By: Sunday Oyewole In its bid to end the ongoing nationwide strike by Universities lecturers, the Federal Government has decided to meet with the Vice Chancellors and Council Chairmen to brief them on what government is doing to return the students to the campuses.
Rising from a crucial meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan at the State House on Tuesday; Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue who heads the Needs Assessment Committee told correspondents that government will verify the N92 billion claims by the lecturers.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is claiming government owes its members N92 billion in allowances. But, government has only made N30 billion available which ASUU has rejected.
The Tuesday meeting was also attended by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Anyim Pius Anyim; the Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala; Minister of Education, Professor Ruqquayatu Rufai; and Labour, Emeka Wogu.
Briefing State House correspondents after the meeting, Governor Suswam said, “I can say that we have made substantial progress and we are hoping that this strike should be called off based on some of the mechanisms that we have put in place to move the sector forward. We met extensively yesterday (Monday).
“You know there are two components to the whole issue, the needs assessment component, which s the one that I’m handling, we have to some large extent concluded on that, the earned allowance committee, which is being headed by the SGF, that is where there are some contentions, but as you must have heard, the federal government made an offer of N30 billion to assist the various Councils of our universities to be able to pay the earned allowances”.
According to him, government has also made another N100 billion available for provision of infrastructure in the Universities, which President Jonathan will flag-off soon.
He spoke further on this, “There is also N100 billion that is why myself, the Minister of Finance, the SGF, the ministers of education, labour, the Chief of Staff and the VP have just risen from a meeting to take some decisions that would end the strike and the President has instructed us as to what to do and he has shown a lot of commitments and flagging off a project worth about N 1 00 billion in all the universities in the country about 61 of them.
“So we are hoping that we will be able to see the end of the strike very soon if at the end of the day ASUU is satisfied with the measures that have so far been taken. The federal government will also be meeting with the university councils and vice chancellors of our universities within the week towards updating them on some of the decisions taken.
“The President has graciously agreed that in the first week of September he will be able to flag-off the projects. You also know that the procurement process will have to be followed and these projects includes hostels in our universities, classrooms and theaters, libraries and laboratories amongst others, some are renovation some are new and all the 61 universities are going to benefit from one project or another, so it is not going to be selective, all the universities are going to benefit from this infrastructural revitalization of our universities”.
Asked if government would shifting ground by increasing the N30 billion, Governor Suswam had this to say, “Well let me say that negotiation is still ongoing, the federal government has opted to also meet with the Councils and managements of the universities because earned allowance is something that can be certified by the management and councils of the universities ?
“The federal government said it is assisting the university councils with the sum of N30 billion for them to go and verify the people who actually earn these allowances and pay them. I think that the government had demonstrated some substantial faith.
“Yes, if ASUU said that this is the amount of money that the FG is owing them and the FG has shifted ground from its initial posture of there was no money to offering N30 billion, it means we are moving forward and with a N100 billion available now for addressing the physical infrastructure deficit in our universities, I think the federal government has done quite well to have moved to where we are today.”