The ongoing industrial dispute between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the Federal government could be over in a couple of days, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said Monday evening.
He also disclosed that the leadership of the lecturers was set to sign an agreement to end the dispute based on the recommendations by the House that were presented to President Muhammadu Buhari by the House Leadership.
The Speaker also revealed that having received the House recommendations on the issue, Mr Buhari would on Tuesday, make a pronouncement towards the final resolution of the issue.
Having assured the leadership of the striking workers at the last meeting with the House leadership and other stakeholders that they (ASUU) would be invited for feedback from the meeting with the president, Mr Gbajabiamila expressed delight that the Mr Buhari’s disposition to the House’s intervention was positive.
He said: “I have visited the President twice. We spoke with Mr. President. There was one of the sticking points, the issue of no work no pay, the President did ask to digest the recommendations and would have one more meeting, which we did on Friday after the budget presentation.
“That meeting was even better than the first one we had with him and Mr. President has agreed to certain things but I’m not going to talk about that now.
“He would disclose whatever it is tomorrow (Tuesday) on that one remaining issue.
“But beyond that, the other issues have been taken care of. We were able to make sure that what ASUU was asking for in terms of the Revitalization Fund, in terms of salary, there has been significant improvement.
“Revitalization has been provided for in the budget, we made sure of that. The salary structure has been looked at, and there’s been an improvement as well and we made sure of that.
“The issue of UTAS is another important issue, both ASUU and the Office of the Accountant General and the government have agreed that they would work together to resolve the peculiarities of UTAS required for the payment plan and IPPIS.
“They will sit down together, and the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education will also be part of that tripartite sit-down arrangement to include all those things that are required by ASUU in the IPPIS platform.
“So I believe we’ve covered ground, we’ve covered most of the thorny issues and what we have agreed with ASUU now is basically to put everything on paper and sign off.
“I believe if we had met yesterday and the papers had been drawn up, I’m sure ASUU would have called off the strike today.
“But we’ve only just met today.
“As I have stated, hopefully in the next couple of days, of course, once ASUU gets back to its base as well, once that is agreed, I’m very hopeful and very excited about the possibility or probability that the strike will be called off in a matter of days”.
Mr Gbajabiamila appreciated the union leadership for allowing the House leadership to make an input towards a lasting solution to the crisis, noting that short notices for meetings as well as public holidays were not enough to stop the union leaders from honouring invitations to meetings.
In his response, ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Sodeke, who led other members of the union to the meeting, corroborated the views expressed by the Speaker over the signing of the agreement to end the strike.
He said: “My union operates bottom-up. We don’t take decisions without their consent. So we have agreed that between now and tomorrow.
“We are going to get some documentation signed so that we can take them to our members, and we will do that as quickly as possible in the interest of Nigerians and the students so that this can be resolved as soon as possible.
“From what we have seen today, I think for the first time since our actions started, we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel”.
While appreciating the efforts of the Speaker and the House towards the resolution of the dispute, Mr Osodeke, however, expressed optimism that the end of the strike is in sight.
Saying that the interest of the children who have been at home for so long is paramount, Mr Osodeke noted that the union believed that the intervention of the House was genuine and could be trusted.