By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU has denied news reports that it agreed to call off the ongoing strike after meeting with the Government negotiation team led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige on Friday.
The Federal Government at the meeting at the Conference Hall of the Ministry of Labour and Employment reportedly increased its offer for Earned Allowances EA to university-based unions and funding for the revitalization of public universities from N65 billion to N70 billion.
There was a news report that ASUU has given an indication that the meeting, the strike which started in March would soon be called off after a meeting with the leadership of the union and its organs.
According to the report, the university teachers agreed to call off the strike after the government pledged to pay N40 billion for Earned Allowances and N30 billion for the revitalization of the university system bringing the total payment to N70 billion.
It was further reported that the Government agreed to settle the arrears of salaries of the lecturers before December 31.
The report also noted that ASUU was expected to report the agreement to its organs and then communicate their decision to the government after which a date for the calling off of the strike would be announced.
It quoted a source within the university union, that ASUU insisted that the agreement to call off the strike should not be announced until it has been approved by its members.
But ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, has denied knowledge of any agreement to call off the strike, stressing that at the meeting, it was only agreed that the union should convey the Government message to their organs and get back to the Government.
Prof. Ogunyemi, said: ” I am not aware of that. All I know is that we had a meeting and we are going to report to our members. But I don’t know about suspension of the strike.”
However, a source in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, said that after the meeting, the Minister, Senator Ngige, who described the meeting as “fruitful,” added that the government made a proposal to ASUU which it would take back to its members.
Ngige told reporters after the meeting that, “Many issues were discussed at the meeting including salary shortfall, the payment system and revitalization of the university system. I am positive that all the issues would be resolved at our next meeting.”
Friday’s meeting was about the seventh time both sides have met to resolve the issues in contention since the university union embarked on strike on March 23.
After the meeting of last Friday, November 20, the Government agreed to exempt ASUU members who had not enrolled in the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and put them on the Government Integrated Financial and Management Information System (GIFMIS) pending when ASUU’S preferred payment platform- the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) will be approved.
ASUU had consistently rejected IPPIS, stressing that it will erode the autonomy of the university system.