By G9ija

“I will like the Federal government to take the issue between it and ASUU seriously. Let the ASUU also be prepared to end its industrial action. They should not waste our time and by extension our future. Now that the scourge of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has reduced to a reasonable extent, I think it is time to move on with our education.”

With these words, Olutaiwo Ayobami, a student of English and Literary Studies at the Federal University of Oye Ekiti (FUOYE) berated the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for their failure to the reach a truce on the issues that have ensured that students of federal universities in the country have been at home for seven months.

Many of the students, who spoke with The Guardian against the backdrop of the failure of government and the ASUU to a find common agreement on the issues in dispute at their meeting last Thursday night, lamented that the strike has taken a toll on them.

They urged the Federal Government and the union to reconcile their differences without further delay in the interest of their (students) future.

After talks between both parties ended in yet another deadlock on Thursday night, they are scheduled to meet again next week Wednesday to continue the engagement.

Recall that ASUU embarked on an indefinite strike on Monday, March 23, this year, following the insistence of the Federal Government that university lecturers under its employ must enroll on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). The union is also demanding the payment of its member’s Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) from 2014 to 2020, among other issues.

Since then, several meetings held between the government and leaders of the union had ended in deadlock. Recently, ASUU presented an alternative payment system, University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to the government, which the government has said it was considering.

At last Thursday’s meeting, government agreed to commit N20 billion payable at the end of January 2021 to the revitalisation of public universities, which ASUU agreed to take to its relevant organs for deliberation.

On the demand by ASUU for the payment of its members’ Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) in two tranches, which cumulated to N40 billion that has become overdue since November 2019, the Accountant General of the Federation committed to release N30 billion on or before November 6, 2020.

It also hinted that the remaining N10 billion would be spread equally over the two tranches to be paid in May 2021 and February 2022, respectively.

The Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) was also charged to quickly conclude the verification of figures of EAA claims so as to clean up the figures from 2014 to 2020.

To achieve this, a committee would be constituted by the National Universities Commission (NUC) to develop a template that would capture all the agreed allowances in the 2009 agreement for all the unions in the universities.

Thereafter, the OAGF and the National Universities Commission (NUC) would quickly conclude the verification of the EAA figures so as to defray the payment from 2014 to 2020.

ASUU was asked to work with the OAGF and NUC to achieve that by the end of December 2020.

The process of mainstreaming the EAA into annual budget using the agreed formula would be activated while the NUC, and Ministry of Education would coordinate the activation process immediately and conclude that by November 6, 2020.

The National Assembly (NASS) also agreed to implement this process of mainstreaming, provided the Ministry of Education would send in the amount involved as quickly as possible. ASUU also said it would confirm shortfall in salary payment and report at the next meeting.

On the state universities, it was agreed that the NUC Act would be amended in order to strengthen its regulatory capacity.

The payment of Earned Academic Allowances to loyal ASUU members at the University of Ilorin has also been resolved.

It was revealed at the parley that visitation panels to federal universities had been approved by President Muhammadu Buhari, but they have not been gazetted.

The Federal Ministry of Education was urged to ensure gazetting within two weeks.

The meeting agreed that the Panel would be inaugurated latest by the end of November 2020 and have four to six weeks mandate to finish its work by December 31, 2020, and submit two reports per university covering five years periods of 2011 – 2015 and 2016 – 2020.