Federal Government says it has deposited the N200bn promised as funding to universities in an account with the Central Bank of Nigeria.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Julius Okojie, confirmed this on Tuesday.
The amount is for renewal of infrastructure in the nation’s public universities.
Okupe, who featured on Channels Television programme ‘Sunrise Daily,’ said from the government’s perspective, everything that needed to be done had been done.
According to him, many of the demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities have been agreed upon at the 13-hour meeting the union had with President Goodluck Jonathan which ended in the early hours of October 4.
“At the end of that meeting, the government proposed that everything that has been agreed should be put in a Memorandum of Understanding and that the two parties should sign. But the leadership of ASUU declined and said instead of that, they would rather have a letter expressing everything that has been resolved therein, and that will suffice for them.”
Okupe stressed that the attitude of the ASUU leadership showed that the seed of discord and evidence of bad faith already existed.
“It is unfortunate that somebody died but notwithstanding, that cannot be a justification for delaying the implementation of an agreement for 21 or more days.
At a briefing in Abuja, Okojie, who also said the money had been deposited in CBN, noted that the Coordinating Minister of Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had confirmed to him that the money had been deposited in the CBN.
ASUU had requested evidence that the money had been released as a condition to suspend the strike.
Okojie, who claimed that ASUU did not seek clarification from the commission, however said, such money could not be distributed directly to universities.
“You don’t disburse such funds to institutions; it is not earned allowance. The minister of finance said since they opened the account, the money had been deposited there. If there was any doubt, NUC is here they (ASUU) could have asked the question,” he said.
The NUC boss also revealed that government had directed vice-chancellors of federal universities to extend the resumption deadline for lecturers to December 9 to allow ASUU members to attend the burial ceremony of Prof. Festus Iyayi.
Iyayi, a former ASUU president died in a motor accident on November 12 while going to Kano for the union’s National Executive Council meeting.
The Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, at a briefing in Abuja on Thursday, had warned that any lecturer that failed to resume on or before Wednesday (today) would be sacked.
But Okojie claimed that government was not aware of the burial arrangement when the deadline was issued.
“Council has been directed to shift the deadline to December 9 to allow those who have travelled to come back. That letter was only received yesterday from the burial committee which I also forwarded to the Minister of Education”, he said.
Okojie promised that lecturers that resumed by December 9 would be paid their salary arrears.
“For those who resumed by December 9, their salary arrears will be paid. We can’t pay someone who is on strike salary. In a democracy, those who want to work should be allowed to work,” he added.
Okojie, who admitted that ASUU and the Federal Government discussed the issue of renegotiation, maintained that it was not supposed to be included in the Memorandum of Understanding as demanded by the union.
According to him, either of the parties could call for renegotiation at any time.
Asked why the non-victimisation clause was not included in the MoU as pointed out by ASUU, Okojie said the issue was not discussed at the meeting with the President, so could not have formed part of the resolution.
He wondered why the union turned around to raise the issue when it “never arose” at their meeting.
The NUC boss claimed that ASUU went away after the meeting with the President with the mind that strike would be called off on Friday only “to come back to say you (government) didn’t include it.”
“We are saying that if there was an issue, it would have been resolved. To come back after three weeks means we are going back. The issue of non-victimisation clause never arose,” he insisted.
He, however, promised that the government would not victimise anybody for his role in the strike.
“Government is not going to victimise anybody. Because of the mood that day, nobody thought about it. The President shook hands with everybody on that day. The letter was written that night, they also vetted it.
“Government will not victimise anybody. If any government is going to do that it is not Jonathan’s government”, he assured.
But ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Fagge, who said the decision had not been communicated to the union, expressed doubt about the sincerity of government.
He wondered why government instead of responding to the letter of the union went public that it had deposited the N200bn in the CBN.
He said, “What they are doing is that they will tell you something when in actual fact they have not done anything. There were previous times when they will call the public on a matter only for us to find out that it has not been done. If they have done it, what is wrong in them answering our letter? Why are they going to the public when we that they are supposed to respond to we don’t know.”