ACADEMIC activities in public varsities will resume next month, Labour and Employment Minister Dr. Chris Ngige has assured.
His assurance followed the outcome of the Federal Government negotiation with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at last Thursday’s parley.
According to the minister, parties will be back at the negotiating table today to resume discussions on the special assignment given to both sides at the last meeting.
ASUU National President Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said that the union would respond to the minister’s assurance tomorrow.
When asked the unoin’s response to Ngige’s claim that universities would resume in January, next year, Ogunyemi wrote in a WhatsApp message: “ASUU shall respond appropriately by Wednesday, 23 December. Thank you.”
Confirming today’s meeting, he said: “Yes, we are meeting tomorrow but I can’t speak further till Wednesday when I will be able to tell you if we will suspend the strike or not.”
He declined to speak further.
Ngige expressed the hope that there will be breakthrough in discussions in today’s meeting with the lecturers who have been on strike since March, adding that the government has met almost all the demands of ASUU.
He said negotiations between the ASUU leadership and the government had reached 98 per cent, adding that it remains only two per cent to be completed.
Ngige spoke in his Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area country home in Anambra State, during the launch of his free medical outreach at the Community’s Health Center.
The Federal Government, few weeks ago, raised its offer to the striking lecturers to N70 billion.
In a statement, Ngige said: said the government was willing to pay N40 for Earned Allowances which would be shared among three university-based unions and N30 billion for revitalisation.
The minister added that the funds were ready for disbursement pending when the union agrees to call of the over eight-month-old strike.
The government also accepted ASUU demand to exempt its members from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) pending the approval of the proposed payment system – the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
However, the payment of arrears remained the most contentious issue on which the government and ASUU had failed to reach an understanding.
The union insists on the settling of the arrears of his members’ salaries before calling off the strike.
Ngige said: “We have met about 98 per cent of the request of ASUU. Some five to two per cent is what you can call promissory notes.
“So, I am very hopeful that by midnight today, there are some works we are supposed to get on to do. They also have some work they are supposed to do on their own side with their people.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday), we will meet in the afternoon and we will compare notes. We will put everything on the table and compare. I believe that we might have come to the end of the strike when we meet.
“Well, it is a journey of a thousand miles which you will have to take one step first. Tomorrow (today), all things being equal, we will agree now to agree because we were disagreeing before.
“We disagree to agree and agree to disagree formerly. But tomorrow (today), I hope we will agree to agree. Once we do that, schools will re – open in January.”
On the free medical outreach, Ngige said he was extending the largesse beyond Alor to neighbouring communities like Abatete, Oraukwu, Ideani and Nnobi among others.
He said those with different ailments like hepatitis, eye problems among others should take advantage of the outreach, adding that about 15 medical doctors in different fields would handle the cases at the Health Centre.
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