On the day a meeting between striking university lecturers, ASUU, and the federal government deadlocked, the education minister said the strike may be called off within one week.
The minister, Adamu Adamu, stated this at a meeting with the Senate Committee on Tertiary Institutions and TETFund in Abuja.
He said that the ministry and other major stakeholders were already holding meetings with the union to resolve some of the issues that led to the strike.
Mr. Adamu’s meeting is believed to have held just before the meeting between the government delegation, led by labour minister Chris Ngige and ASUU.
The lecturers had said after their meeting with the government delegation that they would get back to the government next week.
On Thursday, the education minister assured that with the level of progress made in the negotiation, there was hope that students and lecturers would return to classes within one week.
“The issue of renegotiation is already going on. I have already written a letter formalising the meeting I had with the union, because I went alone to face them and I wrote a letter which I gave them yesterday.
“From the way they received it, I think it is possible that the strike will be called off within a week, maximum,’’ he said.
Mr. Adamu, said while explaining reasons for the strike, said ASUU accused the federal government of failing to keep its side of the agreement.
He assured that the Ministry of Finance had agreed to do the needful with regard to releasing funds as soon as possible.
“The union had asked for N23 billion to be paid.
“We said the condition for that N23 billion to be released was for them to account for the N30 billion they had taken which is a total of N53 billion and they were not able to account for it.
“The Minister of Finance then undertook to do the audit from the ministry and we agreed that the result will be known within six months.
“The federal government undertook to be paying them N1.5 billion each month during the time they are waiting for the outcome of the audit.
“Their grouse now is that the forensic audit promised by the minister of finance has not been done and the money promised has not been paid.
“So, at our meeting two days ago, we agreed that we will pay them and do forensic audit on the entire N53 billion.
“I wrote to the minister and she has already approved it and this money will be paid; probably on Monday, they will be able to receive the cheque,’’ he said.
Mr. Adamu, however, stated that his ministry did not agree on some issues during the meeting with the union.
He said, “there are other issues which we did not agree on and that is their request to be taken out of Treasury Single Account (TSA).
“I told them that it is not possible because this is a new policy and government is not going to change it for anyone.
“Concerning their salary shortfall, we said a lot of the reasons spring from what they are doing wrong.
“They do a lot of employment without proper authority.
“For instance, a university can decide to recruit 50 people and IPPIS is not aware. So, we insisted that institutions must stop doing that and they accepted.
“There is also the issue of the registration of their pension commission. I think they have one or two issues to iron out with PENCOM and I believe they will also be able to solve the problem within a week.’’
The Chairman of the senate committee, Barau Jibrin, said the committee was impressed with the briefing by the minister on the matter.
He explained that the seriousness of the issue made the committee members to cut short their recess, and said that from the assurance given by the minister, students and lecturers would return to school shortly.
Mr. Jibrin said, “we hope the proposal sent to ASUU by the minister will be accepted.
“On our part, with regard to getting some of the issues captured in the budget, we will do our best to actualise it.’’