ASUU STRIKE: The End Is Near- FG To Give Universities N1.1tn In Five Years
Details of the meeting which was held on Monday/ Tuesday between President Goodluck Jonathan and the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities have begun to emerge;
The PUNCH gathered on Tuesday evening that a key component of the agreement reached by the parties was that the Federal Government would inject N1.1tn into public universities in the next five years.
A reliable source, who made this known, also hinted that the strike would be called off anytime next week.
He said the government team which was led by President Goodluck Jonathan would release N220bn yearly into the sector beginning from 2014.
The source added, “The meeting should be the longest that we have ever had on this crisis but I can tell you that both parties were frank all through the discussions.
“The parties also showed commitment towards ending the crisis. The President in particular showed that he was serious about ending the strike and that was why he offered to release over N1tn to the universities in the next five years.
“The money will be released on a yearly basis at N220bn per annum beginning from 2014. For the outgoing year, the government will only release N100bn and this has been processed.”
He said that the government, in order to show its commitment to a fresh pact, accepted that “the fund(N1.1tn) should domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria”
“The money will be released on a quarterly basis to the universities. So, there won’t be any problem about funding the deal,” the source said.
The National Universities Commission and the Trade Union Congress, according to him, will be the joint guarantors of the agreement while the Minister of Education will be the implementation officer.
The source also said that the government agreed among other things, to revamp the public universities by ensuring that all those issues that always led to strike were dealt with once and for all.
It was learnt that the negotiating team of ASUU led by Dr. Nassir Faggae met on Tuesday night to further deliberate on the deal.
Though the details of the meeting were not known as of 11.22pm on Tuesday, it was gathered that ASUU might call a National Executive Council meeting on or before Saturday where the deal would be tabled before all its branch executives.
Jonathan had while shaking hands with Fagge after the marathon meeting in the Presidential Villa, Abuja said, “My President, I hope it (strike) will end today(Tuesday). Our children have suffered enough. We must find a solution.”
All those in attendance responded with a loud “Amen.”
When greeting Omar, he said, “My President with you around, there will be no problem; our agreement is signed, sealed and delivered.”.
Faggae told State House correspondent on his way out of the Villa, that his team would take back a message to varsity teachers before a decision would be taken on the next line of action.
“We had a lengthy meeting with Mr. President, and we looked into how best to address the problem of university education in this country. We now have a message from Mr. President that we are going to take to our members and we are expecting that our members will respond appropriately to his message,” he said.
Fagge added that since the message was meant for members, he would not divulge it to the press.
When asked whether university teachers would be called upon to return to the classrooms, he said that the decision was left for them to take.
When further asked if he was impressed by the President’s message, Faggae cautioned journalists against putting words in his mouth, insisting that only ASUU members would determine that.
The Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Wogu, who listened to Faggae’s encounter with journalists, later said progress was made during the discussion.
He said, “We made progress. The President of ASUU told you that they are going back with a message from the Federal Government back to their members and the message is full of high expectation and hope.”
When asked whether ASUU would call off the strike, Wogu said that was why he described the message as full of expectation.
“Our prayer is that they will come back with positive outcome. They might even not come back to meet us. They might take decision there that will meet your expectations “ he said.
He added that the offers made by the government during the meeting were those that were in line with the contentious 2009 agreement.
He said since the issues that led to the strike bordered on the 2009 agreement, the government did not go beyond the pact.
The President was joined at the meeting that started at 2.40pm on Monday by Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike; Wogu among others.
Faggae led the union team which included past presidents such as Prof. Abdulahi Sule-Kano, Prof. Dipo Fashina and Prof. Festus Iyayi.
President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulawahid Omar and his Trade Union Congress counterpart, Bobboi Kaigama, also attended.
Other members of the delegation were Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, Prof. Victor Osodeke, Prof. Suleiman Abdul, Dr. Victor Igbum and Mr. Michael Odunmoraye.
The marathon meeting was the first between ASUU and Jonathan since the strike started. The Presidency took over the negotiations with ASUU on September 19 with Sambo in charge.
SOURCE: punch newspaper