ADAMU ADAMU– AFTER INITIAL WITHDRAWAL, EDUCATION MINISTER MET PROTESTING STUDENTS
After threatening to continue protesting indefinitely, Nigeria’s Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, on Monday evening met with protesting students and pledged the government’s commitment to addressing their concerns.
The minister, who had earlier walked out of students on Monday morning due to what he described as rude behavior by student leaders, later met with the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) at the National Universities Commission (NUC) headquarters.
He assured the protesters that members of the union of striking university faculty would soon return to the classroom.
In a brief statement issued late Monday night by the ministry’s director of press, Bin Gong, the minister said the ongoing negotiation process had been fruitful and “is expected to lead to a speedy return of the striking lecturers to the classroom.”
WE ALSO REPORTED THAT NANS, PARENTS, OTHERS THREATENED TO SHUT DOWN NIGERIA BECAUSE OF ASUU STRIKE.
The statement, shared with the PUBLIC late Monday night, reads as follows: Education Minister Adamu Adamu met with NANS officials in Abuja in an effort to ease tension over the ongoing strike at Arizona State University. The operation is expected to lead to the resumption of academic activities on our university campus.”
However, the director did not mention the details of the meeting with the student leaders.
The footage of the minister’s exit on the students was shown on the media, earlier online, with several Nigerians reprimanding Mr Adamu for his ‘bad behaviour’.
The Minister was said to have expressed his dissatisfaction with the manner and way in which he was spoken to by the President of the NANS, Sunday Asfoon, who reportedly accused the Minister of not caring about the plight of Nigerian students.
Addressing the Minister on Monday, Mr. Asfoon said, “The main issue that ASU has continued to bring is the revitalization of our institutions, which is important to every student. But you cannot discuss revitalization of our institution without the presence of Nigerian students on that negotiating committee.
The Nigerian students want to be part of this committee. We really want to know what’s going on between ASUU and the federal government… We are tired of the ongoing strike in our education sector.
Sir, we saw it on social media, you celebrated your son who graduated from a university outside this country. Our parents don’t have that money to send us out of the country. But let’s enjoy what we pay for. We want enough funding for education in this country.
‘Should our schools don’t open, this won’t be the last protest. This isn’t a threat – when we said we’re going out, here we are. Today, Niger Road is closed, Benue is closed, Adamawa is closed. If caution is not taken, it will be worse than EndSARS’
Apparently angry at the issues raised, the minister reportedly told the protesting students that the only thing worth noting about the issues raised was the students’ involvement in the negotiation process after which he walked out of the conference room.
‘Instead of coming here, you should have met the lecturers there. Perhaps the only point you make that is worth paying attention to is; I said that the students should be involved in this and I think, probably, that is a very good thing. And that is the only thing I will get out. From all that you have said here, ‘The Minister reportedly said before he came out of his conference room where he met them.”
In a related development, after nearly eight hours of an intense closed-door meeting on Tuesday, both the Nigerian government team and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities Strikers Union (ASUU) showed up at around 11pm. With reference to the possibility of resolving conflict areas between the two parties.
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ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeki declined to comment detailed on their conclusions, but said his team would report to members on the government’s proposals and later return to the government.
But the minister of Labor and Employment, Chris Ngigi, said that the two parties agreed on a lot of things, and that ASU is expected to talk about its members, and show them the proposal made by the government so that they can call off the strike.”
Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) and the Universities Revitalization Fund were the two items on the agenda for Tuesday’s meeting.
Mr Ngige said that while most of ASUU’s demands are being dealt with, the remaining areas are also being addressed.
‘As I told you last time, a lot of items have been dealt with on a large scale and some are in the works,’ he said.
One of the remaining areas is the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU Agreement, the minister said, noting that the Ministry of Education had set up a committee to consider the report submitted by the renegotiation committee led by Monzali Djibril.
Professor Monzali took over the negotiations after the resignation of the former Chairman of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Board of Directors, Akoka, Wali Babalkin, as chair of the government team.
He said it was important that the allowances requested by ASUU be along with the structure available on the National Pay, Income and Wage Commission.
Ngige said the committee at the Ministry of Education ‘will wrap everything up and send the whole thing’ within six weeks.
He said, ‘So, today, the Ministry of Education has set up an internal committee in their ministry to look into the product of the work of Professor Monzali’s committee. Once again, Professor Monzali’s committee was abolished because many people including Monzali are no longer supportive of the advisers.’
‘A new team was formed because they needed to take a second look at this document, and make sure, with ASUU’s contribution, that some allowances are not against the NSIWC’s fixed salaries and allowances.
Should you do that and propose it to the government, it will not be accepted. Therefore, it is important to function well. So that whatever they submit can be approved by the Federal Executive Board.’
The minister said that within six weeks, the committee set up in the Ministry of Education will conclude everything and send everything. ‘So, this is the only new area.’
The minister also said that a joint committee of ASUU members, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) officials and independent IT experts has been laid off until March 8 to come up with the joint review report to resolve the university’s transparency and accountability. (UTAS).
He said, ‘They will also go there with the technical team and do a joint test on the UTAS Integrity and Vulnerability Test. And we were hoping that when they start testing, they will do that and give us a joint report.
‘We will also hire a neutral IT expert to join them. Even if they have areas of contention, they can resolve them. Their schedule is up by March 8. We expect to work on that as well for six weeks.’
There is no problem with the EAA, Njeige said, saying that if there are those whose salaries are not being paid, the finance minister will ‘look for money to pay.’
He added that his ministry contacted the National Universities Commission to form a committee to calculate the allowances for universities and refer it to the Minister of Finance in the next three weeks.
“92 billion dollars paid to universities‘
Meanwhile, Mr. Ngigi said that the Nigerian government has so far paid out over N92 billion in vesting and recovery fund to federal government-owned universities across the country.
The minister said this at the Presidential villa on Tuesday, saying that the development is part of the government’s commitment to implement the December 2020 agreement reached with the union.
He said, ‘Why I said that the December 2020 agreement that we have with ASUU is on the right track in terms of implementation, is that in the agreement, there is a line that the federal government must pay N40 billion to ASUU and other unions for EAA and that been paid.
‘The N30 billion was also budgeted or was due to be paid for activating and that was also paid late last year. N22.127 billion was also agreed in this December agreement, to be paid out from the supplementary budget as the 2021 EAA, which was also paid it last year; it was included in the supplementary budget that was passed. So, the government has done it.’
Academic Staff Union of University has embarked on a four-week warning strike to pressure its demands including the renegotiation of the 2009 ASUU/FG Agreement, and the sustainability of university autonomy through the deployment of University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) to replace ‘imposed’ integrated government. Employee Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
The union also demanded the release of the reports of the visit committees to the federal universities and the distortions in the challenges to the payment of salaries.
Others include revitalization funding for public universities, earned academic allowances, poor funding for public universities, and promotion arrears.
While the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had formed days after the start of the strike the White Paper Board of the visiting committees, the committees had not yet opened.
After the recent meeting between Academic Staff Union of University and the government delegation, Mr. Ngige called the strike illegal, saying the union did not provide the 14 days notice required by law before initiating the strike.