The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has asked the Federal Government to stop distorting facts about funds released to the union and the universities.
It said the ongoing strike by the university teachers will still linger owing to a few disagreements between the government and the union on the mode of releasing agreed funds to the universities.
ASUU National President Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi spoke with The Nation on the sideline of the Central Working Committee meeting of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), at the weekend.
He said the union was not a spending agency of government, adding that the comment credited to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, that N163 billion was released to the union was a distortion of facts.
But the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu is optimistic that the ASUU strike may end this week.
Adamu stated this during a briefing with reporters in Abuja at the weekend on the proliferation of illegal institutions.
ASUU members have been on strike since November 4, 2018.
The minister said: “Perhaps by next week, I hope the ASUU strike will be over.”
However, Ogunyemi said the N163 billion referred to by Ngige was released to the universities by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) to meet specific needs in the universities and should not be equated to the revitalisation fund being demanded by the unions.
He said: “The Minister of Labour referred to the release of N163 billion, which was not released by the Ministry of Education for revitalisation. That fund he alluded to was from TETFUND.
“TETFUND was there when we carried out the NEEDS Assessment in 2012. What we called Revitalisation Fund today is a product of that exercise of 2012. We have always drawn a line of distinction between what TETFUND gives and what we should access from the NEEDS Assessment Fund. They are different terms of interventions that should not be equated to one.
“TETFUND as an intervention agency is ASUU brainchild, which became a reality. The funds from the NEEDS Assessment is to fix specific items of deficiency in our system.
Unfortunately, both Federal and state governments have now relinquished their responsibilities to TETFUND. The Federal Government budget for education in term of capital project funding is worrisome.
“That is why we keep saying that the Ministry of Labour and Employment should stop saying N163 billion has been released to ASUU. ASUU is not a spending agency of government. We don’t spend government money. When money is released, it goes to the universities and governing councils who are representatives of government in the schools. It is a distortion, if we say N163 billion was released to ASUU.”
He explained that the issue of university revitalisation has remained contentious with the union demanding a release of N50 billion to the universities before the strike is suspended, while government is saying it cannot meet that demand as a result of the condition of the economy.
He expressed the hope that when both parties meet again this week, the issues in contention will be resolved to allow students return to classes.
Ogunyemi said the union has tried to bend backward in its demands as a result of the intervention of Nigerians.
He said the union was still consulting on whether to end the strike or not.
According to him, the union wants to take stock of what government has promised.
He said: “All I can say, for now, is that we are still consulting. We need to take stock of government’s promises in terms of aspects that have been fulfilled and what is left.”