FG, ASUU meeting ends in a deadlock again

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The Wednesday meeting between representatives of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has again ended in a deadlock.

This is as the ASUU strike declared since March continues.

The university teachers’ union has over the years alleged government’s insincerity in funding education and research in universities.

Prominent recently is its opposition to enforcement of the use of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

The strike action is also to compel the federal government to implement the agreements and resolutions reached in the 2009 ASUU-FGN agreement, as well as the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the 2017 Memorandum of Action (MoU).

In order to resolve the issues that led to the strike, both parties have been holding meetings.

On Wednesday, the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu and the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, Abubakar Rasheed, were absent from the meeting.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, the labour minister, Chris Ngige, said the government cannot pay the N110 billion ASUU is demanding for the revitalization of universities.

“There are three issues, revitalization fund where the government offered ASUU N20 billion as a sign of good faith based on the MoU they entered into in 2013 as a result of the renegotiation they had with the government in 2009,” he said.

Mr Ngige said the government is still committed to the revitalization of public universities.

“While we are giving them offers of some fund, this government is not against revitalization but this government says that because of dire economic situation, because of COVID-19, we cannot really pay the N110 billion which they are demanding for revitalization,” he said.

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The issues

Mr Ngige said the government offered N20 billion as revitalization fund. On Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), the government offered N30 billion to all the unions in the universities, making a total of N50 billion.

“ASUU is saying that the N30 billion should be for lecturers alone, irrespective of the fact that there are three other unions. So there is a little problem there. We don’t have any money to offer apart from this N30 billion,” he said

He said a third issue, which he described as the cardinal issue, is the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) versus IPPIS.

“Today ASUU submitted their document on UTAS for onward submission to National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). As you know last week, the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy had approved that NITDA gets their system (UTAS) and subject it to integrity test. This test should be conducted without fear or favour and as early as possible. So, today they have submitted the document for onward transmission to NITDA,” he said.

“One other issue that has arisen is the issue of the transition period. How do you get the Earned Academic Allowances that is due to you or any other entitlement that the government wants to pay you? They want an exemption from IPPIS and the government side headed by the Accountant General of the Federation said that IPPIS is the only government-approved payment platform. So that is where were are for now,” he said.

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Mr Ngige said the government team is going back to their principals and ‘’the union will receive via me the irreducible minimum of what the federal government has to offer.”

He said the federal government’s representatives in the conciliation meeting will reconvene on Friday to agree on the government’s final position.

“The government side will meet on Friday and after that, we will communicate ASUU and in communicating them, if there is a need for a meeting, a date will be fixed for it,” he said.

ASUU’s stance

On his part, ASUU president, Biodun Ogunyemi, said the union had five issues they were engaging the government on.

He said the issues include the revitalization fund based on 2013 negotiation of the 2009 agreement which has dragged for over 3 years, the constitution of visitation panel to all federal universities, payment of arrears of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA), proliferation of universities as well as governance issues in universities.

“Then the government promised to do something on the revitalization, we will give N20 billion in January 2021. Meanwhile, our members said on revitalization, the government should release half of one tranch which amounts to N110 billion as stipulated in the memorandum of understanding of 2013. That was where the schedule for the release of the revitalization fund was first spelt out that the government will release a total amount of N1.3 trillion,” he said.

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He said the government only released the 2013 tranche which was N200 billion.

“After that, the government has only given N20 billion. So we are asking them for the balance of N1.1 trillion which we said they should give us the schedule of how they will pay to show an act of commitment, We said they should release half of one tranch which is N110 billion,” he said.

He said the federal government is owing the union N40 billion for earned allowances, saying ‘’the schedule of earned allowances has been worked out up till 2013.”

“The government is owing us two tranches of EAA which is N40 billion but the federal government said they will release N30 billion but it will be for all unions in the universities and our members rejected the offer. It cannot be for all categories of staff. We have separate negotiation and if you are saying it is for all categories of staff then you have to pay the total of N40 billion so that is where disagreement came from,” he said.

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