Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have finally reached a deal to end the three-month-long industrial action that has crippled academic activities in all the publicly-owned universities in the country.
Speaking on the outcome of a meeting with the leadership of ASUU, which lasted about two and half hours, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, said both sides reached an agreement on all the eight items in contention.
Ngige listed the areas as the provision of N15.3 billion to augment the shortfall in the payment of arrears of salaries, provision of another N25 billion for the settlement of outstanding earned allowances, and granting of licence to ASUU- floated firm to operate its pension scheme.
Other items on the agreement signed Thursday by both parties also include the provision of the sum of N25 billion as the first tranche of the revitalisation fund meant to revamp the facilities in the tertiary institutions, setting up of visitation panels to carry out financial audit of various federal government-owned universities and reconvening of the Babalakin-led tripartite negotiations committee to resume work on Monday and end its assignment by March.
Ngige said: “Agreement has been reached on all the eight items in dispute; things like the NUPEMC. ASUU has collected their licence for the business of the pension fund administrators, release of N16 billion for shortfall in salaries, N15.3 billion for universities and the remaining for other tertiary institutions. We have also trashed
the issue of setting up a standing committee to liaise with state government-owned universities, ASUU and the Federal Ministry of Education. Visitation panels have also been inaugurated and would commence work on March 2nd, with that we hope to sanitise the university system,” he said.
On the issue of earned allowances, Ngige said the federal government had agreed to add N5 billion to the N20 billion released earlier to bring it to N25 billion.
He also said that the government agreed with ASUU to release N25 billion to the universities in April and that subsequently, the federal government will resume the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reached with ASUU in 2009 on sustainable funding of universities in the country.
The minister further said that the meeting resolved the issue concerning the lecturers in the University of Ilorin, who despite having won their cases in court, did not get their salaries and allowances paid.
He said that payment of the affected lecturers had been approved.
Another area which the minister said the meeting was able to resolve was the issue of reconstitution of the Babalakin-led committee.
Ngige said that in the spirit of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on principles guiding labour negotiations, which stipulate that no one should dictate who represents any member of the tripartite committee,
it was agreed that Babalakin should remain in his position.
While concurring with the minister, ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said the union had signed an agreement on the issues in dispute.
Ogunyemi who addressed journalists at the headquarters of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja, said the union has agreed to call off the strike action.
“While we put a closure to this phase of the struggle, it is our hope and desire that the Nigerian governments (Federal and State) will play the roles expected of them in order to make the new memorandum work,” he said.
He listed the issues that led to the industrial action to include funding for the revitalisation of Public Universities based on the FGN-ASUU MoU of 2012, 2013 and the MoA of 2017, reconstitution of the current Government Team to allow for a leader and Chairman of the FG-ASUU renegotiating team who has the interest of
the nation and the people at heart and release of the forensic audit report on Earned Academic Allowances (EAA).
Others, he said are offsetting the outstanding balance of the EAA and mainstreaming of same into the 2019 budget.
The ASUU president also listed the payment of all arrears of shortfall in all universities that have met the verification requirements of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), provision of a platform by the federal government for ASUU to engage governors on the proliferation of universities, underfunding of university education and undue interference in the affairs of the universities.