By Olubusuyi Adenipekun
Members of the Academic StaffÂ Union of Universities (ASUU) are eager to return to the negotiating table as a way of bringing the two-month old strike to an end. Infact, they want the recommencement of the negotiations with the Federal Government as soon as possible, for the good of our students, their parents, the university education system and the good of the people of Nigeria.â€
This call on the re-opening of negotiation by ASUU is coming on the heels of the pull-out of the Federal Government from further talks with ASUU about a fortnight ago.
According to the National President of ASUU, Prof Ukachukwu Awuzie, the strike would have been resolved if the Federal Government negotiation team had faithfully implemented the solution proposed by the Vice-President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan.
According to Awuzie, the Vice President had directedÂ at the meeting which held on August 3, this year, thatÂ all contentious issues should be resolved and gave two weeks for the completion of the negotiation process following which an agreement would signed.
ASUU was thereafter to consider suspending/ calling off the strike. The President of ASUU, who was the leader of ASUU negotiating team and at the same time the Convener and Chairman of ASUU National Executive Council (NEC), actually summoned the NEC to a meetingÂ for August 8, with the expectation that the Vice Presidentâ€™s directive to the Minister of Education, Dr Sam Egwu would be implemented.
But the leader of governmentâ€™s team (Prof Greg Iwu, who stood in for Deacon Onosode) at the August 3rd meeting knew nothing about the Vice Presidentâ€™s proposals even though the Executive Secretary of the NUC and that of the ETF, who were at the meeting with the Vice President, were present as part of the governmentâ€™s team.
On August 4, says Awuzie, Deacon Onosode led his team at the meeting but told ASUU members that there is no central signing and negotiation as he announced on July 10th, 2009, insisting that we must return to individual councils. He claimed he had not been briefed about the meeting with the Vice President and could not change his stance until he got a letter changing the position of government.
Onosodeâ€™s claim led the meeting to agree that he should visit the Vice President on the matter on August 5, accompanied by the Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof Julius Okogie. Another meeting was then fixed for August 6.
When the meeting resumed on August 6, Deacon Onosode reported that he did not go to the Villa with Okogie while Okogie also reported that he could not have a conversation with the Vice President, though he claimed he went to the Villa.
It became clear that no progress had been made and the meeting adjourned till August 10th after which government called off further negotiations with ASUU.
ASUU claims that there are some forces in the government bent on frustrating the emergence of a centrally signed agreement with ASUU, adding that these forces are aware that no agreement will be signed atÂ individual council levels, as the councils do not have the financial means of implementing the funding requirements.
â€œIn fact, these forces are courting a more serious industrial crisis at the branch levels, apart from the essential disabilities of councilsâ€, says Awuzie.
These forces, according to the ASUU President, have moved from one ground to another to abort the process. He says, â€œfirst, that they have â€œgrantedâ€ 75% of ASUU demands. Second, that they have offered 40% salary increase, but â€œASUU has rejected it.â€ Third, the universities have been â€œgranted autonomy.â€ After all that, they have invented the issue of state universities. They are to be held responsible for prolonging the crisis.â€
But, much as ASUU is willing to return to negotiating table, it still remains resolute with the principle of collective bargaining, adding that the negotiating teams should discuss all remaining contentious issues raised by either party, agree upon them, and thereafter sign an agreement.
In fact, ASUU has rolled out a list of conditions which the Federal Government must meet before the representatives of ASUU can honor any invitation to the negotiation table by the Federal Government.
The government team should, according to Awuzie, obtain a clear mandate from its principals to abide by the principle of collective bargaining by completing the process started in 2006, agree to complete the negotiation by formally signing the agreement, bring to the negotiating table on the first day the list of all contentious issues, if any, that have to be negotiated and agreed upon as directed by the Vice President in the meeting of July 29th, 2009 and resolve that the negotiation should be completed in one week or less.