STRIKE: FG, ASUU meet in Abuja

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The Federal Government has expressed shock over  yesterday commencement of strike by members of National Association of Resident Doctors, NARD, despite a successful meeting with its leaders last week to sort out their grievances.

This is as the government said it held a successful meeting with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to iron out its grievances.

A statement by the Deputy Director Press and Public Relations, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, said the Federal Government through the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, was shocked that NARD directed its members nationwide to commence industrial action after having a successful meeting last week.

The Minister spoke at an interactive meeting between the Federal Government and ASUU aimed at evaluating the implementation  of the Memorandum of Action, MOA, entered into by the parties. 

Addressing the press, Ngige said the meeting evaluated seven key issues, with both parties expressing  satisfaction  with the  implementation stages of what he termed “work in progress. “

He said some of the items in the  MOA were  nearly done  hundred percent within the timeline.

 Ngige explained that the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, was  directed to expedite action on the integrity test on the   University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) which if successful,  would eliminate the challenges posed by the peculiarities of the university system to the current payment platform. 

According to the minister,  government had also paid N30 billion as the University Revitalization Fund as contained in the MOA since January 2021. 

The money according to him, was however  still lodged with the Central Bank of Nigeria, pending the conclusion of the audit  report of the Implementation Committee on the use of previous funds disbursement to universities by the Ministry of Education and the National University Commission.

“ The report has been turned in deliberated upon and  both the Education Ministry and the NUC have promised to write to the Accountant General of the Federation next week  for the release of the money to the NEEDS Special Account for onward disbursement to universities shortly,” he said. 

Ngige noted that the monies would be paid to  successful universities  based on the evaluation report of the committee while those  with shortcomings will be made to make up before accessing the fund.

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He disclosed that apart from the N40 billion Earned Allowance which the Federal Government had already paid, “the Budget Office of the Federation  showed evidence that N22 billion Earned Allowances for year 2021  is already captured in the 2021 supplementary budget of the federation, and will soon be accessed . On the proliferation of State universities , a bill has been sent to the National Assembly by the NUC to strengthen its  arms in terms of delisting universities where funding and other parameters are inadequate. This effort was commended as  all the parties  agreed that mushrooming and proliferation of state universities, some of which mock the ideals of an ivory tower, should stop.

“The inconsistencies in the IPPIS payment was also discussed. There was good interaction and documents were exchanged between IPPIS and  ASUU. ASUU is to go back to its members so that we can have a proper update on the extent of the inconsistencies in payment. We expressed our displeasure that these things are happening – amputation of salaries, not-too-clear, foggy things happening over peoples monthly emoluments. So we have asked IPPIS and ASUU to work together over this.” 

Similarly, he informed that evidence was presented that promotion arrears had been paid to some universities, while the Budget Office of the federation and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation were asked to liaise with ASUU to sort out the rest, noting also  that the standing committee on the matter  has been expended to include National Income Salaries and Wages Commission .

“A situation where a university professor is paid N107, 000 out of mistake or over deduction is unacceptable,” Ngige declared.  

In his speech the President of ASUU Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, expressed satisfaction with the outcome and promised ASUU will reach out to members.

Relevant Ministries and agencies were represented at the meeting, including the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Peter Tarfa and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Professor Rasheed Abubakar.

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