It was gathered that the Federal Government has said it has met seven out of the eight demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), but that it could not meet the union’s demand for earned allowance running into N284 billion especially with the economy in recession.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, was responding to questions on ASUU’s demand that led to their embarking on one week strike from State House correspondents at the end of a meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo.
Ngige said with the country in recession, there was no way the government could pay the allowance. He however disclosed that, government had conceded to the union the right to exclude endowment funds that accrued to universities from the Treasury Single Account (TSA), but that does not mean that at university councils will not be audited.
He added, “The other aspect of it is the earned allowance. The earned allowance is the only one that is not sorted out now because everybody knows and agrees that we are in recession. “If we are in a recession and you are asking us to pay you N284 billion, nobody will pay it because the money is not there.
“So they (ASUU) agreed and the National Assembly also agreed, but the government offered them some amount pending when we finish auditing of the first tranche of money that has been given to them in that same area of earned allowances.
“That tranche of money that they collected is being audited, but the auditing process is very slow because some people for some strange reasons are not allowing auditing to take place. So a time frame has been fixed of six months within which the auditing will be done.
“Within those six months, government have offered something that they will be paying on a monthly basis and ASUU has also made a counter proposal to government so both parties have gone back to their principals.
“ASUU has a principal which is the national executive body and goverment have come back to look at our finances viz-a-viz with the National Assembly which will appropriate that particular fund because for 2016, there is nothing in the budget for it. It will be done and appropriated as and when due.”
Ngige said ASUU was expected to return to the negotiating table with its counter proposal.