The Federal Government has said it cannot grant the N284 billion request by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to cover payments under Earned Allowances.
Minister of Labour and Employment,Chris Ngige , who spoke to State House Correspondents after the federal executive council meeting Presided over by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential Villa, blamed the development on the current recession still plaguing the country.
He said there was no point beating about the bush over the allowances as the money was not available to pay. Ngige said the government has been magnanimous enough in shifting grounds on some of the demands raised by ASUU,excluding all universities from remitting their endowment funds into the Treasury Single Account(TSA).
According to him, individual university councils were at liberty to audit the accounts if they were in doubt of its transparency and efficiency.
Ngige said that even though government agreed to pay the academic staff some stipends at the end of each month to cover allowances,the first tranche that was released during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration was currently undergoing audit.
He said,”There was a report on ASUU strike by the Minister of Education and we have made headway. ASUU had some demands about 8 of them, 7 of them have been trashed out.
“Government conceded to them the right to exclude endowment funds that accrued to Universities from the Single Treasury Account, TSA.
“The Single Treasury Account is not for punishment, it is an account that enables any government institution to know what their financial position is at any given time.
“Government agrees to ASUU’s demand but limited it to only endowment funds. But that doesn’t also mean that at the end of the day, the University Councils will not have right to audit such an account, that is really the only area that is still contentious.
“The other aspect of it is the Earned Allowances. The Earned Allowances is the only one that is not sorted out now because everybody knows and agrees that we are in recession. If we are in a recession and you are asking us to pay you N284 billion, nobody will pay it because the money is not there.
“So they agreed and the National Assembly also agreed, but the government offered them some amount pending when we finish auditing of the first tranche of money that has been given to them in that same area of Earned Allowances.
“That tranche of money that they collected is being audited, but the auditing process is very slow, because some people for some strange reasons are not allowing auditing to take place. So a time frame has been fixed of six months within which the auditing will be done.
On his part,Minister of Budget and National Planning,Udoma Udo Udoma said the country was still far from escaping the recession going by latest statistics released by the National Bureau of Statistics(NBS).
He said contrary to initial projections,the third quarter of the year got worse when compared to the second quarter.