Why we’re unable to meet ASUU’s demands – FG

The federal government says it does not have money to meet the demands of the striking members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, disclosed this on Channels’ Television programme, “Politics Today,” on Thursday.

Before embarking on strike action about two weeks ago, ASUU said the government had failed to implement the agreements in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed with it in 2009.

The ASUU accused the government of poor commitment to the payment of academic earned allowance (EAA); the continued use of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System and refusal to adopt the Universities Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), among others.

While the union has vowed not to return to work unless its demands are met, Mr Ngige, on the programme, said the government was renegotiating the terms of the agreement so as to end the strike.

“Mind you, it was promised by that administration and they promised to kickstart the payment and they paid N200 billion which they borrowed from TETFund. They did not take it from the federation account. That payment spiralled even into 2016, to our regime.

“Government now said we don’t have the money to pay for it. This was the agreement in 2016 to 2017 but we will find a way by which we can fund the universities and revitalise infrastructure

“I am hoping that ASUU should do the right thing and contact their members on the renegotiations that we have had in the last two weeks.

“First, the issue of earned academic allowances, we have agreed, given a timeline to the NUC to go back to the old template used in working out the 2021 earned academic allowance – 10.8 per cent of personnel cost.

“We want them to go back very quickly and use that same formula and get us what we are supposed to pay in 2022. That is agreed by everybody,” he said.

The minister also said that the education system is not the only sector in the country with a shortage of the percentage of funds as stipulated by the United Nation.

This, he said, was as a result of shortage of funds despite the priority given to them by the current administration.

On the revitalisation of the universitiy system, earned academic allowances, Mr Ngige said the government has shown enough commitment to the system as over N92 billion was paid in 2021.

“Revitalisation, the amount that has been paid is not very clear. The Accountant General’s office came with a printout. So we now want to know what the actual payment done is. And then we’ve told them, when this is ascertained, we will now agree again on how to pay something on the outstanding N170 billion from the N220 billion.

They say government should try and pay even if we don’t have the ability to pay which is okay is magnanimous. And it was stretched, so something will be paid there again.

“On promotional arrears, the Budget Office of the Federation and Accountant General tender documents to show that they have been paid promotion arrears, and that 22 universities have been paid. I said that I will take the document back to verify the truthfulness of the document,” the minister explained.

Although the labour minister did not declare that he will be running for president, he however, noted that he is as qualified to run for the seat as anyone else.

Mr Ngige told Nigerians to wait till April, after consulting with leaders of the party and his primary constituency before officially saying whether he would run or not.