From KEMI YESUFU, Abuja
A silver lining yesterday emerged in the five-month-old face-off between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) intervened with both parties signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The lecturers went on strike on July 2 this year over conditions in the universities, among other issues.The NLC negotiation team led by its President, Abdulwahed Omar supervised the signing of the MoU which detailed modalities for the distribution of the N200 billion deposited by the Federal Government into an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN.
The deal also included the non -victimisation clause and payment of the lecturers’ salaries.
However, ASUU failed to announce the suspension of the strike. Its president, Dr. Nasir Fagge, said the signed document would be presented for further deliberation at their National Executive Council (NEC) meeting which will be convened this week.
The Supervising Minister for Education, Nyesom Wike, while reading out the MoU terms,said, “let me say clearly that today is not just historic, it is one of the happiest days of my life since I became the Minister of Education.
“As you are all aware ASUU had been on strike for well over five months on account of their resolve to bring about a new lease of life to all public universities, following Mr President’s personal intervention with the marathon meeting we held on November 4, 2013.
“With the executive of ASUU and other labour union leaders where all residual issues were resolved, Nigerians from all walks of life had expressed optimism that the strike would soon be called off.
“Unfortunately and sadly too, this was not to be due to ASUU’s insistence that the Federal Government must take further practical steps to show good faith and commitment to the implementation of the agreement.
“As a responsible and responsive government, we have a duty to restore normalcy to our university system so that our children can resume classes and pursue their educational careers. Consequently, the vice chancellors of the federal universities were directed by the pro-chancellors to immediately re-open the universities for academic activities while the minor discrepancies are sorted out.
“Today, I am very pleased to announce that all contending issues between ASUU and the Federal Government have been resolved to the satisfaction of the parties.
“Let me emphasise that we recognise and appreciate ASUU’s patriotic role and commitment towards ensuring that our universities are well funded to the point that they shore up to their counterparts in other parts of the world.
“Thus, we are all partners in progress and there are no victor, no vanquished in the struggle of this nature for as long as our goals remain noble not actuated at parochial interest and targeted at moving our nation forward”, Mr. Wike said.
Responding, ASUU president expressed gratitude to all involved in brokering the truce. He said: “I really want to thank all of us that are gathered here for ensuring that we came this far, I think it’s important to first acknowledge the intervention of Mr President because he was the one that made it possible to ensure that we came this far.
“Honourable minister, if what we had agreed on at that 13 hours meeting had been judiciously documented and our members were convinced that it would be implemented, we wouldn’t have wasted this time because we have a lot of respect for the office of Mr President.
“Our members are intellectuals and it’s simply because over the years particularly since the signing of the 2009 Agreement, we have been pursing government to get that agreement implemented we only succeeded in getting implemented a portion of that agreement and here we are over four years, but I think it’s never too late.
“If we ever think that not placing high premium on our university education out of the doldrums, I want to assure all of us that we will be deceiving ourselves because other countries that are ahead have made sure that their universities are making cutting edge research” Dr. Fagge said.