Reports that the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may soon sign an agreement to end the ongoing strike have excited lecturers, students, taxi drivers and traders on campuses.

AFTER almost five months at home, students of public universities may soon return to the classrooms, if words from the Federal Government and striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) are anything to go by. For the first time, both sides seem to be giving children of the poor a ray of hope.

The first sign that universities may be reopening soon was given by Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige. Ngige. In a statement on Sunday, June 26, he said the Inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government would turn in their reports to enable President Muhammadu Buhari take a decision on the deployment of UTAS and the condition of service for university lecturers.

According to the statement, by Wednesday of June 29, 2022, the various sub-committees would turn in their reports, to enable Buhari to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the two contentious issues – UTAS and the renegotiated conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.

ASUU: we will call off strike when Fed Govt accepts UTAS, signs new deals

According to the President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, the union will call off the ongoing strike when the Federal Government accepts the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).

He noted that the acceptance of UTAS and signing of the renegotiated agreement are the two conditions under which the strike which began on February 14 would be called off.

Osodeke noted that the leadership of ASUU appeared four times before the Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee, which renegotiated the 2009 agreement for the

university lecturers.

The ASUU chief said since work on the 2009 agreement was concluded on June 16, it was yet to hear from the government whether they have an agreement or not.

It would be recalled that the ASUU strike, which started on February 14, entered 140th day on Monday. ASUU has been at loggerheads with the Federal Government, citing the refusal of the latter to honour the 2009 agreement it entered with the union in May, 2020.

Some of the demands in the agreements included condition of service of university lecturers to be reviewed every five years, issue of salaries and allowances, revitalisation of public universities, among other issues, University Transparency Accountability Solution and the inconsistencies in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) payment platform

Osodeke said: “Let the government tell us they have finished testing the UTAS and sign the agreement, then tomorrow we will call off the strike. We challenge the government, when would they sign the agreement? When would they accept UTAS? These are the two questions we should ask the government.”

Excitement, optimism at UNIPORT

Reports that the Federal Government and the ASUU may soon sign an agreement to end the ongoing strike have excited students, taxi drivers and traders at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) and other varsity campuses visited by our correspondents.

Students, traders and others, who own business concerns within the campus, said eking out a living had been difficult since the commencement of the strike. A campus shuttle driver, Okandu Arundel, said the absence of students dealt a heavy blow on his business.

“It has not been an easy experience with the absence of the students in school. Most times, I have to run transport outside the campus to at least generate something for my family. Though students come around, not in large numbers. We don’t make our usual turnover,” he said.

Arundel said he would be the happiest person on earth

if the Federal Government and ASUU hasten signing of the agreement and end the strike.

“If the Federal Government and ASUU hasten the signing of this agreement to end the strike, I will be the happiest person on earth. This is because if the school bubbles again, my life will bubble again”, he said.

A petty trader at the campus park, Stella McCarthy, who sells snacks and stationery, lamented the effect of the strike on her business. She said: “Sometimes, I sit here from morning till evening, no sales just one or two persons, who come to buy pen or envelopes. Because of that, I stopped coming here every day.

“My only saving grace is the puff-puff and doghnut that people in the park and passersby buy from me. It is what has kept me. This strike has made my life miserable. If they end it, I will be happy”, she said.

A mini supermarket owner on campus, Celestine Worukwo, said he could not wait anymore for ASUU to call off the strike.

He said: “The absence of students on campus has made sales slow. Though it has its advantages like in reduction of crime rates, accidents and other incidents, it has affected my business negatively.

“Calling off the strike will be the best thing to happen, because, sadly, students across the country have lost so much, businesses of all kinds transportation, houses, stationery, eating points, supermarkets, saloons have lost so much. If they return, it will be a win-win situation for all of us.”

Fed Govt must do the needful, says NANS Joint Campus Committee, Lagos Axis

The Public Relations Officer of NANS Joint Campus Committee, Lagos Axis, Comrade Akintona Emmanuel Timilehin, said it’s a welcome development going by the statement from the ASUU President that they’re ready to resume immediately the Federal Government signs the agreement.

Over the months, the position of NANS is that the Federal Government should discuss with ASUU to get our students back on campus. This marks over 140 days of the strike. We commend ASUU for their willingness to resume and urge the government to get this matter settled immediately.

“I’m glad to see that ASUU is ready to resume and only the Federal Government is responsible for the delay. We appeal to the Federal Government to sign the agreement and pay the lecturers and workers salaries during the industrial action.

UNILAG a shadow of itself

University of Lagos was desolate when visited during the week, except for few people who have one thing or the other to do. The once bursting campus, known for its learning and commerce, is a ghost of itself.

The place known as a reflection of Lagos metropolitan nature is begging for return of lecturers, students, workers and business operators.

A public analyst and member of the senior staff union, Mr. Afolabi Akinola, in an a chat with our correspondent, said like every other university, campus activities were affected in the university.

“All activities are paralysed. The minister of labour has not been helpful. The matter would have been resolved he gas done the right thing.

“Ngige should create a robust forum to address the issues causing workers strikes. Look at the age brackets of the students forced to sit at home. This is dangerous. Another fact is that the children of our government officials are not attending schools in Nigeria. The government must attend to the demands of ASUU, SSANU and other unions so that the students can resume learning,” Akinola said.

Ogun varsities: we’re optimistic about resumption

In Ogun State, lecturers of the Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB), Abeokuta, Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye, and Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun are optimistic academic activities would resume once the new agreement is signed.

Members of ASUU, in an interview with our correspondents, said they would return to the class but with a proviso: The Federal Government must address the issues that led to the strike.

ASUU Chairman in OOU, Dr. Joel Okewole, said once the NEC gives the directive to return to the classroom, branch members would have to comply.

‘Let’s hope the Fed. Govt will do the needful’

Also, Okewole’s counterpart at TASUED Rufai Kazeem Idowu, an associate professor, said lecturers were ready to go back to work once the Federal Government expressed its readiness to sign the agreement with ASUU. According to him, readiness to return to the class is a simple matter once the government do its own part of the issues.

Similarly, FUNAAB ASUU Chair Dr. Oluwagbemiga Adeleye said lecturers were ready but wondered if the Federal Government was also ready to do the needful.

“We will soon go back to work if the government answered us, but it is yet to address our concerns. So, we are not yet back to work. If the Federal Government answers us, why would we not resume work immediately?” he asked.

ASUU UNIJOS to Fed Govt: sign, implement deals

The situation in University of Jos remains the same with no activities taking place. The only thing is that the gates are under serious security watch. Few known people are allowed in for some reasons. Offices are still locked. Security men mount the gates to screen people before they are allowed in. No student sighted at the campuses. No trace of any business transactions.

However, the chairman of ASUU chapter of UNIJOS, Dr. Lazarus Maigoro, in a chat with The Nation, said: “We are waiting for the Federal Government to sign the final agreement. Everybody is still on strike. We are waiting to hear from the Federal Government. As such, for now, our strike is still solid. So, that is where we are.”

When asked, even, if the Federal Government eventually signs the final agreement, are you ready to resume, the ASUU Chairman categorically declared: “No! Until the agreement is implemented. Whatever we sign has to be implemented and you know that it is the Federal Government that will implement it.”

ASUU Gombe: We will see the struggle to conclusion

University (GSU) ASUU Gombe State Branch and Federal University Kashere (FUK) yesterday vowed to pursue the strike action embarked upon by national body of the union to conclusion.

In a separate interview with The Nation in Gombe, GSU and FUK ASUU Chairmen, Dr. Abdulahi Oladimeji Lawal and Dr. Shehu El-Rasheed regretted that though the strike is causing more damage to the nation’s Ivory towers, they were left with no option.

“We are now in the fifth month without salary. You know it’s not easy, but the fact is it is a struggle that we must continue with because if we don’t do it definitely, the system will continue collapsing and we cannot fold our arms and watch the system dying like the other two education sectors, the primary and secondary education. So, our people are bent on fighting this struggle to conclusion because the only option is for us to persevere and pursue it to the level that the system will survive. Honestly, you can play with any other things, but you can’t play with education because once the education sector is destroyed, the country is finished,” said El Rasheed.

He said as a result of ASUU strike, the campus of FUK has been reduced to a ghost city with no life, adding that the entire Kashere community is also bearing the burden of the strike because it has impacted negatively on its economy.

Similarly at GSU campus in Gombe, the lecture halls, administration blocks and students halls of residents are all deserted.

GSU ASUU Chair Dr. Oladimeji Lawal said the branch could not hold a different opinion from that of the apex body.

He blamed the Federal Government for allowing another long strike action coming almost back to back after the nine months strike of the year 2020.

“For me the strike is a demonstration of the lacklustre attitude of the current government. It’s a bad omen for our country that a strike is approaching five months. For those who care, they should know that the problem is squarely with the government,” he said.

A student of GSU, Hajara Simon, said when the strike started, she immediately joined a fashion design outfit to learn fashion designing and she is rounding up her training already.

“You know the way the country is now . You have to find something to keep your body and soul together, especially for those of us from middle class family. It is a different ball game entirely, you have to find a means of surviving,” she said.

Cooperative society to the rescue at Yobe varsity

The members of Academic Staff Union of University, Yobe State University Chapter have looked for alternative measures to help members cope as the state government has slammed a “no work no pay” rule on the members.

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