FG says it can’t succumb to ASUU’s demands as meeting ends in deadlock

FG says it can't succumb to ASUU's demands as meeting ends in deadlock

The Federal Government, on Thursday, insisted that the request by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that federal universities be exempted from the Treasury Single Account (TSA) will not be granted.

This is coming as the government has agreed to release the balance of N23 billion Earned Allowances to the striking lecturers.

Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, stated this in Abuja at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Tertiary Education and TETFUND.

A related meeting called to seek a resolution between the union’s leadership and the minister of Labour, Dr Chris Ngige to seek a resolution to the strike ended unfruitfully.
At the meeting, Ngige, said ASUU did not follow the proper procedure before embarking on the strike.
According to him, “There must be a mandatory letter of 15 days to labour, to education before going on strike,” he said, referring to the ministries of labour and education.
“All agreements are supposed to be domiciled in ministry of labour in order to track implementation as agreement gives room to renegotiation,” Mr. Ngige.
But the ASUU president, Biodun Ogunyemi, faulted Ngige’s submission, and contended that the union informed relevant ministries before embarking on the strike.

“There was a letter dated July 10 to inform the major stakeholders. In the last 10 months, we’ve written 10 letters trying to reach out to relevant stakeholders after suspending the seven days warning strike in November last year,” he said.
“This is not a fresh action and we are open to suggestions, he stated, even as he later informed that the strike continues.
On his part, Adamu pointed out that the Ministry of Finance has promised to undertake a forensic audit of the N30billion allowance earlier released to the lecturers, bringing the total to N53billion.

“They (lecturers) asked for N23billion to be paid. But we said the condition for that N23billion to be released was for them to account for the N30billion they had taken, which is a total of N53billion. And they were not able to account for it.

“The Minister of Finance undertook to do the audit from the ministry. And we agreed that the result will be known in six months. During that six months, government undertook to be paying them N1.5billion each month during the time they are waiting for this,” Adamu told the committee.

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He said the Ministry of Finance has already approved the release of the funds but not yet cash backed. “Probably, by Monday, they will be able to receive the cheque. And we will do forensic audit on the entire N53billion”, he assured.

On Monday, ASUU, an umbrella body of all university lecturers in Nigeria, declared an indefinite strike over Federal Government’s failure to fulfill the 2009/2013 Agreement made with the Union.

Among the issues in current disputes involved in the Agreement are: funding for the revitalization of public universities, earned academic allowances, registration of Nigerian universities pension management company, university staff school, fictionalisation and non-payment of salaries among others.

While expressing optimism that the industrial action would be called off within the next one week, the Minister said the request for TSA exemption would not be granted.

He added: “There are other issues which we didn’t agree. And that was their request to be taken out of TSA. I told them that it is not possible because this is a new policy and government is not going to change it for anyone.”

On the registration of Nigerian universities pension management company, he said this would be resolved with the Pension Commission in the next one week.

On the non-payment of salaries, he attributed it to the decision of federal universities to illegally recruit staff, without recourse to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

This, he said, has partially affected government’s effort to eliminate thousands of ghost workers through thorough personnel verification exercise and salary payment process.

“For instance, a university can just decide to go and recruit 50 people. And IPPIS is not aware. So, what they are going to get is they are going to get the money they got last month. And it will not be sufficient for them. They normally spread it among the entire staff. Let’s say they pay 70 percent to 80 percent but that is their fault. So, institutions, we said, must now stop doing that. And they accepted,” Adamu noted.

On his part, Chairman of the committee, Barau Jubril, expressed confidence that the minister would resolve the issues with the striking lecturers and soon as possible.

The lawmaker pleaded with the lecturers to call off the strike while negotiation continues. The Union was not represented at the meeting.


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