The Federal Government on Thursday vowed it was not going to pay the Academic Staff Union of Universities lecturers’ salaries for the six months they embarked on strike.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who stated this at the 47th session of the State House Ministerial Media Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, explained that the insistence of ASUU for the government to pay its members salaries within the period of the strike was stalling negotiations between the union and the Federal Government.
Public universities in Nigeria have remained shut after ASUU on February 14, 2022, embarked on strike. The striking lecturers were later joined in the industrial action by other unions like the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Educational Institutions, and the National Association of Academic Technologists.
However, Adamu said at the event on Thursday that five of the unions would return to work within the next one week, whereas ASUU’s remain uncertain.
On the report that President Muhammadu Buhari gave him two weeks ultimatum to resolve the impasse, Adamu said, “The President never gave me any deadline. I promised that I could do it within the shortest possible time. And for your information, one week after that pledge, I had already finished my job because I had given all the six unions the offer made by the government, and I want to tell you, in principle, all of them accepted it. The only exception was ASUU which gave me two other conditions, which I told them would not be acceptable to the government.
“Let me seize the opportunity to commend ASUP (Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics). ASUP was on strike. But at the time I was given this (negotiation) responsibility, they were threatening to go back. So, I called ASUP and I made them withdraw the threat and they agreed.
“The next I met was the College of Education Academic Staff Union, they are on strike already. I gave them the offer and this is the final offer. And they accepted it. But you know the mechanism of acceptance, they will not just tell me, okay, the strike is called off. They have to go and tell their unions. And that is what is happening with NASU. I met NASU and SSANU. And they have accepted but they need time to go and tell the unions. The last group I met was NAAT.
“So, I can tell you within the next one week, these five unions will call off the strike. But I cannot say the same for ASUU because what they’re asking is, that they can accept this offer if the federal government will agree to pay the salary for the month they have not worked. And I told them the federal government will not. All contentious issues between the government and ASUU had been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of the strike be paid, a demand that Buhari has flatly rejected.”
On the threats by Nigerian students to drag him to court for compensation for time wasted as a result of the strike, the education minister argued that ASUU should bear the liability of compensating university students for the time wasted and not the Federal Government.
He said, “Who do you assume will compensate the students? The federal government? No. Probably you should take the leaders of striking unions to court to pay them. Yes. Probably the court will award damages and then we’ll see how they pay.”
He decried that ASUU decided to embark on the strike amid investing of investing N2.5 trillion into education by the Buhari regime and agencies such as TETFUND and UBEC.
Meanwhile, Adamu said that renegotiations are still ongoing to ensure the strike is called off.
He said, “Unions in Tertiary Institutions in the country, especially the Academic Staff Union of Universities have been engaged in recurring and avoidable strikes that have crippled the university system.
“This is in spite of the huge investments of over N2.5tn in tertiary institutions in the last ten years from TETFUND alone. Just recently, we inaugurated a committee to renegotiate the 2009 agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities and related unions in tertiary institutions.
“We are doing everything humanly possible to conclude the negotiations. I am sure that the current efforts would yield the desired results and return our children back to school.”