An end may be in sight to the industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, as the striking lectures and Federal Government at a meeting on Monday reached an agreement on seven key areas.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, after the meeting with ASUU officials led by its President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi stated that the government had made “substantial progress” in its discussion with the union.
He said the government has released N163 billion from Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETfund, to satisfy some of the demands of ASUU.
Ngige said the union and government had resolved most of the issues, adding that ASUU would need to consult its members and then inform the government of its decision.
Ngige said: “Today we have agreed to fund revitalization. Government has released from TETFUND account about N163bn. The meeting will reconvene at the instance of ASUU. FG is not weak in the negotiation. The strike is not slipping out of our hands.
“We did not take a long time than we anticipated. We have other commitments but the important thing is that we have made substantial progress. We have reached some agreements in seven areas.
“We have reached some agreements in seven areas. Most of the issues have been resolved but ASUU will need to consult its members and come with what they think. If you aggregate the total amount of money involved, it is beyond N50bn.
“We are paying in several compartments and these are debt from 2019 to 2012. We have started defraying the earned allowances there and released N15.4bn for shortfall in the payment of salaries.
In his remarks, Ogunyemi said discussion with the federal government will continue at a later date, pointing out that there were still some grey areas in the proposal presented by the Federal Government.
Stressing that the union had not called off the strike, he insisted that the government must address the issue of revitalization before the strike can be suspended,.
He said: “We have not suspended the strike, the discussion will continue at a later date.
“We are going back to our members for further consultation. The Federal Government gave us reaction to our proposals but there were still grey areas that we are trying to sort out.
“Before the strike can be suspended, the most critical area that FG must address is revitalization. It is central to our academic work, unless that area is addressed, our members will still have issues.
“We are not demanding for N50bn, we are saying that the minimum that the federal government can release to reactivate revitalization fund is N50bn. So, the strike is still on,” he added.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier ordered Ngige, to end the over two-month-old strike by Nigerian university teachers before the meeting with the university lectures commenced.
The minister, who made this known at the commencement of the meeting, said, “The president has directed me to pass the night here until all issues that have kept our children away from schools are resolved and strike called off.
“He 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,” Ngige said.