6 March 2018

Nigeria: University Workers Strike - Reps Probe N23 Billion Disbursement

The House of Representatives on Monday commenced investigation into the disbursement of N23 billion released by Federal Government to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The Chairman, Committee on Tertiary Education of the House, Suleiman Aminu, requested for the breakdown of the disbursement.

He said that the ASUU strike also affected the polytechnics and colleges of education.

In his presentation, Samson Ugwoke, Chairman, Joint Action Committee of the three non-academic unions of universities, confirmed the release of the N23 billion.

He said that the committee set up to oversee the disbursement of the fund, approved 89 per cent for ASUU and 11 per cent for the non-academic staff unions.

Mr. Ugwoke, however, explained that University of Ilorin and University of Nigeria, Nsukka did not benefit, while University of Lagos got the least allocation.

He said that the Minister and Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Education at a meeting held on September 19, 2017 admitted that ASUU hijacked the process of distribution of the fund.

He added that they promised to mop-up money for the three non-academic staff unions, with an appeal to the unions to call off the industrial action.

Earlier, Abubakar Rasheed, Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), had argued that most of the demands in the 2009 agreement were not implementable as most of the demands were not clear.

According to him, the agreement contained "many combustibles that when touched, would explode".

Mr. Rasheed added that the "infighting among the four unions will spell doom for the system because students will suffer."

Reacting to the submissions, Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, said that payments were made by the Accountant-General to the universities.

According to him, " it is just that more of the staff that benefitted belong to ASUU".

"Although the time the N23 billion was released, the federal government was addressing ASUU strike, but when the money came, the ministry insisted that other unions should be carried along."

Mr. Echono, however, assured that the next fund that would be released by the government would be basically released to the non-academic staff in the universities.

He confirmed that logistics were being worked out to ensure timely payment of the allowances, but declined to disclose details of the amount to be released and time.

In his ruling, Mr. Aminu, who presided at the sessions, urged the three striking non-academic staff unions to suspend the nationwide strike while negotiation continues.

He also tasked relevant authorities responsible for the release of the funds to expedite action.

Mr. Aminu explained that the committee intended to ensure five years uninterrupted academic session in the Nigeria's tertiary education.

He also unveiled plans to convey stakeholders' retreat on the 2009 agreement with the view to sort out grey areas.

The committee chairman urged officials of the ministry and leadership of the unions to convene another meeting in the National Assembly on Tuesday.

This, he said. was to work out a position paper for the unions to present to their members at the JAC meeting.

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