PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday, held a long meeting with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. As of the time of going to press around 11.30 p.m, the meeting, which started around 2.45 p.m, was still ongoing.
ASUU, it will be recalled, commenced strike to press home its demands and fulfilment on the part of the government, the agreement they both signed in 2009.
|President Goodluck Jonathan|
They had been locked in the meeting with the president for about three and half hours before emerging, only to hop into the bus parked outside the venue, apparently to have a private discussion that could not be monitored by government agents.
The initial meeting with the president commenced at about 2.45 p.m and lasted till about 6.30 p.m, after which the president left for his residence, while the ASUU leaders walked out of the First Lady’s wing, only to enter the parked bus to continue their deliberation over what had been put before them by the president.
When State House correspondents made attempts to get the lecturers to talk, some of them replied that they would return to continue their discussions with the president.
They did disembark from the bus after about 24 minutes to return to the meeting and were later joined by President Jonathan.
The meeting continued till late in the night.
Before the commencement of the meeting, President Jonathan had, in a lighter mood, told them that all the contending issues must be resolved during the meeting to enable students to go back to school.
While exchanging pleasantries with ASUU president, he said “my president, all the problems will be over today. Our children must go back to school. With you here, we are covered. It is signed, sealed and delivered.”
With President Jonathan were Vice President Namadi Sambo; Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Pius Ayim; Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Labour, Chief Emeka Nwogu; Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike and the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), Professor Julius Okojie.
On the ASUU side were its national president, Dr Nasir Fagge, Professor Festus Iyayi, Professor Dipo Fashina and Professor Abdulahi Sule Kano, who were joined by president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abdulwaheed Omar; his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Bobboi Kaigama, among others.
Earlier, a meeting between Senate President, David Mark and the union leadership did not yield the desired result.
Mark had been mandated by the Senate, about two weeks ago, to mediate in the disagreement between the university lecturers and the Federal Government, over the non- implementation of the 2009 agreement by the government.
Speaking with newsmen after a closed-door session with Senator Mark, ASUU president, Dr Fagge, said the intervention by the Senate president was a welcome development in the effort to get the crisis sorted out and for the universities to be re-opened.
Before the closed-door meeting, Senator Mark said “as you are aware, I have been mandated by the Senate to meet with you and the Federal Government to resolve this crisis as soon as possible, so that the children will go back to the classrooms and I believe that is what you also want.”
Dr Fagge, on his part, noted that “members of ASUU are not just lecturers, we are also parents and also among us, we have students who are pursuing post-graduate degrees. So this strike directly affects us negatively.”
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