We will respond to FG’s offer on Tuesday, says ASUU
THE Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has urged the Federal Government to show concrete evidence of commitment to agreements on meeting its demands before suspending its ongoing strike.
ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Monday, said the union would communicate its decision on offers made by the government on Tuesday.
Ogunyemi, a professor, said contrary to some media reports, the union did not reject the offer made by the Federal Government or make fresh demands.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, after meeting with the union on January 4 said the government was about resolving the dispute with the lecturers who embarked on a strike on November 5, 2018.
Ngige said the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant- General of the Federation had provided evidence that N15.4 billion for the payment of salary shortfall in public universities.
He also noted that there was evidence that the President had approved N20 billion to offset the outstanding arrears of the 2009 and 2012, audit verified earnings in the university system.
Ngige, however, said the fund was being worked on and would be released to ASUU as soon as the process was complete, among other demands of the union.
“We have been reviewing the offer made by the government and we have concluded our consultations with our members.
“We have concluded our consultations and hopefully by tomorrow, we are going to transmit the feedback from our members to the Minister of Labour and Employment.
“What we said was that we are not insisting on having the total package.
“We are saying if the government could give us one out of the five tranches on the revitalisation fund it will be a kind of bending backward in the interest of the students and national interest.
“So, rather than insisting that government should release a total of one trillion naira which we know is not feasible, the government can, at least, give one tranche that can be spread over four quarters, starting with the first quarter now.
“This is the shift that the media are misinterpreting to mean a fresh demand. There is no fresh demand on our list whether you are talking of revitalisation or earned an academic allowance,” Ogunyemi said.
On the issue of earned academic allowances, he said the government had promised to release N20 billion and that the balance would be spread over four installments but without stating timelines.
Ogunyemi said members of the union were insisting on having timelines for the payments.
“Our members have also noted that government had promised that the earned academic allowance will be paid within the mainstream budget which they also promised to do in 2018, yet they did not do it
“Our members are saying if you are promising again in 2019, let us see the evidence, which is clear enough,” he said.
Ogunyemi also said that members of the union were demanding to see money of salary shortfall paid into their accounts although they had seen the evidence of approval on paper.
He said the members of the union were demanding for concrete evidence on all outstanding areas that involved payments.
“Our members are saying let us see concrete evidence that government has paid not that government will be promising that it will do this and will do that.
“We did that with the N20 billion in 2017, the government promised to release N20 billion in two installments for September and October 2017, that never happened until we went on strike in 2018.
“So, our members are saying, let’s go beyond writing anything on paper.
“Like I said earlier, on the issue of revitalisation, our members are saying we should not stop at tokenism,” he said.
Ogunyemi said that ASUU had shown a lot of commitment and called on the government to commit itself by paying one year’s tranche.