By Adesina Wahab
Though what the Federal Government offered striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, fell beyond the lecturers’ expectations, there are indications that the union may suspend its ongoing industrial action soon.
The suspension may not, however, be based on the negotiating ability of the government team, but on the stark economic realities confronting the country now, checks by Vanguard have revealed.
Investigation showed that as the national leadership of ASUU meets on Sunday and congresses of the union hold between Monday and Wednesday this week across the country to debate the government’s proposals to the union made last Friday, members may be swayed to soft-pedal on the strike based on the economic situation in the country.
However, the union may give the government timelines to fulfill some obligations, especially ones involving finance, and that any breach would lead to another crisis.
As ASUU and FG teams were meeting at the weekend, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that Nigeria had gone into another round of economic recession, as the Gross Domestic Products, GDP, shrank for the second consecutive quarter.
The fact was corroborated by the World Bank which described the recession as the worst in over 30 years.
A leader of ASUU, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence, said if the union was to consider the government’s handling of the issue, the strike could go on for a very long time.
“Though the government tried to paint us as the aggressor and engaged in futile propaganda, we won’t be deterred. Yes, we all know the poor state of the economy now, but even when everything was going on well, what did the government do with the revenue? What are they doing now to make things better?
“Many well-meaning Nigerians and groups have been in contact with us, appealing to us too. We are ready to soft-pedal on some conditions which we hope the government will not bungle.
“However, our union is democratic in nature and setting, it is what the majority of our members want that we will do. Congresses will hold and we will collate opinions of members and the majority will carry the vote,” the source said.
Recall that at last Friday’s meeting between ASUU and the FG delegation, the government agreed to ASUU’s demand to pay their members’ salary arrears from February to June through the old salary payment platform – the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System, GIFMIS.
Also, the FG said it would make N35 billion available for the Earned Academic Allowances for all trade unions in the university system, even though ASUU said it only negotiated that for its members.
Also, the government promised to release N25 billion as revitalisation fund, when the union initially demanded N220 billion which was later reduced to N110 billion.
The issue of the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System, IPPIS, is still contentious, as earlier reports had it that the government exempted ASUU members from that platform.
However, the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, came out to say nothing of such was the case.
The union has been on strike since March this year.