Buhari orders Ngige to resolve all pending issues
Onyebuchi Ezigbo and Kuni Tyessi in Abuja
Another meeting between the federal government and striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday night ended without any agreement.
This is coming as President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, to do everything possible to end the three-month-old strike by university teachers.
The president of ASUU, Prof. Abiodun Ogunyemi who spoke to journalists on the outcome of the deadlocked meeting stated that, “the meeting is not conclusive; so, we are going back to consult with our members. They gave us their reactions to our proposals but there are still grey areas we are trying to sort out ; so, until we finish our consultations you will know our own reaction”.
When asked to state specifically what the grey areas are, the ASUU president said, “the most critical of all is the revitalisation fund and this is very central to our work as academics and unless that area is addressed, members may not accept to call off the ongoing action,” he said.
Ogunyemi said the lecturers are asking for a minimum of N50 billion to restart the revitalisation fund.
On his part, the chief negotiator, Ngige, said that substantial progress has been made during last night’s talks.
Ngige who spoke to journalists after the over two hours’ meeting with ASUU said that the meeting has gotten substantial agreements in about seven areas although he failed to list those areas.
On whether the federal government has agreed to pay the N50 billion demanded by ASUU, the minister said that the federal government has only accepted to the amount owed since the previous administration.
According to Ngige, the federal government has started defraying the end allowances owed the university teachers, adding that it has starting releasing N15.4 billion shortfall in payment of salaries.
He also said the government has agreed to spend some money on the revitalisation fund irrespective of the fact that the government had earlier released from TETFUND account about N163 billion.
Ngige stated that “most of the issues have been resolved, they going back to their people to consult”. On when negotiation is likely to reconvene, the minister said that it will be at the instance of ASUU since they have asked to be excused to go and consult with their members.
Ngige said that contrary to insinuations that the federal government is weak and not applying its powers to the end the strike, the government was only trying resolve issues amicably in order to avoid bringing the whole sector to a halt, especially now that elections are around the corner.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has ordered Ngige to do everything possible to end the three-month-old strike by the university teachers.
Ngige disclosed this in a statement issued yesterday during the resumed negotiation with the leadership of ASUU.
The statement issued by the Assistant Director, Press at the ministry, Ms. Rhoda Illiya, said the president told the minister that the strike must be called off at the end of yesterday’s meeting.
“Mr. President has directed me to pass the night here until all issues that have kept our children away from school are resolved and the strike called off,” Ngige said.
“The president has also directed him to impress upon you, the imperative of little sacrifice from all sides, knowing full well that the revenue of the federation has dwindled from what it was before the present administration assumed office,” Ngige added.
The president, he added, was concerned by the prevailing crisis in the university system, hence his steady commitment to a “holistic approach to tackling the rot through adequate funding, notwithstanding the dwindling accruals.“
“The president told me to assure you of his determination to reposition our universities as he would do everything possible to cast the present challenges in our tertiary education to the dustbin of history,” the minister added.