The Federal Government has expressed hope that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would call off its ongoing four-week warning strike this week.Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige dropped this hint in his office Tuesday night while speaking with journalists after a marathon conciliation meeting between the government side and ASUU.Ngige said the meeting agreed on many things and put timelines for the implementation of the agreements.According to him, ASUU agreed to go back to their members with the government offers and report back to him before this week runs out.
The minister reiterated that many of the items in the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) had been dealt with exhaustively while some were being addressed.
He said: “We have only one or two areas that are new. One of the new areas is the renegotiation of the conditions of service, which is called the 2009 agreement. An agreement was reached in 2009 that their conditions of service would be reviewed every five years. It was done in 2014.“We started one which the former UNILAG Pro Chancellor, Wale Babalakin (SAN) was chairing the committee. After Babalakin, Prof. Manzali was in charge and the committee came up with a draft document, proposed by the Federal Ministry of Education and ASUU.“
Today, Manzali’s committee has become defunct because many of the people in the committee are no longer pro chancellors. A new team has been constituted to have a second look at that document to make sure that some of the allowances are not against the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) fixed rates for wages and allowances.“If you propose allowances that do not comply with NSIWC rates, the government will not be accept it. So, it is important that they do the right thing from the beginning, so that whatever the committee presents can be approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).”
Ngige disclosed that the meeting fixed a timeline of six weeks for the new committee set up by the Education Ministry to round up everything on the conditions of service.Regarding the issue of University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS), he said the meeting mandated a joint committee of ASUU, the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to conduct an integrity test on the platform in conjunction with neutral experts.
“We told them to conclude the test by March 8. If they conclude, we are expected to work on it within six weeks.”He, however, said there was no problem with the issue of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), apart from the reconciliation of payments made in tranches to the university system.“Once we conclude the reconciliation, if the Federal Government is in arrears on any tranche, the Finance Minister will look for money to pay, even though the Federal Government does not have money.“Earned allowance is an allowance for excessive workload. Last year it was paid based on the rule of the thumb theory of 10 percent of total personnel cost.
This year, we have told the NUC to put up a committee and within the next three weeks, come up with a figure that will be sent to Finance Minister.“For me I think we are on course, ASUU should go to their members, show them offers made to them by the government, so that they can call off the strike.”Earlier, the President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke said their members, students and Nigerian people want to see action from the government.
According to Osodeke, “the education sector in Nigeria is in crisis and money is being lost in the primary, secondary and tertiary education levels.”He noted the quantum of money that ought to have been used to fund education in Nigeria was being lost to other countries and therefore called for a declaration of emergency in the sector to solve the problem.Also from the government side at the meeting include the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo (SAN), the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Peter Yerima Tarfa, Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Adamu Abubakar Rasheed and Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), Ekpo Nta, among others.