The university unions have said it’s members are currently considering the appeal by the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) which seeks the suspension of their ongoing strike while negotiations continue.
The unions include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
A statement issued by the Ministry of Labour and signed by its head of press and public relations, Olajide Oshundun, stated that the chairperson of NIREC and Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, made the appeal on Thursday during a “tripartite-plus” meeting between the striking university workers’ unions and government representatives and other stakeholders.
The statement said Mr Abubakar expressed frustration with the continued closure of the universities, noting that the development poses danger, especially with the increasing activities ahead of the 2023 general elections.
The statement added that the monarch and religious leader said the universities need to be reopened as soon as possible so that it does not provide an opportunity “for those politicians who don’t want things to go right, to use those children as political thugs.”
The leadership of ASUU and that of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of SSANU and NASU confirmed the appeal and promised that their members would give the final verdict.
According to the statement by the Labour ministry, Mr Abubakar called for a compromise between the parties.
“I don’t think it will be so beneficial to us while our children are at home and threatening violence across the country, blocking roads and airports and we as elders sit down watching,” he said.
“The best thing is to go back to the classroom and continue negotiation. We will continue sitting together until the final solution is attained. It is not impossible.”
He added that it would portend danger to allow young people to “sit idly” at home.
“That is why we plead with the unions to see the need to call off the strike while we keep negotiating.”
The statement also quoted the co-chairman of NIREC and president of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Supo Ayokunle, as noting that the poor funding of the universities did not just start, “but borne out of long periods of neglect by previous governments, which snowballed to our present situation.”
The President of ASUU, Emmanuel Osodeke disclosed that the union would consider the appeal and make its decision known.
He confirmed that NIREC appealed to the striking unions on Thursday. He said such appeals are not new to ASUU.
“It is an appeal and our members would consider it. It is not a request but an appeal”
A member of the union, who spoke with journalists on condition of anonymity, revealed that the union is currently considering suspending the three months strike.
“The suspension may last for just three months, the negotiations with the Federal Government would continue during the grace period,” he said.
He added that if the government fails to meet the demands of ASUU within the three months, the union would be forced to lift the suspension and embark on an indefinite strike.
The move towards the suspension is is coming a few hours after President Muhammadu Buhari pleaded with ASUU to consider the suffering of students and call off the strike.
DAILY GIST reported that the union commenced a warning strike on February 14 over failure of the federal government to meet its demands and implement some agreements the two parties entered into previously.
ASUU’s demands include the funding of the revitalisation of public universities, the Earned Academic Allowances, the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and promotion arrears.
Others are the renegotiation of 2009 ASUU-FG Agreement and the inconsistency in Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System.