The Federal Government's tripartite plus meeting with the striking university-based unions last night ended without a solid agreement for the workers to return to work.
In fact, the four university-based unions on strike have rejected all government requests to call a halt to the strike while efforts are made to resolve the thorny issues.
The federal government team, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational Institutions, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, as well as identified interest groups and civil society organizations, met at the Banquet Hall of the National Assembly to discuss the ongoing industrial actions in the universities.
It was meant to prevail on the striking workers to accept a deal to call off their strike while efforts were being made to resolve the dispute.
However, the unions refused to back down from continuing the strike, saying that there was nothing on the ground from the government side to warrant that.
Although the ASUU President refused to speak to journalists on the outcome of the meeting, one of the union members said that there was nothing new except that the government team wanted them to call off the strike, which they rejected.
According to him, “There was nothing on the ground for us to consider." We are not stopping the strike until something concrete is done. ”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who spoke to journalists after the meeting, said: “We have reached some agreements and we hope that by next week, those agreements will be matured and the different unions will have something to tell their members, so that they can call off the strike."
“We have put some timelines for some aspects like renegotiation of the 2009 agreement in terms of condition of service and wage review. So, we are hopeful that by next weekend, the unions will see a conclusion to that area.
Earlier, while addressing the leadership of the unions and stakeholders at the opening of the talks, Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, appealed to the striking university workers to sheathe their swords and agree to return to work while discussions over their demands go on.
He said that something needs to be done urgently to reopen the institutions and to prevent students from protesting on the streets.
According to him, allowing the strike to prolong further will not be in the interest of anyone, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari has mandated the team to try and end the strike so that students, lecturers, and other workers can go back to work.
On their part, the two co-chairs of the Nigeria Interreligious Council (NIREC), Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar II and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Samson Ayokunle, urged ASUU and the non-teaching staff unions to accept the President’s plea and suspend their strike while efforts are made to address the issues in dispute.
Ayokunle specifically urged the lecturers to go back to work and allowed a grace period within which concrete action would be taken to implement aspects of the agreement.
However, ASUU president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said that before the current strike, the union had given enough period of grace to enable the government and its agencies to meet with them and address their demands, but to no avail.
He said that the government has withheld the salaries of the lecturers as a strategy to force them to resume work.
He said that most of the contents of the 2020 Memoradum of Action were based on the federal government's sponsored NEEDS assessment of all federal universities in 2013.
As a result of the assessment, Osodake said that the federal government agreed that a total sum of N1.3 trillion is needed to fund the revitalization of the universities.
According to him, the release of the money was to be stretched over a six-year period.
He said that the Jonathan-led administration commenced the implementation with the release of the first tranche of N200 billion in 2014.