The Minister of state for labour and employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, has said that the financial implications of the Nimi Briggs committee on renegotiating the 2009 Agreement between the federal government and the striking Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU) is unrealisable.
Speaking yesterday on a Channels Television programme, ‘Politics Today’ the minister said the federal government has no money to meet the demands of ASUU in the agreement.
He said the ASUU-Nimi Briggs committee meetings were done without the input from the ministry of finance and other agencies with roles to play in the implementation of the recommendations.
The minister said the federal government could not meet the financial implications of the committee, hence the need for fresh negotiation.
He also said the other unions in the education sector are opposed to the content of the report.
“At a point, we set up the Nimi Briggs committee to receive the complaints of ASUU and look into how the report could be accommodated within the framework of the finances of the government.
“When the committee began to sit with ASUU, there were critical institutions of government that were supposed to be in those meetings – the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, budget office of the federation, head of service, ministry of finance. ASUU at a time rejected these agencies from sitting down with them.
“How can you sit down with the ministry of education without those with the purse of government? Without those who know how people are to be paid? That was what ASUU did with the Briggs Committee. They sat down and fixed their own salaries and emoluments with the Ministry of Education without the other critical stakeholders,” he said.
He added: “The proposal ASUU is talking about is N1.2 trillion. I will tell the parents, go and beg ASUU. Like the president said, those who know them should appeal to their sense of patriotism.
“Do you want me to kneel down and beg ASUU on air as a parent also? I can kneel down to beg them. The nation cannot grind to a halt because we want to take care of the demands of ASUU,” he said.
He added that the additional wage bill proposed by ASUU is about N560 billion in addition to the normal N412 billion that the federal government was already paying for salaries and emolument.
The minister therefore asked parents to beg ASUU members to return to classes because the federal government would not borrow money to meet the demands of the lecturers.
Recall that lecturers in government-owned universities have been on strike since February 14 when ASUU declared strike over the federal government’s inability to meet several agreements signed.
Some of the teachers’ demands include the release of revitalisation funds for universities, renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement, release of earned allowances for university lecturers, and deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
In the heat of the crisis, the government set up a committee headed by the pro-chancellor, Alex Ekweme Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ebonyi, Prof Nimi Briggs to interface with ASUU and hand in its report to the minister of education, Mr. Adamu Adamu with a period of three months.
Other members of the committee were pro-chancellor, Federal University, Wukari, Arc. Lawrence Patrick Ngbale, (representing northeast); pro-chancellor, Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, Prof. Funmi Togunu-Bickersteth, (southwest) and pro-chancellor, Federal University, Lokoja, Senator Chris Adighije, (southeast), pro-chancellor, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Prof. Olu Obafemi (north central), Pro-chancellor, Kano State University of Science & Technology, Prof. Zubairu Iliyasu, (northwest); and Pro-Chancellor, Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, Mathew Seiyefa (south-south).
Last Monday, ASUU extended the strike for another four weeks, citing government’s failure to conclude the process of renegotiating the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deploy the UTAS, pay outstanding arrears of earned academic allowances, among others.