The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, on Wednesday admitted that the Federal Government failed to meet its part of the agreement reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities last year, which led to the ongoing industrial action called by the union.
He, however, said the government was not happy that ASUU embarked on the strike without following due process by giving an adequate notice.
Adamu spoke with State House correspondents after the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The minister said government had realised that it made some promises to the union which it had yet to fulfil.
He said he would be meeting with leaders of the union later on Wednesday or on Thursday.
He expressed optimism that an agreement would be reached at the meeting and the strike would be called off.
The minister said, “It is very sad that I am here and ASUU is on strike. Late last year, we had a meeting because ASUU gave one week notice of strike and we were able to work out an agreement.
I must confess that the government has not fulfilled its part of the bargain. Though we are unhappy that ASUU went on this strike without following due process by giving us notice, we realised that we promised something and we didn’t fulfil it.
“I hope I will be meeting them later today (Wednesday) or tomorrow (Thursday) and I am sure we will be able to reach an agreement so that the strike will be called off as soon as possible.
“I am sure you are aware of the issues. There is the issue of re-negotiation and we set up a re-negotiation team; negotiation is ongoing.
“There is the issue of Earned Allowances and I think because of some communication gaps, what we promised could not be done; but I am assuring ASUU and the nation that this is going to be done.
“There is the issue of registration for Nigerian Universities Pension Commission. I think there are a few issues that need to be sorted out with the Nigerian Pension Commission. There will be no problem.
“On the issue of their staff school, the court has given them verdict to go ahead with it. They have requested that they should be allowed to stay off TSA and I think the government will not do this.
I hope later on when I meet them today, there will be a total agreement.”
The minister said he still stood by a position he took before being appointed a minister in which he described ASUU’s strike as a necessary tool to pressure the government to do the right thing.
He had said if ASUU had not forced former President Goodluck Jonathan, he would not have created the Tertiary Education TrustFund “without which the university system would have collapsed.”
The minister said, “That is still my view. I believe ASUU is composed of patriotic and very responsible people.
“If I can look at what their struggle is, they forced the then government to create TETFund and today, without TETFund, the university system would have collapsed.
“I am not supporting ASUU but I am supporting what is good. If it is something bad, I will condemn it.”
Why public officials send children abroad –Senate panel chair
The Senate on Wednesday faulted ASUU for not consulting the legislature before embarking on an indefinite nationwide strike.
It urged the union to suspend the strike and continue negotiations with the Federal Government.
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund, Senator Jibrin Barau, who addressed journalists in Abuja , also dismissed the call by Nigerians that children of public officials should be restricted to the country’s public schools.
The lawmaker said Nigeria needed to have socio-cultural exchanges with other countries.
According to Barau, any law that would force public officers to send their children to schools in the country was not good for Nigeria.
He noted that there were students from Cameroon and Niger Republic who also studied in Nigeria.
He said, “Making a law to bar people from taking their children outside to study is something that will not be good for our country. We know that it is always good to mingle with people from other parts of the world when it comes to the issue of education.
“You cannot be an island to yourself; interaction is very necessary. We also allow people from other parts of the world to learn from here. You are aware that students from Cameroon, Niger and other parts of the world come here. We have exchange students who come from European nations to this country. You must have that interaction.”
Barau said Nigeria should develop universities and educational institutions to the level that those who sent their children abroad would patronise institutions in the country.
He said ASUU failed to report back to the Senate after the negotiation it spearheaded between the union and the Federal Government failed.
While admitting that ASUU once wrote to the Senate about its frustrations with the negotiation, he said the union wrote to the legislature after it had resolved to go on strike.
He added, “We captured some aspect of their grievances in the (supplementary) budget we passed immediately after the negotiation was concluded. They raised the issues that had to do with their allowances. The allowances were captured in the supplementary budget that we passed as of that time.