Good News: Government Begins Payment Of University Lecturers’ Salary Arrears

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The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has disclosed that the Federal Government has begun the payment of salary arrears of the striking university teachers.

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But the lecturers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) insisted that the Federal Government must remit N200 billion into the universities’ revitalisation fund before the ongoing strike can be suspended.

ASUU leaders, who came to the negotiation table with a former President of the union, Prof. Assisi Asobie and President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abuba Wabba, explained that the payment of their salary arrears without getting a commitment to the payment of the N200 billion for the rehabilitation of the universities would portray the union as being only concerned with the welfare of its members and not the general improvement of the teaching conditions in the institutions.

Issues in contention include the registration of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO); fractionalisation of salaries in federal universities and gross under-funding/non-funding of state universities and arrears and the implementation of earned academic allowance; and the non-release of funds for the revitalisation of public universities as spelt out in the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding.

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Other issues are guidelines for the retirement benefits of professors in line with the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement; Treasury Single Account (TSA) and withdrawal of support for universities’ staff primary schools.

Similarly, the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) may call off their ongoing industrial action today after an emergency congress meeting.

The insistence of the doctors to have the evidence of the implementation of the agreement reached with them last Thursday was responsible for the 10-hour marathon meeting that ended yesterday morning.

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The Guardian learnt that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) insisted that the Federal Government should provide the evidence of implementation to avoid the situation which the academic and non-academic staff unions of universities found themselves.

NARD said it was no longer interested in signing a memorandum of understanding without physical and verifiable implementation of the agreement and would not suspend the ongoing action.

The agreement termed ‘Memorandum of Terms of Settlement’ addressed the six issues raised by NARD: shortfall in salaries; failure to rectify the salary shortfall from August 2017; failure to circularise house officers’ entry point; failure to correct the stagnation of promotion of NARD members and properly place them on their appropriate grade level; failure to enroll and capture NARD members on the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS); and failure to budget, deduct and remit both the employer and employees’ contributions pension to NARD members’ Retirement Savings Account since 2013.

On the non-payment of salaries, the meeting noted that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) did receive one Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) of the sum of N13.2billion to address the shortfalls in public sector, including the payment of the salaries of affected doctors in Federal Tertiary Health Institutions (FTHI).

It was agreed that payment would be made directly to the affected FTHI for doctors and other members of staff that have been authenticated, and a soft copy would be forwarded to the Ministries of Health and of Labour and Employment, chief medical directors, NARD and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).

And providing evidence before the NARD emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting slated for today, members of the association that have been authenticated must have received their payment on or before Friday morning.

The Federal Government noted that the shortfalls were basically experienced by those not on the IPPIS platform termed ‘non-regular allowances/payments’.

It was, therefore, agreed that NARD national officers would present the outcome of the re-negotiated Memorandum of Terms of Settlement to an emergency meeting of its members by today with a view to suspending the strike once there is evidence of payment of the mandate as presented to the meeting.

Both parties agreed that members of NARD would not be victimised as a result of this strike if suspended, after the emergency meeting.

The agreement was signed by the NMA President, Prof. Mike Ogirima; NARD President, Dr Onyebueze John; Minister of State, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni; Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige, among others.

The Secretary General of NMA, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu, in a telephone interview with The Guardian yesterday said: “There were grey areas with the first MoU. We have reached agreement on a number of issues and have signed a new MoU. What is left is for the NARD executives to take the issues agreed on to their emergency congress scheduled for Friday (today). If their members are okay with the positions we have taken, then they may decide to suspend or call off the strike.”

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