Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi,the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU) said the ongoing strike, embarked upon by the union members would continue until an agreement is reached by the members on government proposals concerning their demands.
He said this at the end of a three-hour meeting held between the leadership of the union and the government representatives, anchored by Dr Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment.
The minister said that N20bn was promised to be released soon by the Federal Government out of N105bn earned allowance to offset outstanding 2009/2012 arrears.
He also said that the release of more than N15.3bn had been confirmed by the Ministry of Finance and the Office of Accountant General so as to accommodate payment of service shortfall in the system.
He then added that the Federal Government has urged them to give feedback by Thursday so that Universities could reopen by weekend.
Despite the commitments and other proposals, the President of ASUU said that the strike can only be called off if its members agree to the government proposal.
Professor Ogunyemi 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 he was briefing the media at the end of the meeting, Dr Chris 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.”