In efforts to resolve the government-Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) impasse, President Muhammadu Buhari on July 19 issued an ultimatum to Adamu Adamu, minister of education to take over negotiations and end the strike in two weeks.
A day after the ultimatum was issued, Buhari ordered Chris Ngige the minister of labour and employment to hand off negotiations with the striking ASUU.
According to a media report, this came at the heels of Adamu’s complaint that the reason behind his prolonged silence on the matter was because his labour and employment counterpart had since 2016 argued that only the labour ministry has the mandate to negotiate with striking workers’ unions in Nigeria.
However, while Adamu headed the government’s negotiation team, ASUU announced a four-week extension of the industrial action. Emmanuel Osodeke, the national president of ASUU explained on Monday, August 1, that the idea to roll over the strike for four weeks is to give the federal government ample time to address the remaining grey areas in the impasse.
Friday Erhabor, a public affairs analyst said he was not surprised by the lacklustre approach of the minister and the federal government in resolving the impasse.
“I wasn’t expecting anything positive from the ultimatum. He should have ” sack the minister of education,” he said.
Ironically, the minister of education is yet to come up with any concrete report of his efforts in resolving the impasse. He has remained mute just as he was from the onset.
While Ngige is still the voice being heard, recently, he told the media on Wednesday, August 3, that the government is adopting a voluntary conciliation approach to ending the strike. The same person is being asked to hand off the negotiation.
Christopher Godwin, a human resources expert believes the whole thing is politics. He wondered what the education minister was doing before his labour and employment hijacked the negotiation.
“For ASUU to have extended the strike for another four weeks depicts the fact that the minister is nothing doing enough or is not doing anything at all. He does not have what it takes to resolve the impasse,” he stated.
Godwin further pointed out that the president himself has not convinced Nigerians that he cares, especially about the education of the youth.
“President Buhari is not sincere with us; he is not beating about the bush. How could a leader just come to begin to give an ultimatum without accessing the magnitude of the issues on hand?
“The president approved N1.4billion for Niger while education is dying in Nigeria. The president approved the construction of a railroad to Niger while there is no functional railroad in some parts of the country. That alone speaks for itself,” he noted.
Many Nigerians are worried that the minister of education and finance on whose jurisdiction this majorly fall are not doing enough to end the ASUU strike that is on its 6th month and still counting.
The labour and employment ministry they argue ought to be a mediator on the negotiation table while the ministry of education and finance plays an active role.
Olusola Obafemi, an affected 300-level student is worried that the nonchalant attitude of the minister of education mirrors the lack of respect for the president which according to him is functional to the president’s docile approach to sensitive issues.
“President Buhari and the minister of education can afford to treat Nigerians this way simply because they have nothing at stake in the whole matter; none of their children is in public universities, besides, education has never been on their agenda,” he said.
Johnmoen Akrasi, an accountancy consultant faults ASUU for not coming out to brief the public on the outcome its deliberations with the federal government, before rolling over the strike for another 4 weeks.
“At this point, I think ASUU should have categorically stated all their demands, how long these demands have been in existence, what the government has been promising before now that had made the union re-embark on the strikes; what part of the past agreements the government has fulfilled, what they have promised this time around and how far they have gone in the fulfilment,” he said.