Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige
The Federal Government said it has released N163 billion to the universities from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), but striking academics are stalling in calling off their strike.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said this while addressing newsmen after a closed door reconciliatory meeting with leaders of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Monday in Abuja.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the striking lecturers embarked on strike on Nov. 5, 2018, to press home their demands.
ASUU demands included some areas of understanding in the implementation of the Memorandum of Action agreed in 2017.
Some of these areas include shortfall in salaries of some Federal Universities’ workers and lecturers, earned allowances, revitalisation that were part of the 2009 agreement, among others.
According to Ngige, today we have agreed to fund revitalisation.
“Government has released about N163 billion from TETFund account to universities.
“So, we have gotten some substantial agreement in most of the areas of the agreement.
“Most of the issues have being resolved, so they are going to go back to their members and present government’s offer to their council,‘’ he said.
Ngige also said that the striking lecturers were not asking for N50 billion before they would call off the strike.
He, however, added that if the total amount of the union’s demand was aggregated it would be more than the N50 billion as the government was paying in different compartments.
“These are debts of 2009, owed by the past administration, that is 2009 to 2012, so it is not our own debt and we have been doing a lot to settle these debts.
“So, we will be reconvening at the instance of ASUU. They said they want to go and consult with their members and they cannot call off the strike without consulting with their members,’’ he said.
Earlier, the minister had said that President Muhammadu Buhari had mandated him to ensure that all issues concerning the ongoing strike in the university system were resolved.
“The president has directed me to pass the night here until all issues that have kept our children away from schools are resolved and strike called off.
“He has also directed me to impress upon you, the imperative of little sacrifice from all sides, knowing fully well that the revenue of the federation has dwindled from what it was before the present administration assumed office,” he said.
Ngige further said President Buhari was greatly worried about the situation in the university system, hence his steady and holistic approach to tackling the rot through adequate funding.
“Mr president told me to assure you of his determination to reposition our universities as he would do everything possible to cast the present challenges in our tertiary education to dustbin of history.
Also, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU President, said that there were still some grey areas in the proposal presented by the Federal Government.
He said the union would look at the grey areas and would get back to the government.
“The most critical area is the revitalisation, because it is central to our work, as academics and unless that area is addressed our members will have issues with ongoing action.
“We also did not ask for N50 billion, we are saying that the minimum we expect government to release in order to reactive the revitalisation fund is N50 billion.
“So, the strike is still on,’’ he said.