Speaking the Nations Mind

Buahri To Release N220 Billion To Public Universities

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The Nigerian government has agreed to release the sum of 220billion Naira as revitalisation funds to public Universities in Nigeria.

After extensive hours of deliberations, striking lecturers under the auspices of Academic Staff Union of Universities have agreed with the Federal government on fresh terms and conditions to end its indefinite strike.

The truce which was followed a thorough reappraisal of ASUU’s demands which necessitated the Industrial action.

The Federal Government through its negotiating team led by the Minister of Labour and Productivity and Dr Wake Babalakin says it would deliver on terms before October 2017 elapsed.

One of the major concessions from government was to honour the 2009 agreement government had with ASUU, by releasing the sum of N220 billion not later than October 2017.

The funds when released are expected to go into the revitalization of federal universities across the country.

The ASUU’s President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi told newsmen that the new terms of agreement between the union and federal government would be ratified at the National Executive Committee meeting expected to hold next week before ASUU reverts back to government on its next line of action.

Professor Ogunyemi admitted that the proposals made by government were concrete for the time being.

“We have had useful deliberations and we had some concrete proposals that we will take back to our members as part of our consultations. And like the Honourable Minister of Labour has said, we plan to come back here to take decisions as advised by our members,” Ogunyemi said.

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who was present at the meeting said that beyond the pledge to release the sum of N220 billion not later than October 2017 to fund the revitalization of federal universities across the country, government had began the payment of earned allowances of ASUU members.

He noted that the present administration had been holding meetings with ASUU on how to address the non-release of funds which ought to have commenced in 2014 under the immediate past administration.

According to the Minister, the closed-door meeting also discussed how to set up the National Universities Pension Commission.

He said a seven-man committee would be set up to work towards implementation of the proposals that had been endorsed by all parties.

According to him, most of ASUU’s demands that were discussed during the meeting emanated from the 2009 agreement and the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding the university teachers had with the federal government, which stated that it was important solutions were found to those pending problems.

Ngige in an extensive brief said, “We have concluded negotiations, the government and the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.

“There’s one funding for revitalization of public universities and the issue of Earn Academic Allowances, EAA, the issue of Staff Schools that there was a court judgement, the issue of National Universities Pension Commission, and the issue of salary shortfalls for lecturers and staff of universities.

“There is also the issue of TSA exemption and the problems in the state universities. All are the issues that ASUU felt that government should address.

“On the issue of funding for the revitalization of public universities, we have discussed in detail and extensively on that. This is the fund that would be needed for the revitalization of public universities in terms of their working tools and other things needed for effective performance of their duties.

“There was an agreement from the MoU of 2009 and that of 2013, for government to be making some quarterly payments into this fund. And from 2014 to date, it has not been possible for government to pay or they didn’t pay. But this government has been negotiating with ASUU since last year.

“Today, there’s is a government proposal which we all agreed that it can be workable. But ASUU has to take back this proposal to their organs, so we have decided that there’s an agreement for government to make some funds available in September and October to show that they are not repudiating their agreement and to also show a good sign of faith.

“ASUU will also send in their proposal for testing terms of reference for the committee to the minister. We expect that that will be done today since today is already a Friday.

“Government is though not appealing, we have agreed that the decision should be conveyed to the various universities.

“Issue of NUPENCO was also addressed and ways have been fashioned out for the registration of that company.

“Salary shortfalls for lecturers and university staff were also addressed and government has shown their commitment and evidence that payments have started in order to liquidate the outstanding allowances.

“The issue of TSA exemption was also discussed and an agreement or proposal was muted by which the Central Bank would a special account for that in order for endowment funds and research grants will be exempted,” the Labour Minister said.

Ngige also stated “Based on these discussions, ASUU leadership will consult with its organs and revert back to government within one week. They will consult with their organs with a view to calling off the strike. And we expect them that within one week, they will get back to government.

“These are the highlights of the meeting and I can tell you that the meeting took place in a very cordial atmosphere,” he concluded.

The meeting had in attendance Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, Presidential Adviser on National Assembly Matters Senator Ita Enang, newly appointed Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour, Bolaji Adebiyi including ASUU’s executive, led by its President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi.

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