ASUU: Buhari orders Ngige to hands off negotiation

ASUU: Buhari orders Ngige to hands off negotiation

Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu got marching orders from President Muhammadu Buhari to end the industrial actions by university-based unions.

The President also directed the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, to hands off negotiations with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

Ngige’s role will only be limited to a conciliator when it is necessary.

ASUU had repeatedly accused Ngige of blackmail and being a stumbling block to the negotiations

The President met with some ministers and heads of Federal Government agencies involved in the negotiations at the Presidential Villa.

He directed that the ongoing negotiation between the Federal Government and ASUU must be finalised within two to three weeks.

He ordered Adamu to henceforth coordinate, lead talks and harmonise terms with ASUU immediately.

Adamu was also mandated to meet with the National Salaries and Wages Commission to work out payment details for the striking lecturers.

ASUU said it was open to considering the 100 per cent pay rise being proposed by the Federal Government.

The union, however, said the government was yet to reach out to it on the new pay offer.

The Nation exclusively reported yesterday that a 100 per cent pay rise was being put forward and that the President had waded into the crisis.

But there is more cause for optimism as universities may also immediately get over N320billion revitalisation funds out of the outstanding N1.3trillion promised by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan.

According to a reliable source, who spoke in confidence, Buhari stamped his feet at a session he had with Adamu and Dr Ngige in the Presidential Villa.

The source described the meeting as “frank and emotional” because the President wanted an immediate solution to the closure of universities.

The source said having discovered errors in the negotiation modules, President Buhari asked the Minister of Education to “henceforth coordinate, lead talks and harmonise terms with ASUU immediately.”

The source added: “Before the session, the President had received from Adamu the report of the Federal Renegotiation Team and ASUU, which contained some vital recommendations to resolve the six-month industrial action.

“Having reviewed the efforts made by the two ministers and all agencies, Buhari said the talks should now be handled by the Minister of Education, who raised Prof. Nimi Briggs 2009 FG-ASUU Agreement Renegotiation Team.

“The final stage of the pact with ASUU will now be domiciled in the Ministry of Education.

“But the Minister of Labour will now serve as a conciliator between the two parties if there are issues.

“Buhari put a caveat that the terms of the agreement between the Federal Government and ASUU must be completed within two to three weeks so that universities can reopen.”

It was learnt that Adamu met with Federal Government Renegotiation Team after his shuttle to the Presidential Villa.

A government source, who spoke in confidence, said the Buhari administration has agreed to pay enhanced salaries to the lecturers and it may release a quarter of the outstanding N1.3trillion revitalisation funds agreed by the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.

The source added: “About N320billion Revitalisation Funds may soon be released to universities.

“The government, through the Federal Ministry of Education, asked the National Universities Commission (NUC) to do a comparison of the salary scale of Professors in some African countries.

“The review of pay in some countries was to enable how much increase the nation’s economic shock can accommodate.

“The NUC was forthright in saying that the pay of a Professor in Nigeria was low than in other countries.

“Some of the monthly pay highlights of a professor were as follows: South Africa ($5,200) for a Professor; Rwanda ($2,900); Uganda/Ghana ($1,000); Kenya ($2,000); Nigeria ($690).

“The government has accepted to increase the pay of a varsity professor to $1,300 per month.

“The Minister of Education, the National Salaries and Wages Commission, the Federal Ministry of Finance and other agencies will now work out modalities for the payment of the enhanced salaries.”

Among those at the meeting with the President were Adamu, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning Dr. Zainab Ahmed; Dr Ngige and the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami.

Others were the Head of Service of the Federation, Dr. Folashade Yemi-Esan; Chairman of National Salaries Income and Wages Commission Ekpo Nta and the Director-General, Budget Office, Ben Akabueze.

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