As the elections draws near, it would appear that President Buhari is looking to appease the populace by resolving some lingering societal issues, chief of which is the persisting strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the ever present threat of Labour strike due to the issue of minimum wage.
On Tuesday, the National Council of State, a group consisting of all 36 governors of the Federation, past heads of states the President and Vice President announced that the new minimum wage that is acceptable across board is N27,000. Therefore, the bill that will be sent to the National Assembly for approval will follow that figure.
It is short of what the labour movement are demanding, three thousand Naira short to be precise, and it is still not known if labour will find it acceptable and whether the government have successfully weathered the storm of another nationwide strike.
However, what is worthy of note is the fact that President Buhari avoided a huge trap by not taking the decision unilaterally, by making it the decision of the council of states, Buhari has shift the blame away from the executive and pitched the labour movement squarely against the Council.
Also, the Federal Government announced that it was accepting the minimum wage but has stated that it will augment the salaries of its worker by N3000, effectively making the minimum wage N30,000 at the Federal level, and further advice the state to augment the wages of their staffs as they deem fit but the lowest a worker can be paid is N27,000.
Buhari seem to have played a safe hand in the wage gamble but what is left to be seen was if the labour movement will accept the condition.
Also, on Monday, the President asked the Minister of Labour, Dr. Christ Ngige to resolve the issue with ASUU within the shortest possible time.
“Mr President has directed me to pass the night here until all issues that have kept our children away from school are resolved and the strike called off. The president has also directed me to impress upon you, the imperative of little sacrifice from all sides, knowing fully well that the revenue of the Federation has dwindled from what it was before the present administration assumed office.
“The president told me to assure you of his determination to reposition our universities as he would do everything possible to cast the present challenges in our tertiary education to the dustbin of history,” Ngige said.
Indeed, it was announced that an agreement had been reached between ASUU and the Federal Government and the strike was close to reaching its long awaited end. However, the Government and indeed the student celebration was cut short when ASUU announced hours later that they are not in full support of the deal with the government hence the strike continues.
“Discussions will continue at a later date. We are going back to our members for further consultation. Revitalisation is central to our academic work. Unless that area is addressed, our members will still have issues. We are not demanding for N50 billion, we are saying that the minimum that FG can release to reactivate revitalisation fund is N50 billion,” Ogunyemi said.
Speaking on the ongoing ASUU strike, members of the National Association of Nigerian Student (NANS), has urged the Federal Government and the striking lecturers to find a common ground and make the necessary compromise so as to bring the two months strike to an end.
Mr Chukwunonso Onwe, NANS Director of External Affairs, Zone B, said:
“We therefore call on President Muhammadu Buhari and the leadership of the National Assembly and relevant authorities to save the nation’s university education by addressing the lingering crisis and stop incessant industrial disharmony in the sector.
“We support the lecturers in their demand which is centred around improved funding to promote research, develop infrastructure and achieve better teaching and learning environment. The N220 billion being demanded by ASUU as part of the N1.1trillion demand is not so much that Federal Government cannot meet even as the union has shifted position and agreed on quarterly tranche payment of the N220 billion.
“We stand by ASUU, we call on eminent patriotic Nigerians to support ASUU and urge the Federal Government to urgently honour its earlier agreement with the union to end this inglorious face-off.
“We shall embark on a mass action to picket the private universities and other tertiary institutions owned by individuals and their firms so that students in these institutions will be made to stay at home. When we do this, and achieve a total shut down of all tertiary institutions in Nigeria, the leaders will know that we are not animals but human beings.”
If the resolution of the lingering labour issues in the country will affect the outcome of the general election cannot be determined at this point but it is obvious that President Buhari is concerned about its effect.
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