House leadership to avoid undue delay in the resolution of the issue.
On his part, Prof. Osodeke thanked the Speaker and the leadership of the House for calling the meeting, which he said he hoped an amicable resolution would be reached after the lawmakers meet Mr Buhari later.
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