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The federal government has said universities in the country can resume classes once they have put the necessary COVID-19 guidelines in place.
The statement was made by, Suleiman Yusuf, the deputy executive secretary of academics for the National Universities Commission (NUC), at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, August 4, Premium Times reported.
He said the commission is working with universities to discuss preparations that should be in place before reopening of the tertiary institutions.
Another official of the NUC, Abubakar Rasheed, who serves as the executive secretary of the commission stated that the agency is already collecting data from universities to assess their preparedness to resume academic activities.
He also disclosed that the NUC is trying to mediate with the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) to resolve the strike by university lecturers.
The federal government is
set to open fresh discussions toward resolving pending areas of dispute with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in a move to end the industrial action embarked upon by the union since April 9, 2020.
Government says it will communicate the leadership of the union through a letter requesting the striking lecturers to get ready to resume work while tabling their grievances for consideration.
Unlike when the government rejected ASUU’s preference for physical meeting, the former has now accepted to fix a date for resumption of negotiations if the lecturers suspend their four-month-old strike.
According to reliable sources, the federal government said although no date has been fixed for the next meeting with ASUU, a letter is to be sent to the union before the end of the week as a measure of goodwill, to urge the leadership of the union to suspend their action so that schools can resume.
“The move is meant to solicit the cooperation of the university lecturers in the efforts to put necessary mechanism in place for the reopening of tertiary institutions after months of closure due to COVID-19 pandemic.
According source, “the federal government will write to request that ASUU should suspend its industrial action to enable talks to commence on their grievances. The suspension of the strike is also important to get the university teachers involved in the preparations for the reopening of the institutions.”
Information says, federal government had earlier planned a virtual meeting to sort out outstanding issues with ASUU, but the union said it preferred physical meeting which it felt would be able to trash out their main problem.
However, the government source said with the reviewed COVID-19 lockdown, consideration for a physical meeting with ASUU is on.
He said the Ministry of Labour and Employment, which coordinates the negotiations, has started consulting other ministries and stakeholders to agree on a date for resumption of talks.
It will be recalled that before the lockdown that led to the closure of all schools nationwide, ASUU had declared an indefinite strike to protest the stoppage of their salaries and the directive by the government to compel its members to enroll with the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS).
It raised the issue of its outstanding agreement entered with the federal government in February 2019, and demanded that all aspects of the deal not implemented should be religiously implemented.
The union also demanded a phased release of N1.1 trillion for the revitalisation of universities and N220 billion as arrears of earned academic allowances to its members alleged to have accumulated from the original agreement it had with the federal government in 2009.
They further requested for 18 months’ time frame to develop its own alternative salary payment system, which is the University Transparency and Accountability System (UTAS), despite the IPPPS federal government system.
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