By Anthony Okafor
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that the Federal Government has released N163 billion to universities from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund.
Ngige made this know while addressing journalists after a meeting with leaders of Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
ASUU has been on strike since November 2018 to press home demands such as the shortfall in salaries of some federal universities’ workers and lecturers, earned allowances, revitalisation of universities, among others.
According to him, “Government has released about N163 billion from TETFund account to universities.
“So, we have gotten some substantial agreement in most of the areas of the agreement.
“Most of the issues have been resolved, so they are going to go back to their members and present government’s offer to their council.”
The minister also stated that the striking lecturers were not asking for N50 billion before they would call off the strike.
He however, added that if the total amount of the union’s demand was aggregated, it would be more than the N50 billion as the government was paying in different compartments.
“These are debts of 2009, owed by the past administration, that is 2009 to 2012, so it is not our own debt and we have been doing a lot to settle these debts.
“So, we will be reconvening at the instance of ASUU. They said they want to go and consult with their members and they cannot call off the strike without consulting with their members,’’ he said.
Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU president, said there were still some grey areas in the proposal presented by the federal government.
He said the union would look at the grey areas and would get back to the government.
“The most critical area is the revitalisation, because it is central to our work, as academics and unless that area is addressed our members will have issues with ongoing action,” he said.
“We also did not ask for N50 billion, we are saying that the minimum we expect government to release in order to reactive the revitalisation fund is N50 billion. So, the strike is still on.”