The current N1.1 trillion demand by the Nigerian university lecturers has sparked a row as the Federal Government may probe past expenditure of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who stated this at the weekend during an interactive session with editors in Lagos, noted that the move was necessary against the backdrop that earlier releases were for development of infrastructure in the university system.
Already, N20 billion was said to have been disbursed last year for same purpose, just as same sum had been approved by the president for the striking university lecturers.
Defending government’s refusal to accede to ASUU’s request, the minister queried how the union leaders arrived at N1.1 trillion figure.
Meanwhile, ASUU and FG have scheduled a meeting for Monday.
The union is insisting that until certain conditions are met by government, its members will not return to work.
ASUU President, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi who spoke with reporters in Ibadan, Oyo State ahead of today’s meeting, said government must show concrete evidence of the payment of at least N50 billion revitalisation fund.
Another condition attached to the suspension of the strike is “the presentation of concrete evidences of the payment of the promised N20 billion earned academic allowances and showing how the balance of N85 billion will be paid with timelines”.
The union is asking government to mainstream the earned academic allowances into the 2019 budget, which is still being worked on by the National Assembly.
Ogunyemi said ASUU had rejected government’s proposal to pay N20 billion in two tranches on the revitalisation of universities and asked the government to mainstream the earned academic allowances into the 2019 budget before National Assembly.
He lamented that “Nigeria’s ruling class does not see education as a priority but prefer to create new education colonies of private educational institutions which cannot meet the needs of the Nigerian children.
“We want them to pay immediately N50 billion as a sign of commitment this quarter and for the next three-quarters government can pay N50 billion in each quarter.
“So, our members have rejected the N20 billion proposed by the government, which it promised to spread over two quarters in 2019.
“Our members have insisted on the release of at least N50 billion in relation to earned academic allowances which the government has an outstanding of N105 billion.
“Our members are saying that even if the government` is releasing N20 billion, let it be stated clearly that it is only for ASUU members.
“And the balance which you promised to pay in four instalments, attach timelines to the balance and figures.
“In 2017, this government promised to mainstream the earned academic allowances into the budget so that we won’t be coming to talk about arrears.
“If government had done that and included it into the 2018 Budget we would not be talking about arrears now.
“Our members are saying government should take steps to mainstream it into the 2019 budget and that is not late because the National Assembly and executives are still working on the budget,” Ogunyemi said.