President Goodluck Jonathan has directed the federal government negotiating teams to take all the necessary steps to ensure the quick resolution of the industrial dispute declared by university lecturers.
The president gave the directive Tuesday, when members of the two committees set up by the federal government to negotiate with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) briefed him on the progress so far made in ending the lingering strike by the union.
The meeting with the president came against the backdrop of the deadlock on Monday in negotiations between the federal government teams and ASUU over the implementation of the 2009 agreement signed between the government and the union.
Chairman of the Universities Needs Implementation Committee, Mr. Gabriel Suswam, who is also Benue State governor, told State House reporters after a closed-door meeting of the two committees and other stakeholders with Jonathan at the State House, Abuja that the president instructed them on what to do to end the strike.
According to a report by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Suswam said the meeting was summoned by the president “to take some decisions that would end the strike.”
“The president has instructed us as to what to do and he has shown a lot of commitments to flagging off projects worth about N100 billion in all the universities in the country, about 61 of them.
“So, we are hoping that we will be able to see the end of the strike very soon,” Suswam said.
“At the end of the day, we hope ASUU is satisfied with the measures that have so far been taken.
“The federal government will also be meeting with the universities councils and vice-chancellors of our universities within the week towards updating them on some of the decisions taken,” he added.
Expressing government’s commitment to ending the strike, Suswam said the federal government had approved about N100 billion for his committee to address infrastructure deficit in all the universities.
“The president has graciously agreed that in the first week of September, he will be able to launch the projects.
“You also know that the procurement process will have to be followed and these projects include hostels in our universities, classrooms and theatres, libraries and laboratories among others.
“Some are renovation; some are new and all the 61 universities are going to benefit from one project or another.
“So, it is not going to be selective, all the universities are going to benefit from this infrastructure revitalisation of our universities.”
He also said the contentious issues between the union and the Earned Allowance Committee, headed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, will soon be addressed.
“As you must have heard, the federal government made an offer of N30 billion to assist the various councils of our universities to be able to pay the earned allowances,” he said.
Asked whether government would be willing to shift ground on ASUU’s insistence on N87bn, having rejected the N30bn offered by the government, Suswam said negotiation was still ongoing.
“If ASUU said that this was the amount of money that the federal government is owing and the federal government has shifted ground from its initial posture of ‘there was no money’ to offering N30 billion, it means we are moving forward and with a N100 billion available now for addressing the physical infrastructure deficit in our universities, I think the federal government has done quite well to have moved to where we are today.
“The federal government has opted to also meet with the councils and managements of the universities, because earned allowance is something that can be certified by the management and councils of the universities.
“I think that the government has demonstrated some substantial faith,” he said.
Present at yesterday’s meeting with the president were Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayyatu Rufa’i, Labour Minister, Chief Emeka Wogu; Minister of State for Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike; the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Julius Okogie; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe.