The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked the federal government to stop distorting facts about funds released to the union and the universities, saying the ongoing strike by the university teachers is still lingering because of a few disagreement between the government and the union on the mode of releasing agreed funds to the Universities.
National President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi who spoke with The Nation on the sideline of the Central Working Committee meeting of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) at the weekend said the union was not a spending agency of government, adding that the comment credited to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige that N163 billion was released to the Union was a distortion of facts.
Ogunyemi said the N163 billion referred to by the Minister was released to the Universities by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) to meet specific needs in the universities and should not be equated to the revitalization fund being demanded by the unions.
He said “The Minister of Labour referred to the release of N163bn which was not released by the Ministry of Education for revitalization. That fund he alluded to was from TETFUND.
“TETFUND was there when we carried out the NEEDS Assessment in 2012. What we called Revitalisation Fund today is a product of that exercise of 2012. We have always drawn a line of distinction between what TETFUND gives and what we should access from the NEEDS Assessment Fund.
They are different terms of interventions that should not be equated to one.
“TETFUND as an intervention agency is ASUU brainchild which became a reality. The funds from the NEEDS Assessment is to fix specific items of deficiency in our system.
“That is why we keep saying that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should stop saying N163bn has been released to ASUU. ASUU is not a spending agency of government.
“We don’t spend government money. When money is released, it goes to the universities and governing councils who are representatives of government in the schools. It is a distortion if we say N163bn was released to ASUU.”
He explained that the issue of university revitalization has remained contentious with the union demanding a release of N50 billion to the Universities before the strike is suspended, while government is saying it cannot meet that demand as a result of the condition of the economy.
He said “The area that is perhaps most contentious is revitalization. That is where we said the Federal Government should release N50bn. We proposed that government should release one tranche of N220bn but it claimed that N20bn was released earlier. That N20bn was promised early in 2017 but was released late in 2018. The government is now taking that as part of the N220bn we are calling for.
“That means we have N200bn left to make it one tranche. We advised that the amount should be split into four tranches so that N50bn will be released first. That was our demand. It is a minimal position, but government said it was not possible because of the economic situation of the country.
“It proposed that it will be increased in the second quarter. That is what we are yet to agree on as it concerns revitalization. We hope government will do a rethink on this before the middle of this week so that we can meet again and sort out the gray areas.”