By Maryam Garba Hassan and Ochiaka Ugwu
The Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) have finally suspended its seven-month-old strike in principle, following the intervention by the Chairmen of Governing Councils of Federal Colleges of Education and assurances that all its members’ outstanding allowances will be paid soon.
The leadership said it members nationwide will commence academic activities in all the Colleges of education on Monday the 21st of July, 2014.
The union made this known yesterday in Abuja, through the Chairman of the Committee of Council Chairmen of the Federal COEs, Emmanuel Anosike, at the end of a closed door meeting with the Minister of education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Anosike said the union suspended it nine months-old strike yesterday, on principle, saying the suspension of the industrial action will only last for three months, pending the outcome of the agreement it entered with the new minister of education.
He said he believes the issues will be resolved in good time from the assurance given to the union by the minister who had requested that the union members wait for copies of the tidied agreement.
He said issues such as needs assessment and migration of staff for which a Presidential circular already exists, should be taken care of before any union goes on strike.
The lecturers’ demands include proper funding of the colleges and adequate welfare for lecturers.
He however, expressed optimism in the out of the meeting saying he believes it will be the beginning of the end of the industrial actions that has over taken the nation’s education system.
Fielding questions from the media, Minister of education, Malam Ibrahim Shekarau, said “we have given them our assurance, that we will resolve the issues on ground as soon as possible particularly, the issue that none of their members who took part in the industrial action will be victimised and government will continue to address the problems.
“We are happy that the leadership of the unions has accepted our request to go back to classroom and have also understood that operation of government involving any sector is not 100 percent domicile and takes a long process”, he said.
The unions had earlier requested that the minister must give them his assurance through a written letter that no member of the unions who took part in the strike is victimized and that their four months salaries stopped be paid to them soon.
He, however, assured that the payment of lecturers’ salaries and arrears will be facilitated and fast tracked adding that it will not happen in one day.
Earlier in the meeting, the minister thanked the unions’ representatives for honoring his invitation at a short notice.
He said the call is necessary because the ministry has no reason to be in existence if teaching and learning is not taking place even in a remotest part of the country.
The resolutions also noted that the circular for the migration of lower cadre staff in the COEs would be released immediately, while a technical committee would be set up to look into the resolution of other matters.
The meeting had in attendance the officials of the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), COEASU and NASU executive members.
It would be recalled that the lecturers commenced strike on December 18, 2013, after several failed meetings with government representatives