Negotiations between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to resolve the lingering strike by the university lecturers has again reached a dead end as both parties differed on crucial issues bordering on funding.
Chairman of the Presidential Universities’ NEEDS Assessment Committee and Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam, who spoke immediately after about four hours of deliberations between the union and the government team at the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (OSGF), said negotiations would continue.
He said progress was made in the area of addressing the infrastructural deficit in the universities with the release of N100 billion, which would be distributed next month.
“The federal government has been able to harness about N100 billion, which Mr. President has agreed. And that will begin the project and starting from the first week of September in virtually all the universities. The process of achieving that is ongoing at the centre and due process for it at various universities,” Suswam said.
“The infrastructure deficit like hostels, laboratories and libraries will be addressed. Some will be renovated while others will be brand new. Every university will be affected and each of the hostels will accommodate 1,200 students.
Despite the efforts announced by the FG, ASUU has refused to shift ground on the two outstanding issues of infrastructure funding and pending arrears.
ASUU President, Nasir Isa Fagge, told journalists after the meeting that they would meet with their National Executive Council (NEC) to decide the appropriate response to the federal government.
That said, Fagge made it clear that ASUU’s position had not shifted from the 2009 agreement. “The union is talking about the implementation of 2009 agreement and not renegotiation.”
“If you remember, the objective of going on strike is to get government to implement the 2009 ASUU and federal government agreement particularly to implement the provisions of the memorandum of understanding we reached with the government in 2012.
“I want to say that at today’s meeting, we looked at all the issues and it is clear to us that the Suswam Committee that is working on the funding requirement for revitalising the university system particularly on the implementation of the NEEDS assessment report… its clear to us that we have not really gone far in that aspect.”
“So, on the basis of that, we will also go back and inform our principals on the development. I think it is important to clarify that at this point that we are not making a demand, there was an agreement with government, and even that aspect that government is talking about, the entitlement of earned staff of then university, that includes the technical staff, members of the senior staff association and members of the non academic staff.
“So, I think at this point, what the union is talking about is the implementation of 2009 agreement not the renegotiation of the agreement.
“Well, we will wait to hear from government after the consultation with the councils. Whatever they place on the table, we will look at it. But for now, we will also go back and report to our principals,” Fagge stated.
Also speaking after the meeting, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, said all the issues had been resolved except the unpaid allowances.
Anyim said the federal government had agreed to release the sum of N30 billion in that regard, which must be paid according to the verifiable claims by each university councils, adding that the sum of N92 billion being demanded by ASUU could not be met as the claims upon, which fund were to be released could be faulty using the initial criteria being proposed by the academic union.
He said they had shifted the responsibility of settling the pending arrears to the university councils, who will be supported with the N30 billion.
“ASUU is asking for the N92 billion and we felt that the way the whole process is being done, there would be discrepancies and we want things to be done according to due process.
“We know that it is the responsibility of the university councils to take care of the issue of unclaimed allowances. So the actual figures will be verified by the council and we will be supporting them with N30 billion,” he said.
Also speaking on the funding of the universities’ infrastructure, Anyim said federal government would start with the sum of N100 billion.
He said the federal government would release funds in a progressive manner over a period of three years to meet up with the sum of N400 billion being demanded by ASUU.