The federal government has told striking members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that it does not have enough resources to pay the ₦1.1trn revitalization fund balance which is part of the demands by the union.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige made the submission during an interview on Thursday, Naija News reports.
He stated further that it was not the current administration that made a promise to pay the ₦1.3trn revitalization funds initially but the government of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Explaining further, Ngige pointed out that when the promise was made, the government had more money and fuel prices were favourable but the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari does not have access to such finances.
The Minister said that is why the Buhari government told the union to allow a renegotiation of the agreement after some art payments made by the Jonathan government and the current government out of the initial ₦1.3trn agreement to leave a balance of ₦1.1trn which is one of the factors responsible for the latest ASUU strike which started on February 14, 2022.
Though Ngige agreed that government is a continuum, he appealed to ASUU to be realistic and understand the current financial capability of the government.
Speaking during an interview with Channels Television, Ngige said the federal government has promised to explore other options to fund universities since present realities may not make the revitalization agreement a viable option.
Government is a continuum. The N1.3 trillion you are talking about was promised by the Jonathan government. Oil was selling about $100 to $120 per barrel then and the revenue of the federation was rich,” he said.
“The agreement (referring to the agreement made by the current administration) says that ‘government is unable to pay this but to show commitment to the intentions of the revitalisation for which this N1.3 trillion was promised’.
“Mind you, it was promised by that administration and they promised to kickstart the payment — and they paid N200 billion which they borrowed from TETFUND. They did not take it from the federation account. That payment spiralled even into 2016 — to our regime.
Government (current administration) said we don’t have the money to pay for it — this was the agreement in 2016 to 2017 — but we will find a way by which we can fund the universities and revitalise infrastructure.
“A committee was set up with ASUU as members. Government said ‘we are going to drop N25 billion for you to show you in good faith that we are not talking nonsense.’
“That one was dropped. Again, another money was paid last year because the committee couldn’t come up with anything that will generate funds. Government made it clear that we don’t have N1.1 trillion that is remaining.
We don’t have it. It is in the agreement. The government did not say we are going to pay N1.1 trillion that is remaining. They said we don’t have this money and under the principle of capacity and ability to pay, let us renegotiate it because TETFUND is still there.
“Unless you want us to take money from TETFUND and deceive you like it was done in that period.”
Bibian Anekwe News