The Chairman of the Universities Needs Implementation Committee and Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Suswam yesterday, called on the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU to take immediate measures towards ending the ongoing strike in the nation, saying “the Federal government has offered the union N30bn and also shown commitment to flagging off projects worth about N100 billion in all the universities in the country.”
The Chairman, who made this known after a closed-door meeting of the two committees and other stakeholders with President Jonathan at the State House in Abuja, disclosed that the meeting was summoned by the President “to take some decisions that would end the strike.
He said: “I can say that we have made substantial progress and we are hoping that this strike should be called off based on some of the mechanisms that we have put in place to move the sector forward. We met extensively yesterday (Monday).
“You know there are two components to the whole issue: the needs assessment component, which is the one that I’m handling. We have, to a large extent, concluded on that.
“The other is the earned allowances committee, which is being headed by the SGF; that is where there are some contentions.
“But as you must have heard, Federal Government made an offer of N30 billion to assist the various councils of our universities to be able to pay the earned allowances.
“There is also N100 billion. That is why I, the Minister of Finance, the SGF, ministers of education and labour, Chief of Staff to the President and the Vice President have just risen from a meeting with the President to take some decisions that would end the strike.
“The President has instructed us on what to do and he has shown commitment and flagging off a project worth about N100 billion in all the universities in the country.
“So we are hoping that we will be able to see the end of the strike very soon if at the end of the day ASUU is satisfied with the measures that have so far been taken.”
“The President has graciously agreed that in the first week of September he will be able to flag-off the projects.
“You also know that the procurement process will have to be followed and these projects include hostels in our universities, classrooms and theatres, libraries and laboratories, amongst others.
“Some are renovation, some are new and all the 61 universities are going to benefit from one project or another. So it is not going to be selective. All the universities are going to benefit from this infrastructural revitalisation of our universities.
“The Federal Government has opted to also meet with the councils and managements of the universities because earned allowance is something that can be certified by the management and councils of the universities.
“I think that the government had demonstrated some substantial faith. If ASUU said that this is the amount of money that the Federal Government is owing them and the Federal Government has shifted ground from its initial posture of there was no money to offering N30 billion, it means we are moving forward.
“With N100 billion available for addressing the physical infrastructure deficit in our universities, I think Federal Government has done quite well to have moved to where we are today.”
In attendance at the meeting were: Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Chairman of the Earned Allowances Committee; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Senator Pius Anyim; Ministers of Education, Professor Ruqayyatu Rufa’i; Labour Minister, Emeka Wogu; the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission, NUC, Professor Julius Okogie and Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe.