Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufai, and the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Yesterday traded blame over the cause of the strike embarked upon by university teachers on Monday.
While Rufai said the Federal Government had made an offer to the teachers, the union claimed that it had yet to get any.
Answering questions from journalists in Abuja, Rufai who did not give details of the offer, maintained that the Federal Government was still expecting a response from the teachers’ union.
She said, “They are our colleagues, we met and discussed with them. There is an offer from the Federal Government. We expect to hear from them and till now, we have not heard anything.”
Also, the National Universities Commission, Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, said ASUU was supposed to have written the government in respect of the offer made to union about three weeks ago.
Okojie said, “They said they were going to their NEC, what we expected from them is that they should have come to tell us the result. As far as I’m concerned if they are on strike, we do not know. They should write to us.”
But the ASUU National President, Dr. Isa Fagge, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said he did not understand what the Minister meant by an “offer”.
He asked, “Where is the offer? May be when I get to Abuja, I will see the offer. We presented the issue to our members at the meeting and they said they were not accepting it, is that what she is referring to as an offer. If she considers that as an offer, she should speak more of what she meant.”
Dismissing the claim that the union had not bee communicating with the ministry, Fagge added, “We were on phone with the Minister even on Friday before we started the meeting.
“Before now, there has been this issue of the implementation of the key ideas contained in the 2009 agreement we entered into with the Federal Government.
“We have had several meetings and deliberations to let the government understand why these issues must be resolved but it is like the more we meet and deliberate, the messier the issues get.
“One of the issues that needed to be addressed was basically that of the academic earned allowance.
“This earned allowance, and other issues, had dragged on until the Federal Government then agreed to write an MoU with the union.
“But as we speak, there has been nothing to show that government was committed to an MoU it willingly wrote to better the university sector.
“It is in this regard that we are embarking on an indefinite strike.”
Meanwhile, academic activities were paralyzed at the Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun, Ogun State; University of Jos; Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka among others following the industrial action.
In a related development, the Senate Committee on Education on Tuesdaymet with officials of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics and the Ministry of Education in order to end the strike embarked upon by polytechnic teachers.
The meeting, one of our correspondents gathered, was held behind closed doors.
Clerk of the committee, Mr. Felix Orunwense, said the meeting was held informally because of the mood of the Senate following the death of Senator Pius Ewherido.
He said the committee and the other stakeholders had agreed that the Accountant-General of the Federation should clarify issues of the discrepancies in the payment of lecturers
entitlements as soon as possible.
He said, “We believe that with what has been agreed, the union should be able to call off the strike very soon.”