Wednesday, 24 July 2013

ASUU Strike Worsens as FG Not Able to Implement 2009-Agreement

Any hope of an early resolution of the crisis between university lecturers and the federal government dimmed on Tuesday as the government hinted that it could not implement the agreement it had with the lecturers in 2009.
The Federal Government said it is re-negotiating the 2009 Agreement it reached with the lecturers- members of the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities, ASUU, with a view to successfully implementing it.
The Minister of Labour, Emeka Wogu, who disclosed this to journalists in Abuja on Tuesday after briefing the national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, on his stewardship in the last two years, defended the government’s position.
Mr. Wogu said the Agreement predated the current administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Mr. Jonathan was the vice president in 2009 when the government, then headed by President Umaru Yar’Adua, negotiated the agreement with the lecturers.
Mr. Wogu said there were some areas of the Agreement that needed to be renegotiated if it was to be satisfactorily implemented.

When asked categorically if his statements meant the government would not implement the agreement as it is, the minister claimed the contrary.
He refused to categorically state that the agreement was impracticable, saying its Terms of Reference “created problems.” He added that it was the reason why government requested that the parties that signed the document looked at it again. He also refused to disclose the part of the agreement the government would not implement.
The minister disclosed that already there was a government team headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Pius Anyim, which had series of discussion with the union, insisting that “the right thing to do is to come back to the table.”
He also said that the National Assembly had joined in the discussion with ASUU, adding that government could only make headway on the issue if it had the full picture of all that was involved before the Agreement was drafted and signed.
“We have made offer to ASUU. It is as complex as presented. Negotiation is ongoing. National Assembly is equally involved. We believe they will soon call off the strike. I personally and passionately appeal to them to call off the strike.
“It will not affect the negotiation if they call off the strike. It is better for them to be inside than outside. Students have equally appealed to them.”
Mr. Wogu’s declaration on Tuesday confirmed the fear of hundreds of thousands of university students, who are made to stay away from learning, that the strike may be prolonged.
ASUU in the past has gone on some strikes that lasted several months. The ongoing strike has been on for three weeks.
The lecturers, through their leadership have repeatedly insisted that they would accept nothing but 100 per cent implementation of the agreement. The lecturers restated this at their last meeting last week with federal lawmakers and the relevant government officials.
The lecturers, who said they would not call off their strike until their demands are met, have however said they would continue to talk with the government. ASUU’s national president, Nasir Fagge, said on Tuesday that his union was waiting for the government to call for another meeting.
“We shall continue to wait for them until they are ready to put in place a lasting solution to the current issue, so that our children and the lecturers alike can go back to school,” he said.
Mr. Fagge added that “… until government starts looking at agreement as a product of collective bargaining, we shall keep having problems.”
Official unemployment figure now 23.9%.
Mr. Wogu also put the unemployment figure in Nigeria at 23.9 per cent.
He, however, noted that the figure could be wrong because of the unfolding events every day.
He also said that only the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, could give the accurate figure of the rate of employment and unemployment in the country.
Mr. Wogu praised the Goodluck Jonathan’s government for creating employment since its inception, noting that SURE-P, SMEDAN, ITF, Maritime, Railway and Tourism sectors had done well in this regard.
He said the ministry was at the stage of putting in place a Social Security Policy, SPP, that would reflect the nation’s needs and level of economic development, taking into consideration the traditional as well as the modern socio-cultural values and norms.
“To this end, the ministry participated in a meeting of a Task Force by ECOWAS Commission in 2012 to finalise the Document on the ILO Convention No. 102,” he said.
“It is hoped that Nigeria will commence the process of ratification of the Convention in phases in view of its wide range.”
On industrial relations, Mr. Wogu said a total number of 398 trade disputes were experienced in the last two years out of which 83 per cent were resolved as at May this year.
According to him, in the interest of sustainable industrial peace, the ministry had advocated a paradigm shift in industrial relations practice from adversarial Trade Union Management Relationship to Developmental Orientation.
The orientation, he stressed, was proactive and built to reduce to the barest minimum incidences of industrial crisis in the national industrial relations system.

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