Following an agreement reached with the Federal Government, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, may be calling off the eight-week-old strike this weekend to allow public universities to resume academic activities next week.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, gave this indication on Monday after three hours of conciliatory meeting with the representatives of ASUU led by its President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi.
While briefing the media at the end of the meeting, he stated that N20bn out of N105bn earned allowance would be released soon by the FG to offset outstanding arrears of 2009/2012 audit verified earnings in the university system.
He also said more than N15.3bn had been confirmed by the Ministry of Finance and the Office of Accountant General to have been released to accommodate payment of service shortfall in the system.
The Minister added that the Federal Government would expect feedback from ASUU by Thursday so that schools could be reopened by weekend.
But despite the commitments and other proposals, Ogunyemi said that the strike would not be called off until an agreement was reached by the members on government proposals concerning their demands.
He said, “We have had an extensive session looking at all the issues and just like the minister said, there are issues that will require further consultations at the level of our union before we can make any pronouncement on our stand.
“The Federal Government has promised to reach us as soon as possible with a proposal on those areas where further consultation is needed. The strike continues.
“We are still going for consultation. What we discussed is not about us but our people. I am not sure that there is an end in sight.”
Ngige said the deliberations were fruitful and that the government has presented the Union with offers for them to get back to their members and return on Thursday for an agreement to be signed by both parties.
He disclosed that over N15.4 has been paid to the lecturers across tertiary institutions in the country to offset arrears of salary shortfalls, while President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N20 billion to pay the outstanding arrears of Earned Allowance of the lecturers.
According to the minister, “On salary shortfall in tertiary institutions, the Ministry of Finance and the office of the accountant general on having provided us with evidence that on the 31st of December, 2018, before the expiration of the current 2018 budget that they have remitted N15,389,940,335.71.
“This is to accommodate payment of shortfalls in all the tertiary institutions that have been verified by the Presidential Initiative.
“On the issue of earned allowances in the university system, they also showed evidence that the president has approved the sum of N20bn to be used to offset outstanding arrears of 2009, 2012 audit-verified allowances in the university system. This money is being worked out and will be released to ASUU as soon as the processes are completed.
“We also discussed the issue of the revitalization of public institutions which the then administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to inject about N220 billion into the university system every year for about six years.”
Ngige maintained that the government was committed to the agreement and that a token has been approved and would be released to ASUU, stressing that the parties were working towards ensuring that the strike is called off this weekend to allow students to resume next week to schools.
The conciliatory meeting between the Federal Government and ASUU initially scheduled for 3:30pm could not start until about 5:06pm Monday.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, at whose instance the meeting was held, had in his opening remarks, said the meeting would be short since a lot of work had been done since the adjournment of the meeting December last year.