Amid claims that the major impediment to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) calling off its protacted strike is for a firm word for the settlement of the seven months backlog of salaries owed the teachers, President Muhammadu Buhari, appears to be stepping into the logjam.
He met on Friday at State House, Abuja, with the Chairman and select members of Pro-Chancellors of Federal Universities, promising to engage in further consultations with relevant stakeholders, towards ending the protracted strike by university lecturers.
An earlier indication of another attempt to end the face-off came through ASUU’s lawyer at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN), Mr. Femi Falana, when he sought a week’s adjournment there, because the defendant (ASUU), was making moves to meet with stakeholders to ensure that the matter was resolved.
The Federal Government dragged ASUU to the NICN to get the lecturers back to their duty posts.
But at the Presidential Villa, the President said without necessarily going back on what is already established policy, “I will make further consultations, and I’ll get back to you.”
A statement from the seat of power by presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, disclosed that the Pro-Chancellors were led to the meeting by Professor Nimi Briggs, who said they had come to meet with the President in three capacities: “As President and Commander-in-Chief, as father of the nation, and as Visitor to the Federal universities.”
He added that despite the pall cast by more than seven months of industrial action, “the future of university system in the country is good,” citing as example the recent listing of the University of Ibadan among the first 1,000 universities in the world, a development occurring for the first time.
Prof Briggs commended the Federal Government for concessions already made to the striking lecturers, including the offer to raise salaries by 23.5% across board, and 35% for Professors. He, however, asked for “further inching up of the salary, in view of the economic situation of the country.”
The Pro-Chancellors also asked for a reconsideration of the No-Work, No-Pay stance of government, promising that lecturers would make up for time lost as soon as an amicable situation was reached, and schools reopened.
Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Nana Opiah, said all the concessions made by Federal Government were to ensure that the industrial action comes to an end, but ASUU has remained adamant.