The President of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, has called on the Federal Government to release N50 billion to show its commitment to the revitalisation of public universities.
He said it was in line with the previous agreements with ASUU and a condition for calling off its strike which began November 4 last year.
Prof Biodun said the N50 billion will form the first tranche of the N220 billion government agreed for the project this year and add to the N20 billion earlier released for the year, adding that the union is not asking the government to release the whole N220 billion at once.
ASUU called the current strike to press for improved funding of universities and implementation of previous agreements with the government.
The union is also demanding implementation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreements, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU; 2012 and 2013) and Memorandum of Action (MoA, 2017) and the truncation of the renegotiation of the union’s agreements.
However, a major issue dragging the negotiations forth and back is the revitalisation of the universities. At present, the government is yet to release the N1.1 trillion it agreed to release as part of the funds for the revitalisation project.
The 2013 MoU stipulated that public universities need N1.3 trillion for a modest revitalisation. The fund was to be released in tranches of N200billion in 2013, N220billion 2014, N220billion 2015, 220billion in 2016, N220billion in 2017 and N220billion in 2018.
The previous government of Goodluck Jonathan released N200 billion in 2013 but since then nothing has been released.
At a recent meeting with the leadership of ASUU, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said the dispute with the teachers was on the verge of being resolved.
Mentioning, the fresh concessions made by the government to ASUU, he said the Accountant-General of the Federation and the Ministry of Finance presented evidence that N15.4 billion had been released to public universities for payment of salary shortfall.
On earned academic allowances, he said President Muhammadu Buhari approved N20 billion to offset arrears of the 2009 to 2012 verified earnings by university teachers.
As part of the agreement reached between the union and the government before ASUU ended its industrial action in September 2017, the Federal Government had released N22.9 billion for earned allowances of both academic and non-academic staff across 22 Federal universities.
Of the amount, ASUU members got N18.3billion, while non-teaching staff in the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) got N4.6 billion.
The sharing formula, which was condemned by the three non-academic staff unions, led to pockets of protests on various campuses at the time, and eventually led to the unions embarking on a long strike.