The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has disclosed that the Federal Government has released N40billion for the payment of earned academic allowances for varsity lecturers and earned allowances for non-academic staff.
Mr Ngige, who made the disclosure during an exclusive chat with The Nation at the weekend, added that the government may release N30billion revitalisation funds to varsities by the end of January.
According to the minister, President Muhammadu Buhari waived the ‘no work, no pay’ Trade Act for striking university lecturers to allow peace to reign.
He said: “We are keeping faith religiously with the implementation of the agreement. In fact, President Muhammadu Buhari has given ASUU members a waiver/ pardon on the no, work, no pay clause in the nation’s Trade Disputes Act.
“I had to write officially for the presidential waiver on payment of outstanding wages of varsity lecturers to strengthen our pact and more so we are in a COVID-19 pandemic era.
“So, for harmony and understanding, we decided on compassionate ground not to invoke Section 43 of the nation’s Trade Disputes Act.”
Mr Ngige added that the Federal Government has started paying the outstanding salaries of the lecturers in a “staggered system” because every 31st December of each year, all outstanding recurrent budget (including personnel salaries) is mopped up into the Treasury.
“We paid ASUU members from January to June 2020. The salary arrears outstanding were from July to December and because of mop up into the Treasury, we decided to stagger the payment.
“So far, we have paid July and August salary arrears in December, we will pay September and October with their January salaries as one tranche in January; and November/ December in February alongside their monthly salaries since they have resumed in their offices and research centres.”
On the planned industrial action by the non-academic workers of the universities, Mr Ngige said “I will invite the leaders of SSANU, NASU and technologists for dialogue to arrest their strike.
“I believe if we sit down with them for consultations, they will appreciate our position. We cannot afford to shut down our universities again.
“Their letter or notice of strike has not reached my table but we will engage them in dialogue on all their demands. Fortunately, I am one of the parents affected by strike action in universities. All my children are studying in different universities in the country.”
“The non-academic staff said they disagreed with the way the National Universities Commission (NUC) shared and transmitted the earned allowances by giving 75% to academic staff (lecturers) and 25% to them.
“The NUC came up with that sharing formula based on the past threshold. This administration has even improved the benchmark for the non-academic staff because the last time we had a similar challenge, it was based on 80% for academic staff and 20% for non-academic staff.
“In 2019, the non-academic staff got N8billion as earned allowances but this time around, the government released N10billion for their allowances,” he added.