The President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the eight-week old strike embarked upon by the union would continue until an agreement was reached by the members on government proposals concerning their demands.
Ogunyemi said this after the end of a three-hour meeting between the leadership of the union and government representatives, led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige.
The minister said after the meeting 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.
He 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 ASUU members agreed to the government proposal.
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.”
While briefing the media at the end of the meeting, Ngige said, “We made progress with ASUU’s understanding and cooperation and we trashed out the issues on the agenda.
“ASUU has fulfilled its own side of the bargain in terms of the Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company, which is the pension fund company floated by the union to take care of pensions of those in the university system. Pension regulators have given certain conditions to be fulfilled.
“A temporary licence was given to ASUU and it has expired. ASUU has submitted all documents needed to get the licence. The meeting resolved that the Ministry of Education should get in touch with the National Pension Commission to make sure that permanent licence is issued as soon as possible.
“On the issue of state universities’ funding, we have agreed at the last meeting to set up a consultative committee to interact with the Nigeria Governors’ Forum and authorities of state universities to make sure that funding is not the problem. The initial seven-man committee is now enlarged to accommodate the Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State Universities. This committee will interact with the NGF and individual governors of states that own universities.
“On service shortfall in the universities, the Ministry of Finance and Office of Accountant General have provided evidence that on December 31, 2018, more than N15.3bn was remitted to accommodate payment of short fall in all tertiary institutions that the Presidential Initiative of Continuous Audit verified.
“On the issue of earned allowances, they showed evidence that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved N20bn out of about N105bn to be used to offset the outstanding arrears of 2009 to 2012 audit verified earnings in the universities. It will be released as soon as the processes are completed. The rest will be paid in tranches.
“We also discussed the issue of revitalisation which the last regime entered into with ASUU with a payment of N220bn annually for six years starting from 2009.
“That arrangement has not been fulfilled. Government being continuous, this government has agreed to source for funding. We have offered ASUU some token to show good faith.
“ASUU is satisfied with what the Ministry of Education is doing on the issue of visitation panel. We have it on good authority that the panel will in the next fortnight visit the universities to see what has been done.
We expect ASUU to take back the content of this meeting and areas where further consultation needed to be done back to their members. We need to meet again to draft an agreement by Thursday.
“This is our request so that the universities can be open to students. We are working towards seeing the schools open by weekend.”