The Federal Government on Monday inaugurated a seven-person committee tasked with the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The committee is chaired by Pro-Chancellor, Alex Ekweme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs.
Other members are Pro-Chancellor, Federal University, Wukari, Arc. Lawrence Patrick Ngbale, who represents North East; Pro-Chancellor, Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, Prof. Funmi Togunu-Bickersteth, representing South West and Pro-Chancellor, Federal University, Lokoja, Senator Chris Adighije, representing South East.
Also on the team are Pro-Chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Prof. Olu Obafemi from North-Central; Pro-Chancellor, Kano State University of Science & Technology, Prof. Zubairu Iliyasu, representing North West; and Pro-Chancellor, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Mathew Seiyefa from South-South.
The academics are seeking improved welfare, revitalisation of public universities and academic autonomy among other demands. ASUU is currently on a one-month warning strike which commenced on February 14.
The Committee, which is expected to review the draft proposed FGN/ASUU Agreement, has the following Terms of Reference:
a. Liaise and consult with relevant stakeholders to finalise the position of the Federal Government to the issues in the draft proposed FGN/ASUU Renegotiated Agreement;
b. Renegotiate in realistic and workable terms the 2009 Agreements with other University-Based Unions;
c. Negotiate and recommend any other issue the Committee deems relevant to reposition the NUS for global competitiveness; and
d. Submit proposed draft agreements within three (3) months from the date of inauguration.
One of the points of negotiation will be the non-payment of university revitalisation funds, which amounts to about N1.1 trillion.
The agreement was reportedly struck in 2009.
But the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has maintained that the Federal Government doesn’t have the money to pay such an amount, citing low oil prices during the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
“In 2016/2017 government said it doesn’t have the money,” Mr Ngige said on Channels Television’s Politics Today last week. “But we will find a way by which we can fund the universities. So, a committee was set up with ASUU as members.”
According to Mr Ngige, the committee “couldn’t come up with anything that could generate funds.
“The committee even recommended that stamp duty should be taken. There was a proposal to get money from phone charges. Government made it clear that we don’t have the 1.1 trillion that is remaining.”
According to Mr Ngige, the Federal Government has dealt with most of ASUU’s demands.
“A lot of them have been dealt with after our meeting in October last year,” he said.
“That’s why I said I was shocked they went on strike.
“The only place where they have a point to hold onto and do their strike is on the issue of renegotiation of 2009 – conditions of service because their conditions of service were supposed to be reviewed.”
The Minister noted that the academics have produced an interim report on conditions of service which was rejected by the National Salaries, Incomes & Wages Commission (NSIWC).
“Because the things they have in there, in terms of allowances, were contrary to existing extant financial regulations,” he said.
Mr Ngige said he was hopeful the academics will call off their strike soon so that students can return to the classroom.
The committee has three months to conclude their renegotiation. Thereby, ASUU might extend their warning strike till the Federal government are ready to fulfil their demands.
Agbelusi Samuel is a campus journalist, writer, red carpet host, political and sport analyst. A political science student that covers news and politics beats for AAUA INSIDER.