Academic activities in public varsities will resume next month, Labour and Employment Minister, Dr. Chris Ngige, has assured.
His assurance followed the outcome of the Federal Government negotiation with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at last Thursday’s parley.
According to the minister, parties will be back at the negotiating table today to resume discussions on the special assignment given to both sides at the last meeting.
ASUU National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, said that the union would respond to the minister’s assurance tomorrow.
When asked the union’s response to Ngige’s claim that universities would resume in January, next year, Ogunyemi wrote in a WhatsApp message: “ASUU shall respond appropriately by Wednesday, 23 December. Thank you.”
Confirming today’s meeting, he said:
Yes, we are meeting tomorrow but I can’t speak further till Wednesday when I will be able to tell you if we will suspend the strike or not.
Ngige expressed the hope that there will be breakthrough in discussions in today’s meeting with the lecturers who have been on strike since March, adding that the government has met almost all the demands of ASUU.
He said negotiations between the ASUU leadership and the government had reached 98 per cent, adding that it remains only two per cent to be completed.
Ngige spoke in his Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area country home in Anambra State, during the launch of his free medical outreach at the Community’s Health Centre.
The Federal Government, few weeks ago, raised its offer to the striking lecturers to N70 billion.
In a statement, Ngige said the government was willing to pay N40 for Earned Allowances which would be shared among three university-based unions and N30 billion for revitalisation.
The minister added that the funds were ready for disbursement pending when the union agrees to call of the over eight-month-old strike.
The government also accepted ASUU demand to exempt its members from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) pending the approval of the proposed payment system – the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
However, the payment of arrears remained the most contentious issue on which the government and ASUU had failed to reach an understanding.
The union insists on the settling of the arrears of his members’ salaries before calling off the strike.