SAN FRANCISCO, May 27, (THEWILL) – The prospects of resolving the ongoing strike action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic (ASUP) and Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) may not be in sight as the Minister of Education, Barr Nyesom Wike, Tuesday presented a bleak picture of the situation.
Appearing before the House of Representatives Committee on Education, the minister declared that the Federal Government “is in a fix” on how to resolve the industrial dispute.
He said the Federal Government was in a tinderbox on how to appease ASUP and COEASU members.
The minister told the committee that the promise he had earlier made on the payment of the outstanding N40 billion arrears to both COEASU and ASUP has been overtaken by events.
“We are now in a fix. We are now trying to resolve the issue with the Salaries and Wages Commission,” Wike said , stressing that he took a risk that he has never taken in life by summoning a meeting with ASUP and proposed the payment of the outstanding arrears in installments.
“I asked that we solve the major issues. They said there were arrears of N20 billion for COEASU and N20 billion for ASUP.
“I asked the Permanent Secretary to write a memo on how it would be paid. I made a memo to Mr. President that I have made the offer. They now wrote a letter back that they are not accepting the proposal,” the Minister.
He disclosed that following the rejection of the proposal by the ASUP, the Wages and Salaries Commission wrote a letter also rejecting the proposal thereby compounding the situation.
He said “government is not sleeping” on the issue, adding that it is nobody’s desire to see schools closed down for almost a year. “People should know that what we are trying to do is not personal. Nobody wants children to stay at home. The matter started with the former minister,” he explained.
He said a committee to bridge the gap between Polytechnic and University certificates is currently working as he disclosed that the government had to stop paying the salaries of Polytechnic lecturers after they had been paid from October 2013 to February 2014 without working.
In his reaction, Chairman of the Committee on Education, Hon. Aminu Suleiman, said the committee had to summon the meeting because of the need to find a speedy resolution to the crisis which is almost a year old.
It will be recalled that a representative of the Minister of Education, Mr. Nyesom Wike, Mr. McJohn Nwaobiala, had told the House Committee on Education at an earlier date that the salary arrears of polytechnic staff, which is one of their demands, was not captured in the 2014 budget.
SAINT MUGAGA, ABUJA