By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Federal ministries and agencies have fixed a meeting for today to appraise the level of implementation of agreements reached with unions in federal universities, THISDAY has learnt.
Those expected at the meeting are representatives of the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning; Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Education, Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, National Universities Commission (NUC) and National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
A top official told THISDAY yesterday that the meeting would serve as a prelude to another one to be held with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU) to be convened in two weeks’ time.
On the federal government’s response to the fresh complaints by ASUU and non-teaching staff unions over alleged breach of the agreements signed with the government, the source, who was part of the federal government’s negotiating team, said that efforts were ongoing to address such shortfalls.
“Yes, we are meeting as government side to review our implementation timelines. We will do that on Thursday, March 18,” he added.
He said the meeting would look at all the issues contained in the agreements with the unions and consider the level of implementation of these agreements reached with ASUU on one hand and non-teaching staff on the other.
“We will look at the agreement timelines line by line and assess where we are,” he said.
According to him, the reconvened talks will be used to provide the unions with details of the progress made so far in the implementation of the agreements.
On the payment of withheld salaries of university lecturers, he said most of them had been paid except a few, who were omitted.
“Lecturers are paid in line with the agreement but we had complaints from the union that in some of the universities, some people have not been paid anything at all because they were not captured in the new arrangement, which is now being used to pay them,” he stated.
He, however, said the omission was not enough justification for the unions to resume strike.
“If you have 2,000 lecturers in the university as in the University of Ife and about 70 of them have been skipped, 70 out 2,000 is just about three per cent. Also at the University of Ibadan, about 65 lecturers were left out from the payment schedule out of the estimated 4,000 lecturers,” he said.
He added that the omissions can be corrected and today’s meeting will address the issue.
Before ASUU called off its strike, the federal government had said it had fulfilled almost all the demands for which the union began industrial action on strike on March 9, 2020.
According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, “The visitation panels to the universities have been approved by the president and will swing into action once the universities re-open. The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation on the other hand is also rounding off the gazetting of the panels while the National Universities Commission has received the approved list, which will be published later next week.”
Also, on the revival of the Renegotiation Committee for the 2009 ASSU/FG Agreement demanded by ASUU, he said a new team had been set up by the Ministry of Education with Prof. Jibril Munzali as chairman.
He replaced Dr. Wale Babalakin (SAN).
“Similarly, the government has also acceded to a hybrid payment platform, which is not 100 per cent IPPIS for the payment of salaries and Earned Academic Allowances/ Earned Allowances, pending the result and conclusion of the integrity and useability test on the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) by the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA)
“Besides, government has also processed for payment, the sum of N70 billion, comprising N40 billion for Earned Academic Allowances / Earned Allowances and N30 billion for the revitalisation of the universities,” he had said.