ASUU Strike 2013: ‘We can’t meet your N92billion demand’ – FG tells University teachers


This is what Guardian News is reporting regarding the ongoing ASUU strike affecting students nationwide,

A declaration by the Federal Government that it did not have the resources to meet the financial demands of university teachers Tuesday doused the hope that their ongoing strike may end soon.

The position of the Federal Government was disclosed by the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, in a keynote address at the opening of a two-day conference of Commissioners of Finance and Accountants-General of state Ministries of Finance taking place in Minna, Niger State capital.

At the meeting with the theme “Restructuring Nigeria’s Finances,” Okonjo-Iweala said the N92 billion being demanded by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was not only unrealistic, it was not within the reach of the Federal Government.

And at a meeting between government officials and ASUU in Abuja Tuesday, there was still no headway. The meeting will be reconvened next Monday.

“At present, ASUU wants the government to pay N92 billion in extra allowances when resources are not there and when we are working to integrate past increases in pensions. We need to make choices in this country as we are getting to the stage where recurrent expenditures take the bulk of our resources and people get paid but can do no work,” she said.

She said that when she assumed office, “the share of recurrent expenditure in our total budgets had increased astronomically. In fact, recurrent expenditures accounted for about 77.2 per cent of the federal budget and we are now working to re-balance this ratio.”

The minister further said that the country was still suffering from the effect of the 2010 increase in salaries, asking: “Do we want to get to a stage in this country that all the money we earn is used to pay salaries and allowances?”

According to her, if the demands of the university teachers are met and “‘we continue to pay them salaries and allowances, we will not be able to provide infrastructure in the universities.”

Okonjo-Iweala lamented also that Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil had resulted in the deterioration of the nation’s non-oil tax, noting that in 1970, non-oil taxes accounted for 74 per cent of the government revenues but by 2012,  they had declined to only 30 per cent.

“Many states and local councils are also dependent on monthly revenue allocation from the central government. On average, only 11 per cent of sub-national revenue was obtained from internally-generated sources.”

Okonjo-Iweala disclosed that the volume of external and internal debts of the country had been on the increase, saying that “in fact, in August 2006 when I left office, we had a total of $17.3 billion, comprising $3.5 billion in foreign debt and $13.8 billion in domestic debt.”

She added that “by 2011 when I returned to office, the total debt now stood at N447.9 billion and the domestic debt had now grown to about $42.3 billion.”

The minister, however, said the Federal Government had taken measures to revamp the economy, adding that these measures had started yielding fruitful dividends in the areas of direct capital investment in the country in the establishment of industries and agro-based firms.

Opening the meeting, Vice President Namadi Sambo disclosed that government’s white paper on Oronsaye’s report on the restructuring of federal ministries and agencies would soon be released.

Represented by the Minister of National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman, the vice president assured that the recurrent expenditure of the country “will be trimmed”, assuring that government’s expenditure in the existing fiscal year had been growing just as taxation had been returning high dividends for the government.

Governor Muazu Babangida Aliyu in an address read by his Deputy, Alhaji Ahmed Ibeto, asked the Federal Government to plug all the areas of wastage in the oil sector of the economy and also check pipeline vandalism across the country.

Meanwhile, the Presbyterian Church of Nigeria has blamed the Federal Government for the lingering strike.

In a statement issued at the end of the quarterly meeting of its General Assembly Executive Committee (GAEC) in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, the church said that the refusal of the Federal Government to honour the agreement it signed with ASUU in 2009 was the main cause of the strike.

It described the government’s action as an indication of its insincerity and lack of total commitment to the growth of education in the country. The church urged the government to honour its agreement with ASUU, as its refusal to do so was tantamount to a breach of contract.

In the statement jointly signed by the Prelate of the Church, the Most Rev. Emele Mba Uka and the Principal Clerk, the Rev. Ndukwe Nwachukwu Eme, the church condemned the jumbo salaries of Nigerian legislators which are reported to be the highest in the world.

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