*ASUU STRIKE UPDATE: Uneasy calm as FG offers lecturers 23.5% pay rise, 35% for professors.*

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The Federal Government has said it can only afford a 23.5 percent salary increase for lecturers of all categories, except professors who professors would get a 35 per cent upward review.

Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, said this, yesterday, at a meeting with pro-chancellors and vice-chancellors of federal universities on the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

He also disclosed that agreement was reached with ASUU that, henceforth, allowances that pertain to ad-hoc duties of academic and non-academic staff shall be paid as at when due by the governing councils of universities to which such services were rendered and to the staff who performed such services.

He said N150 billion shall be provided in the 2023 budget as funds for revitalisation of federal universities, and the funds would be disbursed to the institutions in the first quarter of the year.

He also disclosed that N50 billion shall be provided n the 2023 budget for payment of outstanding areas of earned academic allowances of lecturers, and payment would also be made in the first quarter.

Adamu, however, said ASUU and other unions — Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) — rejected the offer on salary increase.

He added that following the development, he held meetings with the unions, after which the joint action committee of NASU, SSANU and NAAT called off its strike.

He said government remains committed to addressing ASUU’s demands in the effort to ensure that students resume studies soon.

He, however, appealed to ASUU to keep its doors open for continuous negotiation with representatives of government, so that the matter can be resolved amicably and in good time.

“ASUU president was reported to had said the union will no longer negotiate with the current Federal Government. This position must be resisted. Government and ASUU have no option than to continue talking until universities reopen their doors to students who, clearly, are the principal victims of the seemingly unending strikes.”

14-man committee on grey areas

At the meeting with Vice Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors of public universities, the Federal Government again set up a 14-man committee to look into the grey areas.

Adamu listed members of the committee to include Nimi Briggs, chairman, ASUU/federal government negotiation team; Olu Obafemi, chairman, governing council, Federal University of Technology (FUT), Minna; Udo Udoma, former minister of budget and national planning; and Bashir Dalhatu, an elder statesman.

Others are Kabiru Bala, vice-chancellor, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; Kayode Adebowale, vice-chancellor, University of Ibadan; Lilian Salami, vice-chancellor, University of Benin; Duro Oni, president, Nigerian Academy of Letters; and Akinsanya Osibogun, president, National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria.

Charles Igwe, vice-chancellor, University of Nigeria, Nsukka; Ishaq Oloyede, registrar, Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB); and Abubakar Rasheed, executive secretary, National Universities Commission (NUC), are also listed as members of the committee.

“As I speak to you, that committee is meeting and they will proceed to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari on the outcome of the deliberations of that committee.

“Two basic areas that the committee will be looking at is the ‘no work no pay’ issue and the issue of remuneration of university lecturers,” Adamu said.

On the demand of ASUU to use the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), he explained that it was not part of the areas under consideration as government had already set up a committee to fine-tune the two payment platforms including the existing IPPIS.

He said in few days’ time, the committee would conclude and thereafter meet with President Muhammad Buhari.

Asked if the earlier Nimi Briggs committee would be jettisoned in place of the new committee, the minister said the new committee was in continuation of the Briggs committee.

“The meeting is on government side. There has been appeals for government to take a second look at the ‘no work, no pay’ measure and that is one of the issues that the committee will look at,” he said.

Committee of VCs wades in

Also worried by the impasse, the Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVC) set up Peace Building Team that consists of former vice chancellors, Pro-Chancellors and other eminent members of the society to intervene and find a solution to the over six months strike.

Former CVC Secretary, Prof. Michael Faborode, is coordinator of the Peace Building Team, while other members include Prof. J. D Amin, former VC UNIMAID & Federal University, Dutse & Chairman of CVCNU Board of Trustees (BOT); Emeritus Prof. A. O. Bamiro, former VC, University of Ibadan and former Pro- Chancellor, Tai

Solarin University of Education (TASUED); Senator Dr. Nkechi Nwagogu, former Pro-Chancellor, UNICAL, Prof. Joe Ahaneku, former VC, UNIZIK, Awka and former Chairman CVCNU; Prof. Fatima Mukhtar, former VC, Federal University, Dutse; Prof. Akpan H. Ekpo, former VC of UNIUYO; Prof. Yakubu Ochefu Secretary General, CVCNU and former VC, Kwararafa University, Wukari.

Prof. Faborode, in a statement, said it would be unwise and a disservice to the nation for such class of people to fold their hands and watch the university system collapse because of prolonged dispute between the Federal Government and university lecturers.

“It has become imperative that we speak up and intervene in this impasse because we do not have any other industry other than the university system. Whatever can be done to bring all the actors to reason and broker peace using the Prof. Nimi Briggs committee recommendations as the fulcrum, will be worth the effort.”

He explained that the peace team will operate under the auspices of the CVCNU/CPC, adding that both the Federal Government and ASUU are being reached to accept the intervention of the independent team of elders.

In a memo made available to Daily Sun, the group said the deadlock in the crisis seems to be getting more disturbing with the government maintaining a strong stance of “no work, no pay” and ordering ASUU to go back to work.

Proposes N800,000 for professors

The peace plan signed by the Coordinator, Prof Faborode, said to break the deadlock, it recommended that government consider paying professors N800, 000 as against N1.2 million negotiated.

The team said it would liaise with the Prof. Briggs renegotiation committee to know the basis of their proposals, and consult with both the government and ASUU to identify areas of concern and objection.

Prof. Faborode said the peace team would engage the renegotiation committee and that the chairman (Prof. Briggs) feels the outstanding issues were not insurmountable.

“These include FGN raising its offer of salary increase from 23% to maybe 50% that will ensure a professor receives up to N800k monthly as opposed to the negotiated N1.2 million.

“Also, the review of the decision on salaries during strike to a mid-position, not 0% nor 100% as ASUU wants. How can we further this admonition to both sides?’’

The coordinator of the peace team stressed that government should be worried it entered into agreements that cannot be implemented and that the action diminishes faith and trust in governance.

The group said ASUU should also accept that something is fundamentally wrong when every of its negotiations after prolonged strikes produce agreements that cannot be fully implemented.

“Both sides should accept blame for the series of imperfect Agreements over the years and prevent a repeat this time around. An Agreement that is non- implementable cannot stand by that name.”

The peace team suggested the National Assembly be involved after every negotiation to ensure areas that requires legislative approved are included in the process.

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