The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in the early hours of Friday, 14th October, 2022, withdrew its eight-month-old industrial action, describing the current suspension as “conditional”.
The union decided to suspend the lingering strike, after a meeting of its National leadership that started on Thursday night, held at its secretariat at the University of Abuja, which also directed that all universities should be reopened on the 17th of October, 2022.
The legal adviser of ASUU, Chief Femi Falana and the ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, had both, earlier in the week, after a meeting with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Tuesday, said, there was light at the end of the tunnel and that the strike will soon be called off in a matter of days.
Earlier, the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige referred ASUU to the National Industrial Court (NIC) after an unsuccessful plea for the academics to resume work and allow negotiations continue. The NIC had decided that ASUU should go back to work and continue negotiation with the government, pending the determination of a suit filed by the Federal Government.
On receiving the verdict, ASUU approached the Court of Appeal on the ground of the NIC ruling that they should go back to the classroom. The Court acknowledged the validity of the grounds of the Union’s appeal but still upheld the order of the lower court and ordered the Union to comply with the ruling of the lower court as condition precedent for the appeal to be heard.
Base on that and other interventions, ASUU suspended the industrial action on demands that the Federal Government should abide by the tenets of the new resolutions reached.
However, details of what transpired had been given by ASUU on why it suspended its eight- month-old-strike.
The union in a press statement made available to newsmen said, the lecturers noted that the issues in its disputes with the Federal Government were not well addressed.
The press release, which was signed by the National President of the union, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, however, hailed the intervention of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila.
The full statement read: The National Executive Council (NEC) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) held an emergency meeting at the Comrade Festus Iyayi National Secretariat, University of Abuja, Abuja, on Thursday, 13 October, 2022. The meeting reviewed developments since the Union declared an indefinite strike action on 29 August, 2022.
“During the intervening period, the Minister of Labour and Employment, through a referral, approached the National Industrial Court (NIC) for the interpretation of the provision of sections 4, 5, 6, 7,5 & 18 (1) of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap 78 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, whether the on-going prolonged strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities which started since 14 February, 2022 is legal even after statutory apprehension by the Minister of Labour and Employment? In addition, he asked for an interlocutory order against the continuation of the strike.
“The National Industrial Court in its wisdom gave an order compelling ASUU to resume work pending the determination of the substantive suit given the nature of the order, and in the opinion of our counsel, there was the need to appeal the interlocutory injunction granted against our Union at the Court of Appeal.
“NEC noted the series of meetings with the leadership of the House of Representatives led by the Hon. Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, as well as intervention efforts of other well-meaning Nigerians both within and outside government and the progress made so far.
“NEC deliberated on the commendations of the Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila-led Committee within the fear of the FGN/ASUU’s Memorandum of Action (MoA) of 2020, which is the contending bases that led to the strike action. For the avoidance of doubt, the issues include:
Pending for Revitalisation of public universities; Earned Academic Allowance Proliferation of public Universities; Visitation Panels/release of White Papers; University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) as a broad spectrum software to stop illegality and provide for an alternative payment platform in the university system; and Renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement.
“While appreciating the commendable efforts of the leadership of the House of Representatives and other patriotic Nigerians who waded into the matter, NEC noted with regrets that the issues in dispute are yet to be satisfactorily treated.
“However, as a law-abiding Union and in deference to appeals by the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, and in recognition of the efforts of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, and other well-meaning Nigerians, ASUU NEC resolved to spend the strike action embarked upon on 14 February 2022. Consequently, all members of ASUU are hereby directed to resume all services hitherto withdrawn with effect from 12:01 am on Friday, 14 October, 2022.”
Meanwhile, The NEC, made up of chairmen of the state chapters and members of the national executive, was said to have agreed to state conditions that must be met for the strike, which commenced on February 14, 2022, to be fully called off.
Among these, as stated by the union after its last meeting with the leadership of the House of Representatives, led by the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, were the integration of the peculiarities of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution into the Federal Government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System for their payment and payment of their outstanding salaries in batches as promised.
It would be recalled that the leadership of the House of Representatives had intervened in the crisis between the Federal Government and ASUU, taking the issue to President Muhammadu Buhari.
This came at a time the Court of Appeal also ordered ASUU to suspend the strike before its appeal following the ruling of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria could be heard.
The branches of the union had then met on the offer of the Federal Government through the House of Representatives, with most of them favouring the suspension of the strike.