Students in Nigeria may be heading back to the classrooms after the meeting between the Federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) ended on a positive note, with hopes that the eight month strike embarked upon by university lecturers will be called off soon.
The country’s Minister of Labour Chris Ngige shortly after the meeting said the government has made new proposals bothering on core issues at the heart of their prolonged dispute, which ASUU says it’s immediately taking to its members for consideration.
These issues include funding for the revitalisation of universities, earned allowances, the shortfall in salaries, visitation panels for universities and use of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
“Today we have discussed the issues again. As you know, there are about eight issues. We have done justice to all these and ASUU is supposed to take our conclusions to their organs. I do hope as a conciliator that there is a light at the end of the tunnel as I do hope ASUU will come back to us,” the Labour Minister said.
According to Mr Ngige, the meeting also gave some assignments to the government “on visitation panels to universities, the UTAS, remittances of check-up dues and payment of withheld salaries. We will conclude the assignment given to the government.”
Reports suggest the federal government agreed to raise the total money offered to ASUU to N70 billion, pledging to release N40 billion for the Earned Allowance and N30 billion for the revitalisation of the university system.
The federal government further agreed to settle the arrears of salaries of lecturers before December 31.
The union had embarked on an indefinite strike in March over non-implementation of agreements and resolutions the federal government reached with it in 2009.
It had also opposed the adoption of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) while presenting its University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as an alternative.
The union has had several meetings with the federal government since the strike commenced but no agreement was reached.
Last week however, the federal government bowed to pressure last week as it offered the sum of N65 billion to ASUU so it can call off its industrial action which has grounded academic activities in the public universities.
By Abel Ejikeme