THE intervention of Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, in the industrial disagreement between the Federal Government and Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) seems to be yielding fruits as both feuding parties have agreed to meet today to explore areas of mutual understanding towards ending the four-month old strike action.
The Guardian learnt that the parley, scheduled for the National Universities Commission (NUC) in Abuja at 4.00 p.m. today, will be preceded by a parley between ASUU and Oshiomhole at the Labour House, headquarters of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), at 11.00 a.m.
The meeting, it was further gathered, was meant to smoothen the grounds for the meeting with government officials later today.
Though the detail of those to attend the meeting was sketchy as at yesterday, The Guardian learnt that the President of the Congress, Abdulwaheed Omar, the General Secretary, John Odah, will be leading the ASUU President and his group to the meeting.
Meanwhile, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has instructed its members to observe a three-day fasting and prayers for the early resolution of the imbroglio.
Addressing journalists in Abuja at the end of its emergency meeting, SSANU Deputy President, Malam Bala Gadanga Sokoto, said the association decided to seek God’s intervention since the Federal Government has refused to listen to the advice of prominent Nigerians, including the pro-chancellors, traditional and religious leaders.
He said: “This emergency National Executive Council (NEC) has therefore ordered its members to fast and pray between the 5th and the 7th, three days, for God’s intervention since government will not listen to the intervention of the Committee of Vice Chancellors, will not listen to that of the Pro-Chancellors and will not listen to that of Chancellors who are custodians of our culture. The important thing is that three very strategic committees, the Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC), the Pro-Chancellors and finally the Chancellors who also double as the conscience and the custodian of our culture have intervened and government is not interested. We want to resolve this issue so that our students can return to school and give peace to their parents and guardians.”
Though he welcomed the latest truce spearheaded by Oshiomhole, Sokoto stated that the effort might be futile if government comes to the meeting with a fixation of an already pre-determined position.
“His involvement is a welcome development. Not just because he is our leader, he is not a former leader, he is still our leader, but because anything that will be an equitable resolution to this issue must be encouraged, welcomed and supported because we believe that the issues at stake are simple and that any sincere arbitrator would be able to see that the issues can be resolved in a matter of days. But this matter cannot be resolved within the concept of a fixated position by the Federal Government
but I am confident that our leader must have taken those into consideration before accepting this onerous task,” he said.
Oshiomhole’s intervention is the latest in the series of efforts by stakeholders to intervene in the ASUU/FG crisis.
The Senate Committee on Education, headed by Mrs. Joy Emordi, had tried unsuccessfully to persuade the teachers to go back to the classroom. The meeting between the committee and the ASUU leadership ended abruptly over a disagreement on how to resolve the crisis.
Besides, an attempt by the Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, to resolve the crisis was rejected when the teachers were asked to suspend their strike. In August, after all attempts to resolve the issue failed, the Federal Government issued a warning that it would invoke the no-work-no-pay rule if the teachers failed to return to work.
And in a swift response, the ASUU leadership called the government’s bluff, insisting that the strike would go on for as long as it takes their demands to be met. In fact, ASUU’s President, Prof. Ukachukwu Awuzie, accused the government of playing politics with the university system because, according to him, children of most government officials are not in Nigerian universities but in institutions abroad.
Education Minister, Sam Egwu, shot back, insisting that children of ASUU members were also in foreign universities.
Indeed, there have been several accusations and counter-accusations since the strike started. While the government gave the impression that the teachers were on strike because of salaries, the union insisted that the collective issues affecting the university system informed their latest action.
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