For the first time since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) began its indefinite strike on November 4, 2018, there came a gleam of hope on Monday when Labour minister, Chris Ngige, announced that the two parties (ASUU and Federal Government) reached reasonable agreements on the contentious issues in their last meeting.
Previous meetings held between them have deadlocked with the either sticking to its gun.
The union had directed its members in public universities across the country to embark on an indefinite strike to pressure the federal government to honour and implement agreements reached with it in 2009 during former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government.
The agreements essentially border on proper funding of university education and autonomy for its governance.
Ngige told journalists after the meeting in Abuja that the majority of ASUU’s demands on the government, including the release of N15.4 billion for payment of salaries shortfall, have been met
“On the issue of salaries in tertiary institutions, especially in universities, the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant- General provided evidence that as at December 31, 2018 the Federal Government had remitted N15.4 billon.
“Also on the issue of Earned Allowances in the universities system, they also showed us evidence that Mr. President has approved the N20 billion to be used to offset the outstanding arrears of the 2009 and 2012, audit verified earnings, in the university system.
“This money is being worked on, and will be released to ASUU as soon as the process is completed.
“ASUU has fulfilled its own side of the bargain in terms of NUPECO, which is the Pension Fund Administration Company that ASUU has floated to take care of pension for people in the university system.
“The Pension regulator, the PENCOM, has asked certain positions to be fulfilled and they gave ASUU a temporary license, which has expired.
“ASUU has submitted all the documents and fulfilled all conditions needed to get their license,” he said.
According to Ngige, the government is also considering ingenious strategies to fund the university revitalization agreement entered into with ASUU in 2009. The exercise was designed to affect 220 universities across the country over a period of six years.
Meanwhile, the ASUU has called on the government to show mercy on students and take concrete steps to address the issues that led to its (ASUU’s) ongoing strike.
The call was contained in a statement issues by the University of Ibadan chapter’s ASUU chairman, Dr. Deji Omole, in Ibadan on Monday.
The ASUU boss was reacting to an earlier statement credited to Ngige in which he was appealing to the lecturers to consider the impact of their action on the students and go back to work.
Describing the minister’s statement as “a merciless utterance”, Omole said ASUU’s action was based on patriotism to the Nigerian nation and genuine love for its people.
“We are patriots otherwise we would not go on strike. We would have been looking and allow everything to be destroyed. But we cannot allow our future (children) to be taught in zoo-like conditions. This kind of education system cannot give us a leader who will be kind to others if we are not kind to them by giving them the best environment to learn from. Nigerians should join us to beg President Buhari to meet our demands on time rather using keep them talking approach”