THERE are no indications that the present strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) which has paralysed academic activities in the nation’s universities will end soon as the Federal Government, on Tuesday, refused to accede to the lecturers’ demand for 109 per cent pay rise.
According to the Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu, the salary demand was unrealistic, especially against the fact that there were other sectors which had also demanded for salary increases.
The minister, who was speaking at an interactive session with the leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at its national headquarters, in Abuja, also observed that the current global meltdown and shortfall in the production of crude oil, arising from the activities of Niger Delta militants, meant that government could not meet such a demand.
According to him, “Mr. President approved that there should be an inter ministerial committee to look at this salary issue, because as you are talking of salary for ASUU, mind you, the Nigeria Labour Congress is also talking of salary for every member of the public service. The medical sector is also demanding. So, it is not something that can be done and we have not considered the other people demanding for salary increases.”
Itemising the four key demands of the striking lecturers, he noted that most of them had been implemented by the present administration. According to Dr. Egwu, “the only issue that is outstanding is salaries. They are asking government to pay academic staff 109 per cent of what they are receiving now. In other words, 109 per cent should be their new salary.
“Government is saying inasmuch as there is nothing bad in paying academics that amount, you have to pay something that is realistic and sustainable. Something they can pay today, tomorrow and next tomorrow. Something they can pay and they will be very happy that they are also touching other needs of the country. That is where we are now,” he stated.
The meeting between the leadership of ASUU and the Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu, called by the Senate Committee on Education, Mrs. Joy Emordi, was, on Tuesday, deadlocked as both of them refused to shift grounds.
However, at the time of sending this report, both of them were in a closed door meeting with the Senate Committee on Education deliberating on whether they could still find a solution.
The ASUU team, was led by the National Chairman, Professor Ukachukwu Awuzie, and assisted by Dr. Dipo Fasina, Dr. Abdullahi Sule Kano and Dr. Nasiru Isa Fagge, among others, while the Minister of Education led his own team.
At the open meeting, which was presided over by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Education, Professor Awuzie informed the committee that there was an agreement contrary to the position of the minister.
How long shall we wait at home, loosing more time before the government and Asuu agrees on something to do?