By Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The meeting between the federal government and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) ended Friday without an agreement on the major issue at stake.
The key issue has been the insistence by members of ASUU that the federal government should provide N50 billion as the first tranche of the revitalisation fund meant to address the decaying infrastructure in the nation’s public universities.
Friday’s meeting was the ninth edition of the FG-ASUU talks that had ended in deadlock while the public-funded universities have remained shut down nationwide.
Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting, the Minister of Labour and Empowerment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said some progress have been made and that it is left for the ASUU to consult with its members and get back on Thursday.
According to Ngige, “It has been protracted but the good news is that we have gotten to the end of the tunnel.”
On whether the federal government has accepted to provide the N50 billion demanded by ASUU, Ngige said government has offered ASUU something very reasonable and that they have agreed to take it back to their people and to reconvene next Thursday.
“We have met it half way. We have offered what we have, we don’t have N50 billion. The Minister of Finance has also said so, that the federal government cannot afford N50 billion now,” he said.
On his part, the National President of ASUU, Biodun Ogunyemi, said that the meeting has made some progress and that they are going back to consult with their members.
He also said that another meeting has been scheduled for next week Thursday where the two sides hope to further deliberate on the way forward.
“The meeting has been adjourned till Thursday. We will be here again to continue talks,” he said.
When asked to give details of the new offer made to ASUU by government, Ogunyemi said he cannot disclose it until he gets to his members first.
“We presented the feedback from members on the previous discussions with the federal government and we have another set of information for our members and until we give them, we are not going to speak about it,” he said.
The ASUU president assured Nigerians that the union will definitely have something to tell the people after the next meeting on Thursday.
At the resumed talks Friday, the ASUU leadership restated the union’s demand for a N50 billion revitalisation fund as the benchmark for the resolution of the current industrial dispute.