by Isi Esene
The Federal Government has offered to pay striking lecturers N30 billion to offset the cost of their allowances said to have been agreed upon in an October 2009 FG/ASUU deal.
This is happening as President Goodluck Jonathan ordered an immediate resolution to the lingering strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities since July 1, 2013.
The president directed the two Federal Government committees negotiating the requests by ASUU to take immediate measures aimed at bringing closure to the industrial dispute.
The Chairman of the Universities Needs implementation Committee and Benue State Governor, Gabriel Suswam, announced the presidential directive after a meeting yesterday at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
The government had earlier approved a sum of N100 billion for projects in the 61 public universities making their total offer N130 billion.
Suswam said ASUU ought to call off its strike based on the N130 billion that the government offered.
At the meeting were Vice-President Namadi Sambo, the Chairman of the Earned Allowance Committee; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim; Ministers of Education Prof. Ruqayyat Rufai and Labour, Emeka Wogu, National Universities Commission (NUC) Executive Secretary Prof. Julius Okogie and Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadome.
For shifting ground from no money to agreeing to assisting the Governing Councils of universities with the N30 billion for the earned allowances, Suswam said ASUU should reconsider its stance on the strike.
Read the Nation Newspapers report below:
But ASUU remained adamant last night. Its President, Dr. Nasir Isa Fagge, said the negotiation team would report back to “our principals” when asked whether the teachers were willing to accept the government’s offer and call off the strike.
Fagge said: “The objective of the on going strike is to get government to implement the 2009 ASUU/ FGN agreement, particularly to implement the provision of the memorandum of understanding we reached in 2012. “It’s important to clarify that at this point, we are not making a demand. There was an agreement with government. At this point, what the union is talking about is the 2009 agreement, not the renegotiation of the agreement.”
He added: “We will wait to hear from government. For now, we will go back and report to our principals.”
Suswam said the Federal Government will meet the universities’ councils and vice chancellors this week to update them on the decisions taken so far and to urge them to certify those really entitled to the N30 billion to be released for the earned allowances.
On whether the Federal Government is ready to shift ground from what it is offering, he said: “Well, let me say that negotiation is still on-going. The Federal Government has opted to also meet with the Councils and managements of the universities because earned allowance is something that can be certified by the management and councils of the universities.
“Yes, if ASUU said this is the amount of money that the Federal Government is owing them and the government has shifted ground from its initial posture that there was no money to offering N30 billion, it means we are moving forward and with N100 billion available now for addressing the physical infrastructure deficit in our universities, I think the Federal Government has done quite well to have moved to where we are today.”
Suswam added: “I can say that we have made substantial progress and we are hoping that this strike should be called off, based on some of the mechanisms that we have put in place to move the sector forward.
“We met extensively yesterday. You know there are two components, to the whole issue; the needs assessment component, which is the one that I’m handling. We have to some large extent, concluded on that, the earned allowance committee, which is being headed by the SGF; that is where there are some contentions, but as you must have heard, the federal government made an offer of N30 billion to assist the various Councils of our universities to be able to pay the earned allowances.
“There is also N100 billion that is why myself, the Minister of Finance, the SGF, the ministers of Education, Labour, the Chief of Staff and the VP have just risen from a meeting to take some decisions that would end the strike and the President has instructed us as to what to do and he has shown a lot of commitments and launching of projects worth N100 billion in the 61 universities.
“So, we are hoping that we will be able to see the end of the strike very soon if at the end of the day ASUU is satisfied with the measures that have so far been taken. The President has graciously agreed that in the first week of September, he will be able to launch the projects.
“You also know that the procurement process will have to be followed and these projects include hostels in our universities, classrooms and lecture theatres, libraries and laboratories, among others. Some are renovations, some are new and all the 61 universities are going to benefit from one project or another.
“So it is not going to be selective; all the universities are going to benefit from this infrastructural revitalisation of our universities,” he said.