The Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, has said the federal government has no money to meet the demands of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Mr Keyamo, newly appointed as the spokesperson for the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential campaigns, asked parents to beg ASUU members to return to classes because the federal government would not borrow money to meet the demands of the lecturers.
He said this on Friday during an interview on ‘Politics Today’, a programme on Channels Television
Mr Keyamo said the meetings ASUU had with the Nimi Briggs committee were done without the input from the Ministry of Finance and other agencies with roles to play in the implementation of the recommendations.
The minister said the federal government could not meet the financial implications of the Briggs committee, hence the need for fresh negotiation.
He described the proposals in Brigg’s committee report as “unrealistic”, adding that other unions in the education sector are also opposed to the content of the report.
“At a point, we set up the Nimi Briggs committee to receive the complaints of ASUU and look into how the report could be accommodated within the framework of the finances of the government.
“When the committee began to sit with ASUU, there were critical institutions of government that were supposed to be in those meetings. National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Budget Office of the Federation, Head of Service, Ministry of Finance. ASUU at a time rejected these agencies from sitting down with them.
“How can you sit down with the Ministry of Education without those with the purse of government? Without those who know … how people are to be paid? That was what ASUU did with the Briggs Committee. They sat down and fixed their own salaries and emoluments with the Ministry of Education without the other critical stakeholders.”
‘Parents should beg ASUU’
Mr Keyamo said that he is willing to beg on air if that would placate the lecturers to return to school.
“The proposal ASUU is talking about is N1.2 trillion. I will tell the parents, go and beg ASUU. Like the president said, those who know them should appeal to their sense of patriotism.
”Do you want me to kneel down and beg ASUU on air as a parent also? I can kneel down to beg them. The nation cannot grind to a halt because we want to take care of the demands of ASUU,” he said.
He added that the additional wage bill proposed by ASUU is about N560 billion in addition to the normal N412 billion that FG was already paying for salaries and emolument.
Government-owned universities have been locked since 14 February when ASUU declared strike over the federal government’s inability to meet several agreements signed.
On Monday, ASUU extended the strike for another four weeks, citing government’s failure to conclude the process of renegotiating the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement, deploy the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), pay outstanding arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) and others.
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