Though what the Federal Government is offering striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, fell short of the lecturers’ expectations, there are indications that the union may suspend its ongoing industrial action soon.
The suspension may not, however, be based on the negotiating ability of the government team but on the stark economic realities confronting the country now according to reported checks by Vanguard Newspaper.
There are indications that as the ASUU national leadership met on Sunday followed by the congresses of the union billed to hold between Monday and Wednesday this week across the country to debate government’s proposals to the union from last Friday’s negotiations, members may be swayed to soft-pedal on the strike based on the economic situation in the country.
However, the union may give the government timelines to fulfil some obligations, especially those involving finance, with the caveat that any breach would lead to another crisis. As ASUU and FG teams were meeting at the weekend, the National Bureau of Statistics announced that Nigeria has gone into another round of economic recession, as the Gross Domestic Products, GDP, shrank for the second consecutive quarter. That fact was given a stronger bite by the World Bank, which described the new recession as the worst in over 36 years.
An ASUU leader, who spoke under anonymity, said if the union considers how government has been handling of the issue, the strike could go on for a very long time. “Though the government tried to paint us as the aggressor and engaged on futile propaganda, we won’t be deterred. Yes, we all know the poor state of the economy now, but even when everything was going on well, what did the government do with the revenue?
“What are they doing now to make things better? Many well-meaning Nigerians and groups have been in contact with us, appealing to us too. We are ready to soft-pedal on some conditions,which, we hope the government will not bungle.
“However, our union is democratic in nature and setting; it is what majority of our members want that we will do. Congresses will hold and we will collate opinions of members and the majority will carry the vote,” the source said.
At last Friday’s meeting between ASUU and the FG delegation, the government agreed to ASUU’s demand to pay their members’ salary arrears from February to June through the old salary payment platform – the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System, GIFMIS.
Also,the FG said it would make N35billion available for the Earned Academic Allowances for all trade unions in the university system, even though ASUU said it only negotiated that for its members. The government also promised to release N25billion as revitalization fund, against an initially demanded N220billion later reduced to N110billion.
A major contentious ground is the Integrated Personnel and Payment Information System,IPPIS. Though there were earlier reports that government had agreed to exempt ASUU members from that platform, the Minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige, later said nothing of such was agreed. ASUU has been on strike since March this year.
According to Ngige, the FG has met six of ASUU’s nine demands.