•Accuses FG of breaching 2019 pact
•Union hasn’t notified govt about strike, says Ngige
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has demanded N1.1trillion from the federal government for what it described as the revitalisation of the universities.
Speaking to THISDAY on the indefinite industrial action by the union, ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said the union embarked on the strike to compel the federal government to honour an agreement it entered into in 2009, which was renegotiated in 2019.
He said the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the union rejected the federal government’s proposals on the amount to be released for revitalisation of universities, payment of earned academic allowances and timeline for setting up visitation panels for universities.
When asked to state the specific areas of dispute with the federal government, ASUU president said: “We have outlined issues that are outstanding from our 2019 agreement, including the revitalisation of universities, which the government promised to process the report of the inter-ministerial committee on sustainable sources of funding. They gave us that document but there was nowhere it mentioned the outstanding balance of about N1.1 trillion in terms of timeline on how to inject that fund into revitalising our universities.”
Ogunyemi added that on the issue of Earned Academic Activities (EAA), both sides had in 2019 agreed that the balance of the arrears up to 2016 should be paid by the federal government while it would be given enough time to calculate what was outstanding for 2017 and 2018.
“Again, it was agreed that the government should mainstream the payment of the allowances in the annual budget as from 2019 but nothing happened,” he said.
ASUU president explained that the agreement with the federal government was that it would pay EAA in four installments beginning in November 2019.
According to him, the government reneged on the deal and did not bother to reach out to the union on why it could not meet the payment obligation.
He said members of ASUU were displeased and had insisted that the government must go back to the original plan or at least release N220 billion as a demonstration of commitment to the pact.
Ogunyemi also listed other issues in dispute to include the non-setting up of visitation panels, which was supposed to have been done latest March 2019; checking the poor funding of state universities and arranging for a platform using the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC) to hold discussions with governors on how to address the situation and the issue of granting an official licence to Nigeria Universities Pension Company (NUPENCO) to ensure sustainable and accountable management of the pension of the academic staff of the universities.
He said the failure to honour these agreements had angered members of the union, fuelling their decision at the NEC meeting to immediately commence the indefinite strike.
He accused the federal government of trying to apply “carrot and stick approach” in order to intimidate and hoodwink the lecturers into submission by seizing their February salaries and offering them some amount as in lieu of EAA.
Ogunyemi, however, said the union was still open for dialogue, adding that the union has forwarded a notice of commencement of strike to the federal government.
However, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, told THISDAY that ASUU was yet to inform the federal government that it had embarked on strike.
“We have not received notice of strike from ASUU and until we do we will not comment on the matter,” he said.