The Federal Government and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities on Tuesday presented different views on a parley involving both parties over the strike by university teachers.
While the Federal Government said significant steps were taken at the meeting towards the resolution of the issues raised by ASUU, the President of the union, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said it was a “mere consultation.”
He said, “We have not yet had a formal meeting (with government); we are still making consultation. Don’t worry; I will get back to you when there is information. But there is no information for now.”
But the Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday said the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, led government to the meeting on behalf of the government.
He said the meeting held took significant steps towards the resolution of the issues raised by ASUU.
Olowookere said the meeting agreed on the forensic audit of N30bn earlier given to ASUU in 2010 and further agreed on monthly remittances to ASUU while the audit lasts.
He said, “The Minister hence wishes to assure members of ASUU, and indeed all Nigerians that government is already at work to resolve all outstanding issues in line with the resolve of the present administration to cast any form of disruption of universities’ academic calendar into the dustbin of history. The meeting continues on Thursday August 17, 2017.”
ASUU strike unnecessary, says Presidency
The Presidency on Tuesday described the industrial action declared by ASUU on Monday as “totally unnecessary.”
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in an interview on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily.
Shehu said the union leaders were aware of the fact that the Muhammadu Buhari administration inherited the agreements based on which the industrial action was declared.
He said they were also aware that the Federal Government had set up a committee on the matter.
The presidential spokesman regretted that while the union leaders were expected to sit down and negotiate with the committee, they resorted to a strike.
He gave an indication that the government might not be able to meet the huge financial obligation the striking university teachers were asking for since the N850bn debt was more than the total allocation to the Ministry of Education in the 2017 Budget which he put at N369bn.
Shehu said, “Governments enter into agreements that they can pay for. Ability to pay is a key requirement in going into agreements.
“Since President Buhari assumed office, he has sent words out there in form of a warning to all government institutions that they should not go into negotiations and agreements that they cannot pay for; but get clearance.
“I understand that they are talking about debts owed their members to the tune of N850bn. If I am correct, the entire appropriation for the Ministry of Education for this year is N369bn. So where do they want us to get the money from?
“We have inherited these agreements and we are not running away from them. Government has set up a committee led by (Dr Wale) Babalakin. They are already sitting. Why didn’t they sit down and negotiate?
“This strike is totally unnecessary. The issues can be resolved, especially where we have full understanding of where we are coming from. The governments that signed those agreements did not deem it fit to implement because the capacity was not there.
“If they are ready, they can sit down and discuss with the committee that has capable and qualified people as members.”
Shehu said the university teachers opted to go on strike because they expected that all their problems should be solved with a wave of hand.
“They want all the problems to go with a wave of the hand. They want all the answers to all their problems at a go. There is an avenue that the government has opened for them for dialogue and it is not closed yet,” the presidential spokesman said.