Minister of labour and employment, Dr Chris Ngige, has said the federal government has reached some levels of agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the lingering strike embarked by the lecturers.
Ngige said he was hopeful that after the deliberations, ASUU would consider calling off the strike in a few weeks.
The minister, who spoke at the federal government resumption of talks with the union yesterday in Abuja, declared, “We have reached some agreements and we hope that by next week, those agreements will be maturing and the different unions will have something to tell their members, so that they can call off the strike.
“We have put some timelines for some aspects like renegotiation of 2009 agreement in terms of condition of service and wage review, so, we are hopeful that by next weekend, the unions will see a conclusion of that area.
However, ASUU insisted that when its demands are met, they will call off the strike.
The meeting commenced at the banquet hall of the State House, Abuja and was attended by the representatives of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), ASUU leaders and officials of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC).
Others who participated in the meeting included the minister of education, Adamu Adam, and officials of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.
The meeting was presided over by the chief of staff to the president, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, under the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Prior to the meeting, President Muhammadu Buhari had appealed to ASUU to consider the plight of students and call off the strike.
The president also urged students in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions to exercise patience as the government strives to address the nagging issues in the nation’s university system within the ambit of the resources available.
He made the appeal at the 19th National Productivity Day and the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award (NPOM) on 48 eminent Nigerians and organisations in both the public and private sectors, for their high productivity, hard work and excellence.
Buhari in a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, said he had directed his chief of staff, ministers of labour and employment, education, finance, budget and national planning to immediately bring all parties to the negotiation table to again critically look at the grey areas in the demands of ASUU and in fact, all other University based labour unions.
On the theme of this year’s celebration ‘‘Achieving Higher Productivity through Improved Education System,’’ the President pledged that the Federal Government would continue to do everything possible to uplift the standard of the educational system in the country, adding that his administration recognised that the future of any nation is contingent on the standard of its educational system.
‘‘Therefore, if we desire to transform Nigeria into a competitive, strong, vibrant, productive and sustainable economy, improving our educational system should be accorded the highest priority.’’
Highlighting notable achievements in the education sector including the drastic reduction of the number of out of school children from 10.1million in 2019 to 6.9 million in 2020, automatic employment for graduates of education, review of the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, among others, the President said more still needs to be done.
‘‘Quality educational system is good not just for the national economy; it is also good for the citizens.
‘‘Ignoring the productivity dimension of education would endanger the prosperity of future generations, with widespread repercussions for poverty and social exclusion.
‘‘It will be difficult to improve our economic performance and overall productivity, without improving our educational system.
‘Government notes the emergency situation in our educational system with particular reference to the dearth of qualified and dedicated teachers to enhance the quality of teaching and learning at all levels of our educational system,’’ he said.
To address these challenges, President Buhari said his administration has reviewed the retirement age of teachers from 60 to 65 years, while years of service have now been moved from 35 to 40 years to encourage more graduates to join the teaching profession.
Similarly, the president said the government has also approved a special salary scale for teachers in Basic and Secondary schools including provisions for rural posting allowance, Science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance, while prioritising timely promotion and prompt payment of salaries.
Furthermore, the President said the reintroduction of bursary award to education students in universities and Colleges of Education comes with assurance of automatic employment upon graduation as well as payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students.
Congratulating all the awardees for their various accomplishments and well-deserved recognition, the President said they have been carefully selected from a multitude of competitors, saying ‘‘this award should spur you to greater heights.’’
The president commended the chairman and members of the National Productivity Order of Merit Award Committee, including the management and staff of National Productivity Centre for a job well done, urging the recipients of the merit award and Nigerians to make productivity their watchword.
In his remarks, s Ngige said since the inception of the award in 1991, 382 individuals and 97 organisations have been honoured with the NPOM.