Beg ASUU to call off strike, we can’t borrow to pay them, FG tells parents

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The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo on Friday called on parents and all Nigerians to speak into the minds of ASUU and beg them to return to their classrooms.

The minister said ASUU demand is outrageous. He said ASUU wants the FG to borrow N1.2 trillion to pay university lecturers meanwhile the total income of the country is N6.1 trillion and the Federal Government has roads to construct, health centres to build and many other critical infrastructure to take care of.

Speaking comprehensively on why the Federal Government cannot meet ASUU demands Keyamo said:

“People should realise that the Ministry of labour is not an employer of University lecturers. Ministry of education took over negotiations with ASUU. The Ministry of Education had set up a committee called the Nimi Briggs committee to look into the complaints of ASUU. When this committee began to sit – all other critical institutions of government should have been at that meeting. These are (1) The National salaries and incomes commission, (2) Head of civil service, (3) The Budget office of the federation, (4) Minister of finance. But ASUU refused to have these critical stakeholders sit with them at the meeting”.

“How can you sit down with the Ministry of Education without negotiating with those who hold the purse of Government, these are the people who know the rules of how public officers should be paid. How can you sit down and fix your own salaries this is what ASUU did. ASUU also sat down and fixed it own salaries and allowances without the contribution of these critical stakeholders”.

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“ASUU put down salaries and increases, in some cases more than 100%, this came up to an additional N560 billion; on top of the N412 billion Naira they were already being paid by government. And this amount did not include their allowances, their allowances was an additional N170 billion. So the entire ASUU wage bill came up to N1.2 trillion Naira or there about.

Meanwhile we already had a situation where the Federal Government was paying University lecturers 50% of its overheads on salaries to public sector workers”.

“When they brought this to the Federal Government the FG said the bill was unrealistic, they advised ASUU to sit down with the other critical stakeholders to discuss. This was looked at by the office of the chief of staff. They looked at it again and the federal government said it was still unrealistic”.

Further more the Minister of State for Labour said: “Meanwhile Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities – NASUU were warning us that if we answer ASUU they themselves will go on strike. We also have Polytechnic teachers and Colleges of Education lecturers, they have also said if we answer ASUU they are also going to join and go on strike. So this is going to setoff a chain of reactions that we cannot stop”.

“The projection for 2023 is that the total income of government will be N6.1 trillion Naira. Subsidy alone will go up N6.3 trillion Naira. In other words subsidy will be more than the total income of government in 2023. So where do we go from here. Education is a critical sector but it will put too much burden on the Federal purse.

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On the other issue of system of paying their salaries. The old system was fraught with fraud. Government decided to come up with its own system, ASSU said no – it would develop its own system. Federal government said ok develop your own system and it came up with a system called the UTAS system. Federal Government told them to go to the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), this is the agency that insures the sanctity of some of these things. Their system went through a test and it failed. Meanwhile the non-academic staff have said they do not like the new ASUU system they will develop their own system called UPPS. How can you have a govt where its workers devise a system of how to pay themselves, which government will accept that. But Govt was still patient. So Govt told ASUU to go back to NITDA and put the system through stress test”.

“How can government pay public money into a system that cannot be relied upon, that is where we are right now. Nigerians should appeal to ASUU to go back to the classroom. In the world of negotiation once a dispute is arrested by a conciliator like what we have done, everybody should go back to status quo, while all these efforts are being made. Should we go and borrow N1.2 trillion Naira to pay university lecturers? How can we go and borrow N1.2 trillion Naira for overheads when our entire income will be N6.1 trillion Naira? We also have roads to build, health centres to build, other critical sectors and infrastructure to take care of”.

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About Samuel Abasiekong 880 Articles
Samuel Abasiekong, Senior Journalist, Newspaper Publisher, Author of many literature text books, French-English, English-French languages Translator and Interpreter, Multi-sectoral Counsellor & Consultant, National Convener of National Public Interest Group - NPIG, Secretary Uyo Division of the Nigerian Red Cross Society, News Editor & Reporter @ 9News Nigeria

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