The federal government has said the sum of N1.12 trillion will be released to pay the salaries and allowances of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other staff in the university system
According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, the proposal made by the Prof. Limi Briggs-led Committee in relation to the demands by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other unions in universities would gulp N1.12 trillion to implement.
Ngige also said contrary to claims by ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, there is currently no collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between it and the union awaiting signing by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The disclosure by Ngige came just as former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has said investment in education pays the best dividend than any other form of investment.
Ngige, in a statement signed by the Deputy Director Press and Public Relations in the Ministry, Olajide Oshundun and obtained by DAILY GIST on Thursday said having rounded off its work, the Briggs Committee had proposed 109 -185 per cent increase in the university wage structure.
It explained that based on the recommendation, federal government would incur, “an additional N560 billion as salaries alone, on top of the present N412 billion, less all other allowances such as earned academic allowances and fringe benefits, teaching allowance, field trip responsibility and post-graduate supervision allowances, and hazard allowances which were to gulp another N170 billion.”
The statement added: “In all, the sum of N1.12 trillion will be needed to pay the salaries and allowances of university lecturers and other staff in the university system.”
Ngige stated that at present, the wage bill of the university staff and their colleagues in teaching health systems gulp nearly 50 per cent of the total federal government staff personnel cost/wages.
“Recall too that the staff of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education have also placed their wage review in the front burner since two months ago,” he said.
While explaining how the Briggs Committee reached at the proposed wage increase, Ngige said what happened was that ASUU insisted that relevant advisory ministries and agencies should recuse themselves from the sitting of the Committee, accusing them of non-cooperation.
“All alone with the Prof Briggs Committee, ASUU started fixing their salaries and allowances to the exclusion of the statutory government ministries and agencies that manage the entire annual finances of government, budget and fiscal policies and the Office of the Head of Service that is in charge of ensuring that public service rules and regulations are not undermined in any condition of service offered to public officers in the universities.
“Because of this exclusion engineered by ASUU, and the arising complaints to the Chief of Staff to the President and the Minister of labour and Employment by the concerned MADs , the Chief of Staff and the Minister of Labour set up an inter-Ministerial/Agency sub Committee comprising the affected MDA’s under the Minister of State Budget and Planning to quickly look into Prof. Briggs Committee report which to all intents and purpose was still a proposal in June 2022 at the government side meeting.
“This assignment was to be completed with the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages and given two weeks to come up with their recommendation,” he said.
Ngige said based on the foregoing, no agreement had been reached between the federal government, ASUU and other university unions on the renegotiation of their salaries and allowances(wages).
He said the Chief of Staff to the president and himself had set up an inter-Ministerial/Agency sub-committee comprising the affected MDA’s under the Minister of State Budget and Planning to quickly look into the Briggs Committee report which to all intents and purposes was still a proposal as of June 2022, at the government side meeting.
The minister however said the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages has finished the review of the Nimi Briggs proposal and would shortly submit same to the president.
“This clears every doubt that there is an agreement before the president waiting for his signature. There is none,” he said.
Ngige further said any CBA produced between unions and the federal government would not be signed by the president, but by the government negotiating team and MDAs led by the direct employer with the conciliating ministry witnessing.
“This clarification has become necessary in view of the deluge of deliberate misinformation being dished out to Nigerians by the President of ASUU, Prof. Osodeke as well as his branch leaders, calling on President Buhari to sign an agreement which they claimed to have reached with the federal government.
“We wish therefore to inform Nigerians that there is no such CBA that has been reached between the federal government, ASUU and other university unions on the renegotiation of their salaries and allowances(wages). What is in existence is a proposal,” the minister added.
The minister however said that the government has been locked in negotiations with ASUU and other university based unions since the lecturers commenced their strike on February 14, 2022.
“Note that that Prof Nimi Brigg Committee just like the Prof. Munzali Committee it replaced is an internal committee of the Ministry of Education to receive ASUU demands and renegotiate areas of 2009 Agreement while also receiving briefs from the MDAs mentioned above that act as advisers, before making any counter offer to ASUU and other unions.
”Unfortunately, ASUU insisted that these relevant advisory MDAs recuse themselves from the sitting of the Briggs Committee accusing them of non-cooperation,” he added.
On the integrity tests being conducted on the various preferred payment platforms submitted by the unions, Ngige said they had been concluded and results being awaited, adding that the IPPIS was still in the works and all would be concluded in the next one week.”
The non-teaching staff of the universities also came up with U3PS, each vowing not to submit to the other, proven successful or otherwise.
“But following the tripartite plus meeting of May 12, 2022 at the Presidential Villa, NITDA was directed to subject the three platforms of IPPIS, UTAS and U3PS to test. The fresh test on UTAS and on U3PS has been concluded and results awaited while that of IPPIS is still in the works but all will be concluded in the next one week.
“We finally use this medium to once more appeal to ASUU and their sister university unions whose complaints except the Renegotiation of their 2013/2014 Agreement, to go back to school, knowing full well that these ceaseless strikes de-market our universities and certificates therefrom, while government labours with their leaders to produce a standard pay rise as soon as possible,”he stated.
DAILY GIST reported that ASUU had commenced nationwide strike on February 14th 2022, citing different demands which the FG had failed to meet as its reasons.
Some of the demands include, payments of salary arrears, better working conditions, renegotiation of the 2009 FG-ASUU agreement, payment of earned academic allowances, funds for the revitalization of public universities, promotion arrears, and poor funding of state universities.
Other tertiary institution unions also on strike include the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).