The Federal Government will on Thursday hold a meeting with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to resolve the lingering strike in the nation’s universities.
ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, confirmed on Tuesday that he had received an invitation to a meeting at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Abuja.
Also, the National Association of Nigerian Students has issued a two-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to resolve the ASUU strike.
The group, on Tuesday, threatened violence if the government failed to prevail on the union to call off the strike.
Speaking to one of Punch correspondents on the telephone, Ogunyemi said the ASUU negotiating team would be at the meeting to hear what the government had done so far in respect of the seven demands tabled for implementation.
He stated, “We have a scheduled meeting on Thursday; we received the invitation today (Tuesday). We would be at the meeting. We go to every meeting with open mind and also believe the government will come with open mind and if they (government officials) mean well, we will resolve the issue.”
The don said he did not envisage any problem, adding that the government would be expected to highlight the demands it had implemented and to give a time frame on the ones that would be implemented subsequently.
“Our demands are clear, seven issues with timelines. They are expected to have started implementing them; we don’t see much problem here.
“They will just tell us how far they have implemented them and tell us which ones they cannot implement for now, and give us the time frame (for implementation),” Ogunyemi stated.
Asked if the government had released the N23bn it promised last month to the universities, the union leader said he did not know if this had been done.
But NANS factional president, Haruna Kadiri, who led his group on protest to the Ministry of Education, Abuja on Tuesday, over the strike, stated that students bore the brunt of labour dispute between university lecturers and government.
This, he noted, made them unattractive to the labour market which he said often preferred graduates from private universities who concluded their academic programmes within stipulated time.
Kadiri said, “We are here to demand to know when the strike would be called off. The government has not been tackling the issues that led to the strike, but politicising them and dividing the ranks of the lecturers.
“As researchers, ASUU should carry out research and find solutions to the issues instead of going on strike.
“We are issuing a two-week ultimatum for the strike to be resolved. If after the ultimatum, the FG and ASUU didn’t resolve the strike, the next protest will not be peaceful. We would carry out civil unrest and we are ready to be detained in the guardroom.”
The student leader also condemned the new cut-off marks for university and polytechnic admissions as announced by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, describing the cut-off marks as retrogressive and ‘anti-education.’
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, Sonny Echono, who addressed the students, assured them that the government was working to resolve the crisis.
NANS factions in free-for-all in Abuja over leadership tussle
Two NANS factions had earlier clashed at the Unity Fountain, Maitama, Abuja, following the leadership tussle rocking the association.
Some of the NANS members threw caution to the wind and engaged one another in fisticuffs on the busy Shehu Shagari Way while policemen struggled to break up the fight.
Trouble started when the Kadiri faction converged on the garden to address the media before taking their protest to the education ministry.
They were about addressing journalists when the Chinonso Obasi faction stormed the venue and accused Kadiri of usurping the leadership of the student body.
The allegation angered the Kadiri faction members who attacked their opponents leading to a free-for-all on the expressway.
Meanwhile, the University of Port Harcourt Alumni Association has called on the FG to utilise the funds said to have been recovered from alleged looters to meet the financial component of the demands of the university lecturers.
In a statement, the National President of the Association, Chief Chris Adokeme, contended that the annual requirement of N200bn for five years consecutively “was too meagre to allow university education in the country to be under lock and key.”
“How can universities in the country remain shut when all that is required is a mere N200bn annually? That is far less than what goes into the National Assembly for a year. I will prefer the legislature to be shut for one year instead of our universities,” he said.
Adokeme also called for adequate funding of TETFund to enable it to effectively discharge its obligations to the universities.