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Strike: We can't meet ASUU demands now – FG

By The Citizen
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The Federal Government yesterday said with the current economic recession, it cannot pay N280 billion being owed members of the Academic Staff Union (ASUU) as earned allowances.

Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, disclosed this after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the presidential villa, which was presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Briefing State House Correspondents after the meeting, Ngige said the unpaid earned allowances was one of the several demands made by ASUU for embarking on the initial one-week warning strike which has been called off.

Ngige, who was joined at the briefing by the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, said while other issues have been jointly settled by both parties, the earned allowances was still pending. He said:

'The earned allowances is the only one that is not sorted out now because everybody knows and agree that we are in recession. If we are in a recession and you are asking us to pay you N284 billion, nobody will pay it because the money is not there.

'So they agreed and the National Assembly also agreed, but the government offered them some amount pending when we finish auditing of the first tranche of money that has been given to them in that same area of earned allowances.

'The tranche of money that they collected is being audited, but the auditing process is very slow, because some people, for some strange reasons, are not allowing auditing to take place.'

According to him, a period a six month has been agreed within which ongoing audit of the released funds would be completed. 'So, a time frame of six months has been fixed within which the auditing will be done.

Within those six months, government has offered something that they will be paying on a monthly basis and ASUU has also made a counter proposal to government.

So both parties have gone back to their principals. 'ASUU has a principal which is the national executive body and government have come back to look at our finances viz-a-viz with the National Assembly which will appropriate that particular fund because for 2016, there is nothing in the budget for it. It will be done and appropriated as and when due.

Next week, they will come back with their counter proposal,' he added. The minister said so far, seven of the eight demands of ASUU had been trashed out. 'Government conceded to them the right to exclude endowment funds that accrued to universities from the Treasury Single Account (TSA).

The TSA is not for punishment, it is an account that enables any government institution to know what their financial position is at any given time.' he said.

The FEC also approved a total of N464 million for the purchase of operational vehicles for the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC). In his remark, Udoma said that recent figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC) on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was not gloomy on the performance of the nation's economy.

He said: 'As you know, from these numbers, the economy is still in recession. The performance in the third quarter is slightly worse than the second quarter and this was attributable to the performance of the oil sector which performed worse in the third quarter than the second quarter and that was for reasons you all know.'