The hope of many university students across the country to resume academic activities soon may have been dashed.
The striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has rejected the offers made to it early this week by the Nigerian government.
At the seventh meeting with the leadership of ASUU on Tuesday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the labour dispute with the university teachers was on the verge of being resolved. He listed the fresh concessions made by the administration to ASUU.
According to Mr Ngige, the office of the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance presented evidence that N15.4 billion had been released to public universities.
On earned academic allowances, he said President Muhammadu Buhari approved N20 billion to offset arrears of the 2009 to 2012 verified earnings by university teachers.
But in an exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES early Saturday morning, the President of ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, said upon reviewing the offers made by the government, members of the union across various campuses and zones rejected it.
Mr. Ogunyemi, who described government’s offer on the outstanding revitalization fund of N1.1 trillion as tokenism, said members are insisting that government should release at least a tranche of N220 billion spread over four quarters of 2019.
He added that on earned allowances, government’s proposal should not be lesser than the total amount released “the last time” out of the verified balance.
Recall that as part of the agreement reached between the union and the government before ASUU ended its industrial action in September 2017, the Federal Government released a total N22.9 billion for earned allowances of both academic and non-academic staff across 22 Federal universities.
Of the amount, academics under ASUU got N18.3billion, while non-teaching staff belonging to the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) got N4.6 billion.
Apparently to avoid the controversy that greeted the sharing of the allowance in 2017, ASUU is insisting that the Federal Government should categorically state the amount earmarked for its members, which it said must not be lesser than N18.3 billion it received then.
Mr Ogunyemi said; “Our members have rejected tokenism with respect to outstanding revitalization fund of N1.1 trillion. They are insisting that government should release at least one tranche of N220 billion spread over four quarters of 2019.
“On earned academic allowances, our members said government’s proposed amount out of the verified balance should not be less than the total amount released last time, while evidence of mainstreaming the allowances into the 2019 budget should be shown. Also, timeline should be attached to payment of the balance of the arrears.
“The revitalization fund and earned academic allowances are the two critical areas on which our members feel strongly about. They expect necessary adjustments on the part of government before they can reconsider their decision on the ongoing strike action.”
ASUU had embarked on what it termed total and indefinite strike on November 4, 2018, to demand improved funding of universities and implementation of previous agreements entered with the government.
Some of the demands as contained in the ASUU’s list of grievances, include the implementation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreements, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU; 2012 and 2013) and Memorandum of Action (MoA, 2017) and the truncation of the renegotiation of the union’s agreements.
The union said its ongoing strike is aimed at compelling the government to make funds available for the revitalisation of public universities based on the FGN-ASUU MoU of 2012, 2013 and the MoA of 2017, and that the operational license of the Nigerian University Employees Pension Company (NUPEMCO) should be released.
The unions also asked for the release of the forensic audit report on Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), payments of all outstanding earned academic allowances and the mainstreaming of same into the 2019 budget.
The lecturers also demanded the payment of all arrears of shortfall in salaries to all universities that have met the verification requirements of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA).