By Felix Khanoba
The Federal Government has inaugurated its new team to negotiate the 2009 agreement reached with university-based unions.
The move is aimed at putting to an end the incessant strikes in public universities in the country.
Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, who inaugurated the team on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday in Abuja, said some of the agitations by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that led to its ongoing strike are rooted on the 2009 agreement.
He expressed hope that the strike will soon be called off following several engagements with the striking union.
“As you are quite aware, the Federal Government and relevant stakeholders, in the past months, have been neck deep in several meetings with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and others, to resolve the outstanding issues that led to the current industrial action in public universities.
“It is noteworthy that although most of residual issues were part of the comprehensive agreement reached with the previous administration, I can report that significant progress has, so far, been recorded and there is an opportunity that our public universities, like their private counterparts, will soon reopen for academic activities, ” he said.
The minister reaffirmed the commitment of the present administration to finding lasting solutions to the challenges confronting the education sector, and most especially, the university sub-sector.
“Government is determined to, within available resources, provide the requisite environment, infrastructure as well as improve the conditions of service for all categories of staff in Nigerian universities.
“Government, like other stakeholders, is also worried about the vicious cycle over the years of the myriad of industrial actions by one staff union or the other.
“The cumulative effect has been the obvious loss of productive and precious man-hours direly needed by the universities to fulfil their tripod mandates of teaching, research and community action.
“All these have impacted negatively on our learning outcomes and the reputation of the Nigerian brand, which hitherto was the pride of the nation.”
According to the minister, the Federal Government’s renegotiation team which is categorised into substantive members, advisers and observers, is chaired by Prof. Munzali Jibril.
Other substantive members include Dr. Nimota Akanbi, Prof. Nimi Briggs, Arch. Lawrence Ngbale, Prof. Femi Odekunle, Senator Nkechi Nworgu, Prof. Shehu Abdullahi, Maj. Gen. Mamman Magoro (rtd) and representatives of geo-political zones.
The minister listed the terms of reference of the team as :”Re-negotiate the residual issues in the 2009 Agreements between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the university-based unions, towards a workable and implementable agreement between both parties.
“Propose and prescribe short, medium and long-term measures for the sustainable funding and management of Federal universities, in order to restore lasting peace, stability, harmony and progress in the Nigerian university system and make any other recommendations, as may be necessary, to ensure the realistic implementation of future agreements, by all stakeholders.”
Responding on behalf of the team, the chairman, Prof. Munzali Jibril, thanked the Federal Government for considering them worthy for the” delicate assignment”.
He assured of the team’s readiness to deliver results within the shortest possible time.