While speaking in an interview on Channels Television’s programme, Sunrise Daily on Tuesday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, indicated that the federal government may not be able to meet the huge financial obligation the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) demands.
According to Mallam Shehu, the N850 billion debt is more than the total allocation to the Ministry of Education in the 2017 Budget which is at N369 billion, adding that the union leaders were aware of the fact that the Muhammadu Buhari administration inherited the agreements based on which the strike was declared.
The presidency who reminded the academic union that the FG had set up a committee on the matter, regretted that they decided to uphold mark on stroke at a time they were expected to sit down and negotiate with the committee.
On the impossibility of meeting the huge financial obligation by government, Shehu said, “Governments enter into agreements that they can pay for. Ability to pay is a key requirement in going into agreements.
“Since President Buhari assumed office, he has sent words out there in form of a warning to all government institutions that ‘please do not go into negotiations and agreements that you cannot pay for. Get the clearance.’
“I understand they are talking about debts owed their members to the tune of N850 billion. If I am correct, the entire appropriation for the Ministry of Education for this year is N369 billion. So where do they want to get the money from?
“We have inherited these agreements and we are not running away from them. Government has set up a committee led by Babalakin. They are already sitting. Why didn’t they sit down and negotiate all these things?
“This strike is totally unnecessary. The issues can be resolved especially where we have full understanding of where we are coming from. The governments that signed those agreements did not deem it fit to implement because the capacity was not there.”