By Ayo Oye, ABUJA
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila has enjoined the national leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to bend over backwards and support any government’s efforts aimed at fighting corruption in the country.
Gbajabiamila made the passionate appeal on Thursday at a meeting he conveyed with the leadership of ASUU led by its national president, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi on the ongoing two weeks warning strike across the nation’s Universities.
On the issue of IPPIS, Gbajabiamila said, “I’ve heard and read your position. Your union is even divided on this. Much as you argue that you can’t be part of IPPIS, we live in a country governed by laws. We may not like a law or policy, but as part of government, we should respect that.
“If government comes up with a policy for good, we should support that and be part of it. Honestly, much as you may have a point, I think the optics may not be for you.
“If the National Assembly is to be captured under IPPIS, and we as members of the National Assembly say no, what will the public, including ASUU, say? If ASUU can come up with excuses, others too may do that.
Give the issue of IPPIS another thought, and if government can take care of your fears, I think you should agree on that. I’m appealing to ASUU that if you can hold on for the sake of our children, let’s see what we can achieve in the next two weeks. This new agreement will be a tripartite agreement now. Give us that confidence.”
The Speaker told the ASUU leadership that “If you were in sufficient contact with the National Assembly, which has powers of the purse, maybe the issue would have been resolved by now.
“I want to appeal to you. We successfully dealt with the issue of medical doctors and electricity workers; we must deal with this. I know government is ready and willing to listen to you, I think you should also listen to government.
“We called this meeting to find lasting solution to the problem. Please, give us the opportunity to be part of your negotiations with government. We in the National Assembly have never been part of your negotiations with government, so this time around, we want to be part of it.
In his response, ASUU President, Prof Ogunyemi, said it has become public knowledge that government could not respect the 2009 agreement it reached with the union, which resulted in disagreement with the union.
He said the issue of IPPIS that government directed universities to be part of is against the practice all over the world and that would make Nigerian universities to be local in nature.
When government first notified ASUU of IPPIS in 2013, he said, the union opposed it, and that government said a joint committee would be constituted to look at the areas of disagreement but that nothing was heard until July last year when the issue came up again.
“With our knowledge, we can give them an alternative that could cost them nothing against what they’re spending now. We challenge them to tell us anywhere in the world where IPPIS is implemented in the universities. IPPIS will shut the door against foreign scholars, researchers and the rest.
“They said by attacking IPPIS, we’re covering corruption. We can’t do that, and we won’t do that. We’re saying that there are other ways of tackling corruption rather than IPPIS. They want to localise our universities, but that shouldn’t be. We have come up with a universities accountability system, and let’s join hands to implement it.”
On the Speaker’s request for the strike to be put on hold, Ogunyemi said: “That’s why ASUU is always reluctant to go on strike. The structures we’re talking about are not in Abuja. People will have to come from different parts of the country. The best we can promise here is that you give us to early next week to consult and we’ll get back to you.”
Present at the meeting were Principal Officers of the House, including House Leader Alhassan Ado Doguwa; Chief Whip Mohammed Tahir Monguno; Deputy Leader Peter Akpatason; Deputy Whip Nkeiruka Onyejeocha; Minority Leader Ndudi; Minority Whip Gideon Gwani; Deputy Minority Leader Toby Okechwukwu and Deputy Minority Whip Adesegun Adekoya.
Others were the Minister of State for Education Chukwuemeka Nawajiuba, former ASUU President, Prof Nasiru Isa Fagge, among others