Ongoing talks between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, was stalled on Wednesday owing to ASUU’s demand for N284 billion in earned allowances.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, while speaking to journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting at the presidential villa, said that government and the lecturers’ union had agreed on seven out of the eight issues in contention.
However, the issue of earned allowances posed a major challenge as the minister insisted that the money was way too much for the government to cough out especially given the fact that the economy is in recession.
The minister noted that government had conceded to the union the right to exclude endowment funds that accrued to universities from the Treasury Single Account, TSA.
He added however that though endowment funds would be exempted from the TSA, it does not mean that Universities’ councils would not have right to audit such an account.
On the issue of the earned allowances, Ngige said: “The earned allowance is the only one that is not sorted out now because everybody knows and agrees that we are in a recession.
“If we are in a recession and you are asking us to pay you N284bn, nobody will pay it because the money is not there.
“So, they (ASUU) agreed and the National Assembly also agreed, but the government offered them some amount pending when we finish auditing of the first tranche of money that has been given to them in that same area of earned allowances.
“That tranche of money that they collected is being audited, but the auditing process is very slow because some people for some strange reasons are not allowing auditing to take place. So, a time frame has been fixed of six months within which the auditing will be done.
“Within those six months, government has offered something that they will be paying on a monthly basis and ASUU has also made a counter proposal to government so both parties have gone back to their principals.
“ASUU has a principal which is the national executive body and government has come back to look at our finances viz-a-viz with the National Assembly which will appropriate that particular fund because for 2016, there is nothing in the budget for it. It will be done and appropriated as and when due,” the Minister said.
ASUU is expected to return to the negotiating table with its counter proposal after calling off its one-week warning strike on Wednesday.
The Union is protesting government’s lack of commitment to the agreements and Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two parties in 2009 and 2015 respectively.