Whether the ongoing strike by university lecturers will end soon or later will be known today as negotiators of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) meet today with the the federal government team.
Minister of Education Mallam Adamu Adamu is expected to present the government’s position on the demands by the teachers.
ASUU is demanding the release of N1.3trillion revitalization funds to the universities in line with the agreement it reached with the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
About N220billion of the N1.3trillion was approved by the last administration and disbursed to the universities.
The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is finding it difficult to make any commitment on the balance of N1.080trillion because of the poor economic situation.
The lecturers are however adamant on the release of more of the revitalization/ intervention funds. They are also insisting on six other conditions.
These are: .That the Federal Government should immediately take over and accept payment of shortfall in salaries of universities; universities to manage their IGR the way they like and exemption from TSA; Exemption of Endowment Funds, JV cash from TSA; payment of University Salary Scale to teachers in primary schools in universities; release/implementation of guidelines for the retirement of Professors in line with 2009 FG-ASUU Agreement; and waiver/ government fiat to set up Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO).
It was learnt that Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) President Ayuba Wabba is facilitating the meeting which will be coordinated by Minister of Labour and Employment Dr. Chris Ngige.
Investigation by our correspondent revealed that although the Federal Government has conceded to some demands by the lecturers, ASUU felt the peace terms were not far-reaching.
The terms acceptable to the government border on approval of payment of N23b Earned Allowances; forensic audit of N30b earlier released as Earned Allowances; exemption of Endowment Funds and Joint Ventures cash only from Treasury Single Account; issuance of the right form by PENCOM for the registration of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO); and FG not going yet to National Industrial Court or IAP to resolve issues; allowing Wale Babalakin Committee to complete its assignment on FG-ASUU Agreement
The issues that may dominate talks today are:
- Reopening of varsities while negotiation continues
- FG’s take over and accept payment of shortfall in salaries of universities
- Universities to manage their IGR the way they like and exemption from TSA
- Payment of University Salary Scale to teachers in primary schools in universities
- Release/implementation of guidelines for the retirement of Professors in line with 2009 FG-ASUU Agreement
- Govt fiat to set up Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company(NUPEMCO)
- Why ASUU should comply with labour laws in declaring strike action
A source said: “We want to hasten the negotiation in a cordial manner which will lead to the reopening of universities. This is why the government has not referred this matter to the National Industrial Court (NIC) or Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP).
“The lecturers will have the opportunity of conditions acceptable to the government and those considered unrealistic like the exemption of universities from TSA.
“Except for Endowment Funds and JV cash, the government will not exempt universities from TSA. The basic aim of TSA is to check corruption in the management of scarce resources. The Ivory Tower should not be opposed to TSA at all. We won’t compromise this policy to please any group or institution.”
The source added that the government would present the hard facts on the nation’s economy and why there might not be immediate release of more part of the N1.3tr revitalization/ intervention funds for universities.
“The N1.3 trillion was intervention grant to public universities on the platform of National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) Assessment Programme.
“The administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan in 2013 accepted to make the N1.3trillion available to the universities in six years beginning with the payment of about N200billion. Thereafter the government will provide N220billion in the budget for the remaining five years till 2018.
“As part of the process of raising funds for the N1.3trillion, it was agreed that ‘a dedicated revitalization account shall be opened at the Central Bank of Nigeria. Funds shall be paid into the account on quarterly basis from which the universities draw. FG shall then ensure that these funds will be ring-fenced.’ This was what Jonathan administration entered into with ASUU.
“The burden has been passed to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari. There is no way this administration can commit about N1trillion or N800billion or N220billion into the universities in the face of the economic situation of the country and competing needs.
“What the government will do is to put machinery in motion to reach an agreement with ASUU on how to remit these funds without hurting the economy.”
The top source also said the government will also open mutual discussion with ASUU over the union’s non-compliance with the labour laws in declaring any action.
“The varsity lecturers did not give notice of industrial action in line with the labour laws and the 1999 Constitution. Section 40 of the constitution creates unions and political parties.”
Dr. Ngige said yesterday: “We have invited ASUU back to the negotiation table. We are hopeful that the government and varsity lecturers will reach a compromise.
“We have some challenges in the university system which we will let ASUU appreciate. There are a lot of issues cropping up in the universities bordering financial indiscipline and misapplication of funds. We need the understanding of ASUU in cleaning the Augean Stable.
“The union is talking of shortfall but the lecturers do not know that the nominal rolls in many varsities have been padded. Some Vice Chancellors with their Registrars and Governing Councils employ through the back door without putting the personnel in the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS). They present different nominal rolls to the government and they now talk of shortfall in salaries.”
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