The federal government may have decided to kick-start another round of negotiations with the striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), following two sets of meetings initiated by the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike.
Wike Tuesday in Abuja, held a closed-door meeting with the officials of ASUU led by its President, Nasir Fagge, barely 24 hours, after he met with the vice-chancellors of universities on Monday, albeit closed-door.
This came as the Vice-President Namadi Sambo yesterday met briefly with stakeholders in the education sector in Abuja.
Wike led the stakeholders that met with the vice-president at the Presidential Villa.
Other members of the delegation included the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okojie; and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan (UI) Prof. Isaac Adewole, among others.
When the brief meeting ended, no stakeholder divulged information of what was discussed at the meeting to journalists when approached to do so.
However, some stakeholders who emerged from the meeting before Wike, told journalists that the minister would talk to them.
Incidentally, the minister failed to answer questions asked him by journalists.
He joined other members of the team in a brief consultation at the forecourt of the Presidential Villa, before he hurriedly jumped into his waiting car.
No official statement was also issued by the vice-president's office on the outcome of the meeting.
Meanwhile, the minister's meeting with the vice-chancellors of all the public universities affected by the strike late on Monday evening, was held at the headquarters’ of the NUC.
However, sources privy to proceedings to the meeting, which journalists were bared from covering, noted that it was not unconnected with the protracted strike by the university lecturers as well as the strategies and options open to government to avoid future occurrence.
Like the Monday meeting with the vice-chancellors, journalists were equally barred from attending yesterday’s meeting with members of ASUU, which held at the minister’s office.
The meeting, which started around 10a.m. and lasted for about three hours, saw ASUU members emerging from the office with smiles on their faces, possibly indicating their satisfaction at the revival of the negotiation between the union and federal government.
Wike personally saw the officials off to their vehicles beaming with smiles but declined to comment on the outcome of the meeting.
Members of the union also refused to talk to the press about what transpired in the meeting.
However, the University of Abuja chapter of ASUU, led by Clement Chup, has planned to stage a peaceful protest today at the Gwagwalada campus of the university in continuation of the strike.
ASUU, whose strike is in its fourth month now, accused the federal government of deploying various forms of propaganda to compel it to call off the strike.
Meanwhile, having been enduring the pangs of the strike, university students in the South-east geo-political zone have issued a seven-day ultimatum to the teachers to return to the classrooms or face their wrath.
The students, under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone B, Abia State chapter, bared their minds at a press conference in Umuahia, saying whatever the merits of the strike, it had been blighted by the approach and timing.
NANS leader in Abia State and the Zone B Financial Secretary, Mr. Miracle Eluwah, who read the position of the students, condemned the strike “in strong terms”, saying: “The timing of the strike is very detrimental to the security and economic situation of the country.”
He said at the end of the seven-day ultimatum, NANS would adopt its three “Cs” of engagement namely, consultation, consideration and finally confrontation before coming up with “a surprise package” that would compel ASUU to return to the classroom.
According to him, the Nigerian students could not understand why ASUU had refused to shift ground in its dispute with the federal government; hence the university dons were playing with the future of Nigerian youths, who constitute the greater percentage of the nation’s population.
“Although ASUU is claiming that their demands are genuine, the approach and timing is very wrong because the world is now seeing it as being politically-motivated. But if they (ASUU) say it is not they should go back to the classroom while negotiation continues with the government,” the NANS leader said.
Eluwah noted that the ASUU strike had thrown a significant population of youths into the streets to waste away with some taking to armed robbery, prostitution and other criminal activities instead of being engaged in meaningful academic activities.
“The ASUU strike has equally injured the hopes and aspirations of many Nigerian families whom their children/wards should have become graduates by now,” he said, adding, that the strike had also affected the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) programme.
The NANS leader, however, argued that since the federal government has demonstrated good faith and commitment to resolve the issues at stake, it behooves on ASUU to reciprocate the gesture by calling off the strike.
He said government had already offered N600 billion for improvement of the universities and N40 billion for ASUU’s allowances and that the union should see it as a good enough reason to return to work while efforts would continue to be made to resolve the remaining issues.
Eluwah faulted ASUU’s claim that the federal government was yet to release any of the money it had offered to inject into the universities and also for the teachers’ earned allowances, saying that ASUU should accept the offer first before the money could be released.
Another student leader, Fortune Nwafor, who is the joint campus committee chairman, Abia State, further explained that the claim by ASUU that lack of facilities was making it produce half-baked graduates was baseless as Nigerian graduates have always proved their mettle at international competitions.
He said it was the university teachers that actually produce the so-called half-baked graduates when they sleep with female students and award them high grades and they come out with good honours degree without engaging in the real studies.