Senate President Ahmad Lawan has advised the Federal Government not to sign agreements with industrial unions if it cannot implement them.
Lawan spoke on Monday when the leadership of the Senate met with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Abuja.
He noted that it is wrong for the nation’s universities to be shut indefinitely and for parents to seek admission for their wards in less than standard universities in neighbouring countries.
Lawan said the meeting with ASUU leadership was meant to explore how the Senate could help to resolve the lingering issues between the Federal Government and the union.
He urged the Federal Government and ASUU to shift ground to end the lecturers’ lingering strike.
Lawan said: “Our children are the main victims of this. Therefore, both government and ASUU have to find a common ground for our universities to open and offer the kind of services expected of our universities.
“We cannot afford, as a country, to continue to have this kind of crisis. This may explain why those that can afford will normally go out of the country, even to West African countries, like Ghana, to receive university education.
“I believe our universities can be better, but they are better than most of these universities that our children go to in other African countries, particularly.
“The idea is to find out how we can resolve the outstanding issues, and it is supposed to be give-and-take. Government cannot have all its way and I believe ASUU should not expect to get everything it has asked for.
“Our situation today is something that everyone knows what it is. It is a very stressful economic situation and I believe that government is supposed to, even within this type of situation, play its own part.
“Its obligations must be redeemed within the confines of what we can do. But ASUU, I know, is prepared to meet government halfway somehow because I am sure we have joint determination to resolve these issues.
“The National Assembly is the best place to go because while on one hand we are a government; on the other hand, we represent the people. We represent you. We represent the families and the children who are now at home because the universities are shut.
“I think, as parliamentarians, we have to tell the truth as it is, no matter how bitter it may be at the right place and at the right time.
“When we sign agreements, we must do so with full intention of implementing them. And when we negotiate, we must negotiate in such a manner that the final product will be implementable.
“This is to say that we have to accommodate each other with government doing what it is supposed to do and ASUU, being the body of our lecturers, stands to protect its members.
“But everybody else in the country must ensure that our universities remain open and functioning because it does not do anybody any good when the universities are shut.
“In fact, we just simply retrogress or at worst stagnate. We should work together to be able to find an accommodation.
“This meeting is for us as a Senate to look into areas of disagreement and see where we can find an accommodation for ASUU as well as for government to be able to implement the agreements…”
ASUU National President Biodun Ogunyemi said the union was at the meeting to share with the Senate President its invention of a University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS), which is its own version of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Ogunyemi urged Lawan to support ASUU’s demands because they hold the key to the future for quality university education in the country.