The face-off between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the federal government may likely be resolved as soon as the country-wide lockdown caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 ends, THISDAY investigation has revealed.
An indication to this emerged at the weekend as both sides appeared to share similar views on the need for concessions following the impacts of COVID-19, which cut across every sector of the country’s economy.
The reconciliatory tone came just as ASUU said that its members in the Chemistry and Pharmacy departments at the various universities in the country have teamed up to support the campaign against the virus by initiating the production and distribution of hand sanitizers and other protective materials
ASUU, whose members embarked on an indefinite strike action few days before the federal government closed educational institutions as part of measures to contain the virus, said at the weekend that it did not rule out the possibility of concessions.
In the same vein, THISDAY gathered from a top official of the Federal Ministry of Finance that the federal government will most likely release the withheld salaries of ASUU members as a form of olive branch to quicken the resolution of the crisis in the education sector.
THISDAY reliably gathered that before talks broke down between the two sides last month, the federal government had made offers to ASUU.
President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who spoke to THISDAY in a telephone interview at the weekend said the union understood the precarious position the country had found itself and that it would be open to dialogue to resolve the issues.
It is not within my powers as an individual to say whether we will offer concession or not but I believe that our union is a reasonable one and they are welcome to all possibilities. The way to achieve that is not by one side dictating to the other. It has to be a negotiated position.
When asked if the lecturers would consider discontinuing the indefinite strike action as an offer of olive branch following the burden the country had been put to by the virus outbreak, Ogunyemi also said: “I am not in a position to determine that but what is on the ground now is that the crisis that had emerged because of the COVID-19 attack had shown us that we should be part of the process of finding solutions and we are playing our part.
The ASUU president said its branches at the Universities of Ibadan, Jos, Maiduguri and Akure had all commenced production of hand sanitizers and are distributing them to members of the public.
He also said that members of ASUU in various branches had been donating materials through the state governors to help in the containment of the COVID-19.
“This is to prove that our members are participating in finding solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic but that is not to say that we still don’t have issues with government. They are two separate things; this one is a global crisis and we are part of the global community standing with our national community.