By Marcus Ikechukwu
While academic activities in the nation’s universities have been truncated, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, has said the month-long strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, came as a surprise to him.
He said it was more worrisome when there is an ongoing renegotiation on the demands raised by the union, insisting that the government was not entirely culpable in the issues that prompted the latest industrial action.
According to Adamu, despite several negotiations between ASUU and federal government, both parties failed to reach a truce, then the fault can no longer be ascribed to the government alone.
His reactions came following questions from State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday.
Adamu, who regretted that ASUU’s decision came abruptly amid ongoing negotiations, said, “ASUU, unfortunately, they have gone on strike and I am looking for them because all the issues are being addressed.
“The last thing that happened was that our committee looked at their demands but there are renegotiations going on. They submitted a draft agreement ,which the ministry is looking at.”
Speaking on ASUU’s draft agreement, the minister said, “A committee is looking at it. Immediately it finishes, the government is meant to announce what it had accepted. Then suddenly, I heard them going on strike.”
On allegations from ASUU about his absence from meetings, he said “ASUU will never say that. I always call the meetings myself. The meetings I didn’t attend were those that happened when I was in hospital in Germany.
“We want a peaceful resolution. The federal government is ready to meet them on all issues they have raised and if there are so many meetings and the gap is not closing, then I think it’s not the fault of the government.
“There is a solution to this. The negotiations are the solution and that is why I have said that I am surprised that ASUU has gone on strike.”
Asked if the government can reach an agreement with ASUU before the end of the 30-day strike, Adamu said, “I can’t give you time. I am ready to reach an agreement with ASUU now but since I’m not the only one, I can’t give you time, but certainly, we are going to reach an agreement very soon.”
Commenting on the disparity in cut-off marks for common entrance examinations across various parts of the country, the minister noted that the low cut-off marks in the north are meant to comply with the requirements of the Federal Character Commission.
“I have nothing to say on that. I am not aware of any difference, unless it is meant to satisfy the requirements of federal character. I think federal character is required for the nation and it is accepted. There is nothing we can do about that. There would come a time when it would not be necessary.”
It would be recalled that the battle of wits between ASUU and the Federal Government is hinged on the revitalisation of public universities, earned academic allowances, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) promotion arrears, implementation of the renegotiated 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement and discrepancies in the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS).
While ASUU has consistently criticised the government for breaching previous negotiations and agreements, the latter has accused ASUU of forcing it to enter into such a pact under duress.