The Federal Government has said it cannot meet the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU’s demand for earned allowance worth N284 billion due to the current economic recession plaguing the country.
Speaking to journalists on Wednesday in Abuja, Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said even though government had met seven out of the eight demands of the union, there was no way the government could pay the allowance because there was no money.
While ASUU is expected to return to the negotiating table with its counter proposal, Ngige said the government had conceded to the union the right to exclude endowment funds that accrued to universities from the Treasury Single Account.
He said while the government agreed to ASUU’s demand to exclude endowment funds from the TSA, that did not mean that universities’ councils would not have right to audit such an account.
Ngige further explains;
“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 a recession.
“If we are in a recession and you are asking us to pay you N284bn, 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 for six months within which the auditing will be done.
“Within those six months, the government has offered something that they will be paying on a monthly basis and ASUU has also made a counter-proposal to the government so both parties have gone back to their principals.
“ASUU has a principal which is the national executive body and government has 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.”
Meanwhile, on Wednesday evening, ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, announced that the union had called off its one-week warning strike and directed all lecturers to return to work while negotiation with the government towards avoiding an indefinite strike continues.