THE Federal Government on Thursday insisted that it will not accede to the demand by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for their members to be paid the backlog of salaries withheld over the ongoing strike, saying it is meant to be the penalty for their needless action.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, stated this while appearing on the ministerial media briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Thursday, insisting that not paying the backlog of salary will deter others who may contemplate strike in future.
He stated that government turned down ASUU’s demand to be paid for the five months that have been on strike because it believes that they will now think twice before taking such step.
He said the strike by the university-based unions came despite the N6 trillion expended on education on capital and recurrent expenditures by the present administration directly as well as spending by agencies such as Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TEFFUND) and Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) which expended N2.6 trillion and N553 billion respectively.
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He pointed out that this is in addition to the universities also retaining their Internally Generated Revenue (IGR).
According to him, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Allied Institutions (NASU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Academic Staff Union Polytechnics (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) have reached common grounds with the Federal Government.
While describing strikes as huge distractions that do no one any good, the minister informed that having accepted government’s proposals, five of the unions will likely call off their strike within the next one week except ASUU, which he said had given the Federal Government two new conditions that have been rejected.
He added that “all contentious issues between the government and ASUU have been settled except the quest for members’ salaries for the period of strike be paid, a demand that Buhari has flatly rejected. “On the contrary, unions in tertiary institutions in the country, especially ASUU, have been engaged in recurring and avoidable strikes that have crippled the university system.
“This is in spite of the huge investments of over N2.5 trillion in tertiary institutions in the last 10 years from TETFund alone. Common knowledge as it were, many Nigerians may not know that the Federal Government is paying the salaries of every staff in its tertiary institutions, academic and non-academic staff, while these institutions are also in full control of their IGR.
“Just recently, we inaugurated a committee to renegotiate the 2009 agreement with ASUU and related unions in tertiary institutions. We are doing everything humanly possible to conclude on the negotiations.
“It is our hope that the outcome of the renegotiations will bring lasting industrial peace to our campuses. In the main time, I am sure that the current efforts would yield the desired results and return our children back to school.”
Adamu, however, noted that ASUU had begun consultations with their members to determine whether to call off their strike as well.
Adamu informed that the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System (U3PS) and the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) outscored the Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS) during the integrity tests conducted, affirming that ASUU’s peculiarities will be accommodated in whatever platform that may be finally adopted.
He said the UTAS had not been approved by government as had been speculated but noted that IPPIS has been updated to accommodate payment of those on sabbatical.
“Just one thing that I was reminded, even the current IPPIS has been made to accommodate sabbatical. I didn’t know this,” he said.
On how students who have lost time can be compensated, the minister said that it is the responsibility of ASUU to compensate students for the time wasted, suggesting that the affected students should “take ASUU to court” to claim for damages incurred over strike period.
Adamu praised teachers for not embarking on strike since 2015 and promised that government will reciprocate through necessary incentives.