BY WOLE MOSADOMI, AMAKA ABAYOMI & LAJU ARENYEKA
Minna— Parents, students and government officials, Tuesday, expressed relief as the six-month old nationwide strike, by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, over non-implementation of 2009 agreement between the union and the Federal Government, was called off.
Addressing journalists in Minna, yesterday, after long hours of brainstorming, ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Fagge, said the union decided to call off the strike after diligent and careful appraisal of various report, especially the resolutions signed last Wednesday by ASUU and the Federal Government.
ASUU, however, said it would continuously and diligently monitor the implementation of the joint resolutions in all branches, facilitate the inauguration of the implementation monitoring committee on the report of the Needs Assessment of Nigerian Universities, ensure faithful compliance with the report and ensure that ASUU members do not suffer any loss of deserved benefits arising from the strike, specifically the unresolved issue of the Earned Allowances.
ASUU also highlighted the remaining areas in the 2009 agreement, which require policy and legislative steps for the challenges facing the system to be effectively addressed and expressed hope that the provisions of the extant agreements for revitalisation of the university system will imme-diately focus on theseneeds.
Accordingly, Fagge declared that with effect from yesterday, the six months old strike has been suspended and thereby directed all branches to resume work forthwith.
A major casualty was recorded when the former National President of the union, Professor Festus Iyayi, died in an auto crash on his way to Kano to attend the National Executive Committee meeting of ASUU.
On December 3, which was the dead line given by the Federal Government to the lecturers to either resume classes or be sacked, the government extended the deadline to December 9, saying the action was in honour of late Iyayi, who was to be buried on same date.
ASUU listed some of its expectations from government.
They include government’s faithful implementation of the resolutions reached and signed, even as it vowed to work assiduously for the revitalisation of Nigerian universities where students and parents will begin to see the fruits of the struggle.
ASUU expects that the revitalisation funds for the next five years will be provided as agreed in the resolutions, while the implementation monitoring committee will ensure that funds released will be used to meet genuine revitalisation needs of public universities with strict and disciplined supervision of the implementation processes by the universities themselves.
ASUU also expects the monitoring committee to conclude, within a short time, the verification of the level of implementation of the Earned Academic Allowances and that government should also, as agreed, provide fund for the payment of outstanding balance.
It also expects government to act quickly to engage the services of the universities in special consulting services as contained in the resolution.
Fagge said: “Although ASUU would have preferred to undertake the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement in the second quarter, our union was persuaded to shift the date to third quarter and it is our hope that government will honour these resolutions as signed and that nobody shall be victimised in any way for his/her role in the process leading to these resolutions and agreements.”
The union condemned vice-chancellors that made efforts to undermine and in some cases attempted to break ASUU’s strike and also commended the committee of five vice-chancellors for their persistence, hard work and determination towards the final signing of the December 11 resolution.
He said: “On our own part, we shall accept fair and honest criticisms made in the interest of the university system and the people of Nigeria.
“We have no illusion that the resolution signed with government will resolve all the important problems in the system.
“What we believe is that if the Federal Government faithfully implements the resolutions with ASUU, with students and parents playing their essential roles, further crises would be avoided to the benefit of our education and our country.”
The Presidency, in its immediate reaction through the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Communication, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said: “It is a great relief to parents and students that ASUU has called off the strike because the students have suffered so much.“The government on its part will honour its word by implementing the agreement.”
Students, yesterday, received with mixed feelings the news of the suspension of the strike.
UNIBEN SUG Chairman, Mr. Osasere Osifo, said: “It is good that the strike has been called off. But I am not necessarily jumping for joy about it, because we have already lost so much.
“Who will compensate us for the six months that we have lost? As for the results of the strike, only time will tell whether the sector will be better. ”An undergraduate of English and Literary Studies, Lagos State University, Anwuliker Stancey Nduba, told Vanguard: “It is almost impossible to measure what one has lost during this strike.
“Time, lives and futures have been lost. The strike just slowed down my progress up the ladder of achievement.“I do not even know how to pick the pieces of my academic career.”OAU SUG Chairman, Mr. Ayo Toe, holds a contrary opinion.
He said: ”I believe that it was a bold step by ASUU to go all the way until the government shifted ground. In situations like this, every stakeholder has to pay a price. Students have paid theirs and so has ASUU.
“We just have to hope that the MoU will be thoroughly implemented so that ASUU does not have any justification to go on strike again.”
National Treasurer, ASUU, Dr. Demola Aremu, said: “We believe that the strike was worth it. If we had not gone on strike, there would have been no move whatsoever to implement the 2009 agreement.
“It is obvious that until we went on strike, the government was not at all interested in bringing an end to the strike. It was when they saw our genuine commitment to the strike that they made a move.
“If the Federal Government learns to display more responsibility, funding of universities should not be an issue we should have to go on strike for.”
A lecturer of the Department of Mass Communications, University of Lagos, Professor Ralph Akinfeleye, advised students to be ready for marathon lectures as the lecturers would have to rush to cover up for the lost five months.
He said: “We thank Mr. President for his marathon meeting with us. The strike should have been suspended before now, but for the satanic vices of some government officials.”
He said the loss cannot be quantified, adding “rather, I’ll urge Mr. President’s aides to learn how to deal with lecturers because we are intellectual people and can’t be threatened with termination of appointment.”
Dr. Chris Onwunari, also a lecturer at the University of Lagos, said: “It was a well deserved struggle. It demonstrated to the authorities to learn to keep their commitments instead of behaving like outlaws.”