By Blessing Adehi
Sources in the Presidential Villa said the President gave the directive on Tuesday during a meeting with relevant government Ministries, Agencies, and Departments (MDAs) where he received briefings on the current face-off with the university unions since February 14, among other issyes.
Besides the directive to the education minister, the President instructed that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, as well as the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, must be in attendance in all the meetings to speedily resolve the crisis.
Those present at the meeting include Adamu, Ngige, and Mustapha, as well as the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed; the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami; the Head of Service of the Federation, Folashade Yemi-Esan; the Chairman of National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta; and the Director-General Budget Office, Ben Akabueze.
President Buhari’s directive comes a week after he told the striking university lecturers that ‘enough is enough’ and should as a matter of responsibility reconsider their position on the prolonged strike with a view to calling it off.
Since the industrial action began, several negotiations between the union and the government have ended in deadlock.
For the lecturers, it will not take more than two days to address the issues that have plunged the nation’s public university system into a prolonged strike that is currently in its fifth month.
ASUU Chairman, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, stated this in Abuja when he appeared as a guest on Tuesday’s edition of Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“Two weeks is too long,” he said. “The issue of renegotiation has been completed by both sides. Just come back to us and say ‘we have agreed’, that will not take two days. We were told they spent billions to feed children in school; is that correct, how many children have you seen being fed?
“Nigerians spend not less than N200 billion as school fees paid to Ghanaian universities every year. Government should prioritise education as number one in the country because all of us must pass through the school.”
While the ASUU president sees the President’s action as a welcome advancement, he is of the viewpoint that giving such a directive is not new.
He believes the government is still unserious with the lingering strike by the university lecturers, stressing that it does not require such a long timeframe to resolve the issues.
Professor Osodeke recalled the intervention of religious leaders in the crisis under the auspices of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) who met with the President over the matter.
Following the meeting in February, he explained that President Buhari set up a three-man committee comprising his Chief of Staff, Ngige, and Adamu, to quickly resolve the issue within one month.
“That committee didn’t invite us for a meeting until we rolled over the strike in May and we all went. Now another 12 days? If we are serious, if we really want to resolve this problem, it will not take two days.
“All issues have been discussed, government representatives have met with ASUU, and there is a draft joint agreement to look at and come back for the signature. Does it take you two weeks to look at what you have negotiated?” the ASUU president queried.
63 total views