Indications have emerged that the Academic Staff Union of Universities may call off the over four-month-old strike on Thursday.
Barring a last-minute change, the National Executive Committee of ASUU will meet on Wednesday night to consider the position of the congresses of the over 50 public universities on the offer made by the Federal government to revamp the institutions.
The union met with a Federal Government team led by President Goodluck Jonathan last Tuesday in Abuja.
The ASUU leadership, after briefing the zonal coordinators on the offer, had directed the local branches to organise congress meetings between Friday last week and Tuesday (tomorrow).
This is to enable all the lecturers to make input into the action the union would take after its NEC meeting on Thursday.
However, feelers from most universities that had organised their congresses revealed that ASUU would suspend the strike after the Thursday NEC meeting.
In some universities, including the Obafemi Awolowo University and the Lagos State University that have scheduled their congress meetings for Monday (today), union leaders and lecturers expressed hope that the strike would end this week.
Also, some top officials of the union in some of the nine zones of ASUU said even though they were not happy with the plan by the government to inject N220bn yearly into the public universities for the next five years, they were pleased that a commitment had been obtained by the union.
Though the Ibadan Zonal Coordinator of ASUU, Dr. Nasir Adesola, confirmed that the NEC meeting would hold on Wednesday, he did not say whether the strike would be called off or not.
“Yes, the NEC will hold on Wednesday evening but ASUU has a process which we are going to follow. NEC reserves the right to call off the strike after due consultation with members and this is why congresses are being called in all the chapters of the union. Please, wait till after the congress,” he told one of our correspondents on the telephone.
But another source said, “Our NEC meeting will hold between Wednesday night and Thursday. Our chapters have started holding meetings to discuss the Federal Government’s offer. This is to allow input from all the lecturers. We have to carry them along to avoid disunity since there are moves by some elements to infiltrate us.”
Another source told one of our correspondents that some members had expressed mixed feelings about the Federal Government’s new offer based on its refusal to honour past agreements.
“The radicals among us are sceptical about this latest offer. They do not believe that government will respect the agreement. Their view is that government only wants to deceive the union to call off the strike before it will jettison it.”
A top official of the union, who confirmed the fears, told one of our correspondents that although members’ opinions at the zonal congresses were divided over the government’s offer, the majority still decided to give the government the benefit of the doubt.
He also said that the majority opinion was that the review of the agreement which was supposed to hold this year should be postponed till next year in the interest of peace.
The official added, “Members were persuaded because President Goodluck Jonathan personally met with the union. They felt since the President was involved in the negotiation this time around, the government would not say that it was arm-twisted to make the offer.
“This is the problem we are having with the 2009 agreement. By now we should be talking about a review but we are still having troubles with implementation.
“Although feelers across the zones are that we should call off the strike, we are going to put down the government offer in black and white and make it public so that nobody accuses us tomorrow of asking for too much.”
Some universities are expected to hold their congresses on Monday (today) to discuss the outcome of the zonal congresses held at nine centres across the country last week.
A source at the meeting between the government and ASUU told one of our correspondents that the government after a long debate agreed to inject N220bn yearly for the next five years beginning from 2014.
He had said, “The meeting should be the longest that we have ever had on this crisis but I can tell you that both parties were frank all through the discussions. The parties also showed commitment towards ending the crisis. The President in particular showed that he was serious about ending the strike and that was why he offered to release over N1tn to the universities in the next five years.
“The money will be released on a yearly basis at N220bn per annum beginning from 2014. For the outgoing year, the Federal Government will only release N100bn and this has been processed.
“In order to show commitment to this deal, the money will be kept at the Central Bank of Nigeria and will be released on a quarterly basis to the universities. So, there won’t be any problem about funding the deal.”
The source added that the National Universities Commission and the Trade Union Congress would be joint guarantors of the new agreement while the Minister of Education would be the implementation officer.
He said that the government also agreed, among other things, to revamp the public universities by ensuring that all the issues that always lead to strike were dealt with once and for all.