By Joseph Erunke
Six weeks after suspending the strike it had declared following the failure of government to meet up with its demands, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, resumed negotiations with the latter Wednesday.
Chairman, Federal Government Negotiation team, Professor Wale Babalakin, who briefed newsmen after long hours of meeting, said they had positive discussion and are on the good path for finalizing the negotiation.
He noted that ASUU submitted a timetable with over 20 issues and the issues would all be discussed, adding that the memorandum that was signed between the Federal Government and ASUU which ended the about three months old strike in February, was part of the document submitted by ASUU for deliberation.
He also dismissed any plan by the lecturers to return to trenches following failure of the government to meet their demands as rumoured in some quarters.
ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, who led the Union negotiation team, however, declined comment with the media.
Babalakin said, “We have resumed negotiation today and both government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities were appropriately represented”.
He noted that they had extensive discussion on very topical issues for the benefit of the university system.
When asked about the trust of their negotiation, he said: “In a negotiation, you have to seek the consent of the other party before you make such disclosures. But at the stage of signing an agreement we will be willing to tell you all the headlines and all the important issues”.
On when the negotiation is expected to be concluded, Babalakin, said: “We started this morning at 10 am and we have just finished. Both sides are determine to put an end to this. I reckon that this will end within the fastest possible time.
“We had interlude and that interlude is over and we are now back to where we left it when we had the interlude. So, it is a continuous negotiation for the betterment of the education system,” he said.
It was however, gathered that one of the contentious issue is the Needs Assessment intervention fund which the then administration of President Goodluck Jonathan committed to inject about N1.3 trillion over the period of 5 five years.
It was gathered that so far only N20 billion has been remitted to the designated account by the current administration.
President of ASUU, Ogunyemi, had in announcing the suspension of the strike in February said: “In addition to the N20 billion for 2018, the sum of N25 billion only would be released in April/May 2019, after which government would resume full implementation of the MoU of 2013.
“Part-payment of the outstanding arrears of the earned acedemic allowances; defraying the balance up to 2018 in 4 tranches within 36 months; and mainstreaming further payments of EAA into the annual budgets beginning from 2019 budget.
“PICA verification and the release of the arrears of salary shortfall at the Federal University of Agriculture, Makurdi, not later than 15th February 2019.
“Strengthening the Consultative Committee on State-owned Universities (CCSOU), inaugurated on Monday, 28th January, 2019 to look into the issues of proliferation, under funding and governance to consistently deliver on its mandate,” he said among other issues.
Recall that the three months old strike which commenced on Sunday 4th November, 2018, was suspended on February 8, 2019 following a memorandum of understanding that was signed by both parties.