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FG, ASUU’s Renegotiation Talks Hit Brick Wall

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As the strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) entered its 61st day yesterday, the federal government’s move to renegotiate a deal reached with the university lecturers has witnessed a setback.

This followed the insistence by ASUU that the government should first pay the accrued N200 billion revitalisation fund for revamping the dilapidated infrastructure in the various institutions before it calls off the strike or engage in further negotiations.

 

 

 

 

The federal government had disclosed that it had set up a renegotiation committee to dialogue further with the lecturers to amend the earliest proposals in line with current economic realities.

 

 

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who stated the government’s position at a recent function in Abuja, said the renegotiation of conditions of service of the university lecturers, must be guided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) principle of ability to pay.

 

 

Ngige said the former renegotiation committee headed by Prof. Jubril Munzali proposed a 200 per cent rise in the emoluments of university workers, which the federal government cannot pay.

 

 

Speaking to THISDAY on the telephone yesterday, the President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, argued that the May 2021 agreement is still sacrosanct and should be implemented for sanity to return to the tertiary institutions.

 

 

When asked whether anything has been done to address their demands, Osodeke said: “No progress yet. It is still the same thing.”

 

 

Reacting to the statement by the federal government that it had set up a renegotiating team led by Prof. Nimi Briggs to meet with ASUU on its demands, Osodeke said: “We have finished negotiations and we are expecting them to either sign it and implement or reject it but they have not done anything.”

 

 

When THISDAY drew his attention to the statement made by Ngige that the federal government could not sign the proposal because it has no money to implement, Osodeke said: “If they don’t have the money, they will find. We will not renegotiate it. Why will they say that they don’t have the money when they can have N4 trillion to fund fuel subsidies and you don’t have N200 billion for your universities. Does it make any sense?

 

 

“If they can raise N4 trillion to give to some people in the name of so-called fuel subsidy and then you cannot raise N200 billion to stop the strike and get our children back to school, does it make sense to anybody? So it is just setting the priorities right. Why not take N200 billion out of the N4 trillion fuel subsidy money and end this strike?” he queried.

 

 

Osodeke however said that the most critical issue is the payment of the revitalisation fund and the salary of the lecturers.

 

 

“As we speak now, a professor in the country goes home monthly with only $600 while a senator goes home monthly with almost N18 million. How do you justify that? How will the $600 feed the professor and still be able to take care of his research work?” he asked.

 

 

Speaking on the negotiations for improved salary for university staff, the ASUU president said that the government was yet to come up with any proposal on that.

According to him, ASUU met last week with the federal government’s renegotiation team but the government failed to come up with any proposal.

 

 

“So, we are still waiting for them to bring their proposal of the conditions of salaries of lecturers,” he added.

When also asked if ASUU’s position on salary increase, Osodeke insisted that the union concluded negotiations and a figure already agreed on with the government in May 2021.

 

 

“So, we are not looking for any other one, we already have that one but they did not agree, they should come up with the one they have. Will it take one year to do that?”

 

 

While tracing the origin of the dispute on revitalisation fund, Osodeke said it was a panel set up by the government that recommended that it should invest N1.3 trillion in Nigerian universities to revamp it to the expected standards.

He said that based on the recommendations, the Jonathan-led administration had released N200 billion.

 

 

“Since that time, this government has only released N70 billion, when they were to release N200 billion every year. This is why our universities are lagging behind today and we don’t have any foreign students or lecturers as before because the standard of our laboratories and equipment are not enough to attract anybody from other parts of the world,” he said.

Culled from THISDAY

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