The Federal Government did not calculate the cost implication of the agreement it signed with the Academic Staff Union of Universities in 2009, Minister of Information, Mr. Labaran Maku, has said.
Maku, who spoke at a press conference in Abuja on Tuesday, also alleged that ASUU too was unaware of the cost implication before the representatives of both parties signed the agreement.
He also disclosed that the government had offered additional N10bn for the payment of the allowances of the striking teachers which they turned down.
Maku added that the Federal Government spent more than half of its monthly income on salaries of public servants.
The minister said, “One of the things that have tormented all of us is the ASUU strike that has lasted for over three months. The strike arose out of a disagreement on the payment of allowances to our university teachers.
“There was an agreement in 2009 or so and sitting allowance was listed under the agreement. As at the time they were listed, neither the government nor ASUU was aware of the exact figures it was going to take to pay those allowances because the allowances were not calculated.
“In the course of this period, the allowances were calculated and the gross began to emerge. ASUU made a demand for the payment and government did not say no. The agreement was supposed to be implemented by the various university governing councils. They were also supposed to come largely from Internally Generated Revenue.”
Maku said in spite of these, when ASUU threatened to go on strike, government entered into negotiation with the lecturers in order to avert the action.
He said, “We also received a report on infrastructure requirement in the universities. President Goodluck Jonathan promised to deal with both problems as our finances would permit. We agreed there was the need to intervene seriously in the universities.
“What happened under this period is that government then went into negotiation with ASUU, put N30bn on the ground to enable the university councils to pay the allowances to the teachers and promised to pay the rest as time goes on. ASUU said no. They needed about N90bn at the same time.
“We negotiated with them until negotiation broke down. In spite of the breakdown of negotiation, the Federal Government convened a meeting chaired by the Vice President of the country in our continued determination to end the strike. Government again promised another N10bn for the payment of the allowances. That brings it to N40bn for the payment of the allowances.”
Maku urged parents and Nigerians to appeal to the striking teachers to call off the strike. He also called on the lecturers to put away politics from the struggle and consider the impact of the long industrial action on the development of their students.
Meanwhile, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Ilorin, Prof. AbdulGaniyu Ambali, has called on the Federal Government and the lecturers to resolve their differences amicably.
Speaking during the 29th convocation of the university in Ilorin on Tuesday, he said both parties should consider the interest of the students and use dialogue to resolve the contentious areas.
Also, President, Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Shehu Sani, on Tuesday, condemned critics of the current strike by university teachers, describing them as ‘lackeys in government’.
Sani, in statement in Abuja, noted that the ASUU strike was “a patriotic act of resistance against bad and visionless leadership in the country.”
He said the strike was also “a genuine struggle to save the education sector from total collapse.”