The Federal Government, yesterday, soft-pedalled on the ultimatum given to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to go back to class or lose their jobs. The government said it took the decision not to enforce the ultimatum because it had recorded substantial compliance.
According to the Federal Government, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has confirmed that a sum of Two Hundred Billion Naira (N200 billion) agreed with ASUU at a meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan on the November 5, 2013 has been fully paid into a Revitalization of Universities Infrastructure Account.
Addressing journalists, yesterday, Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe who showed to newsmen the CBN letter which was signed by the Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Tunde Lemo and addressed to the Accountant-General of the Federation, confirmed that the sum of Two Hundred Billion Naira was the balance in the account as required.
Okupe who noted that what the Federal Government was interested in was how to resolve the six-month-old crisis peacefully in the overall interest of all concerned, said: “Right now, the issue of ultimatum is not a matter for discussion anymore. There has been substantial compliance nationwide. If I say you must return to work on the 9th and 70% of the people that I am talking to have returned to work, that is substantial compliance.
“What becomes of the remaining 30% who did not return to work, are issues that we do not want to stop the wheel of progress in sorting out this resolution. We are not interested in witch-hunting, we are more interested in compliance and in the resolution of the crisis.”
Why FG issued ultimatum
The Presidential aide stressed that government was forced to issue the ultimatum which it was very serious about against the backdrop that it had explored all avenues which did not produce result. He, however, said that government was not interested in witch-hunting any individual, but needed to protect the individuals and the state.
He said: “On the issue of ultimatum, government was serious when it issued the ultimatum but government was forced to issue that ultimatum because every other avenue had been explored to no avail. I said it before that governments worldwide, when pushed to the wall, take steps that may be draconian but sometimes they have to be taken in order to protect the citizens and the states they govern.
“Beside, this government is not grandstanding and flexing muscles, it was the media that presented it as if the Federal Government and ASUU were in a face-off. That is not entirely very true; there is no face-off between the Federal Government and ASUU.
“ASUU may be grandstanding but the Federal Government is more interested in the resolution than in any form of confrontation with any union whatsoever. Our interest is to ensure good governance, orderliness and peaceful co-existence nationwide and among all sectors of the economy and education is not left behind.
“Many senior Nigerians, institutions and organizations, highly placed Nigerians including labour unions, NLC, TUC, and royal fathers have intervened and have pleaded with government to soft pedal on the issue of the ultimatum.
“Secondly, as of yesterday’s evening, reports available to government confirmed that there is more than substantial compliance by many lecturers in many departments in many universities and this has encouraged government also to mellow down.
“I know that in the University of Lagos for instance, in the Faculty of Law, out of 100 lecturers, 70 have signed up; in Arts and Science, sixty something percent or so reported for duty and this happened virtually in all the universities in the country, OAU, Ibadan, all over. So, this was the trend, this was what happened all over the nation yesterday.
“Because of the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians and because the lecturers themselves took government seriously and recorded substantial compliance with the order to resume work on the 9th, government in pursuance of a good and quick resolution of this crisis is more disposed to accommodating ASUU and encouraging its members to ensure that the universities are open and our children can go back to school and the tension and pressure among parents and students will reduce.”
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