N23bn Federal versity staff allowance: Reps commences investigation into disbursement

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The House of Representatives has commenced investigation into the disbursement of N23 billion released by the Federal Government to Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Rep. Suleiman Aminu, Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education, who presided over the investigative public hearing which lasted three hours, requested for the breakdown of the disbursement.
He noted that the lingering crisis between the staff of federal universities strike also affected the polytechnics and colleges of education.
Mr Samson Ugwoke, Chairman, Joint Action Committee of the three non-academic staff unions of universities, confirmed the release of the N23 billion.
He said that the committee set up to oversee the disbursement of the fund, approved 89 per cent for ASUU and 11 per cent for the non-academic staff unions.
Ugwoke however explained that the University of Ilorin and University of Nigeria, Nsukka, did not benefit, while University of Lagos got the least allocation.
He said that the Minister and Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Education had at a meeting on Sept. 19, 2017, admitted that ASUU hijacked the process of distribution of the fund.
He added that they promised to mop-up money for the three non-academic staff unions, with an appeal to the unions to call-off the industrial action.
Mr Abubakar Rasheed, Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), had earlier argued that most of the demands in the 2009 agreement were not implementable as most of the demands were not clear.
According to him, the agreement contained so many combustibles that when touched will explode.
He added that the “infighting among the four unions will spell doom for the system because students will suffer’’.
Reacting to the submissions, Mr Sonny Echono, Permanent Secretary of Federal Ministry of Education, however said that payments were made by the Accountant General of the Federation to the federal universities.
According to him, it is just that more of the staff that benefitted belong to ASUU.
“Although the time the N23 billion was released it was addressing ASUU strike, but when the money came, the ministry insisted that other unions should be carried along.”
He however assured that the next fund that would be released soon by the federal government would be basically released to the non-academic staff in the universities.
Echono who confirmed that logistics were being worked out to ensure timely payment of the allowances, however declined to disclose details of the amount to be released and time.
While ruling, Aminu, who presided over the session, urged the three striking non-academic staff unions to suspend the nationwide strike while negotiation continues.
He also tasked relevant authorities responsible for the release of the funds to expedite action.
Aminu explained that the committee intended to ensure a five-year uninterrupted academic session in Nigeria’s tertiary education.
The lawmaker also unveiled plans to convey a stakeholders’ retreat on the 2009 agreement with the view to sort out grey areas.
Aminu also urged officials of the education ministry and leadership of the protesting unions to attend another meeting at the National Assembly on March 6.
This, he said, was to work out a position paper for the unions to present to their members at the JAC meeting. (NAN)

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