The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) may call off the lingering strike this weekend to allow public universities to resume academic activities next week.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, gave this indication on Monday after long hours of conciliatory meeting with the representatives of ASUU led by its President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi.
He said the deliberations were fruitful and the government has presented the Union with offers for them to get back to their members and return on Thursday for an agreement to be signed by both parties.
He disclosed that over N15.4 has been paid to the lecturers across tertiary institutions in the country to offset arrears of salary shortfalls, while President Muhammadu Buhari has approved N20 billion to pay the outstanding arrears of Earned Allowance of the lecturers.
He said: “On salary shortfall in tertiary institutions, the Ministry of Finance and the office of the accountant general on having provided us with evidence that on the 31st of December, 2018, before the expiration of the current 2018 budget that they have remitted N15,389,940,335.71.
“This is to accommodate payment of shortfalls in all the tertiary institutions that have been verified by the Presidential Initiative.
“On the issue of earned allowances in the university system, they also showed evidence that the president has approved the sum of N20bn to be used to offset outstanding arrears of 2009, 2012 audit-verified allowances in the university system. This money is being worked out and will be released to ASUU as soon as the processes are completed.
“We also discussed the issue of the revitalization of public institutions which the then administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan agreed to inject about N220 billion into the university system every year for about six years,” Ngige said.
He added that government was committed to the agreement and that a token has been approved and would be released to ASUU.
He said the parties were working towards ensuring that the strike is called off this weekend to allow students to resume next week to schools.
The conciliatory meeting between the Federal Government and ASUU initially scheduled for 3:30 pm could not start until about 5:06 pm.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Ngige, at whose instance the meeting was held, in his opening remarks, said the meeting would be short since a lot of work had been done since the adjournment of the meeting December last year.
President of ASUU, Professor Abiodun Ogunyemi, said the delegation would take to offer to their members and report back to the government.
However, when journalists were excused from the meeting for the technical session, President of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) , Comrade Danielson Akpan, insisted that members of NANS and journalists be allowed to be part of the deliberations.
He said this would avoid the problem of discordance voices that usually come out of such meetings, he noted often leave the public without real facts of the deliberations.
He added that what journalists were always informed as of the outcome of such meetings by the government representatives, most often differ from what the Union would tell while briefing newsmen.
Akpan said the over 80 million students, he was representing were the ones that bear the brunt of the incessant strike and must be allowed to have the inkling of the key issues in dispute.
Ngige, in his response, however, appealed to the NANS President to repose confidence on members of the conciliatory meeting, assuring him that he would be happy with the outcome of the meeting.
He said the Federal Government was interested in revitalising university education to the extent on graduation the students would be happy with the quality of certificate obtained, he added would be globally competitive.
Since November 4, 2018, Public Universities across the country have been under lock and key as ASUU leaders insisted the ongoing strike would not be called off until key demands of the Union are met.