The federal government says it cannot meet the N248 billion demand of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), in light of the current economic recession.
According to Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, the union made the request, saying it is for earned allowances.
But speaking with state house correspondents after the federal executive council meeting in Abuja on Wednesday, the minister said the government had agreed to meet seven out of the eight demands of the union.
He added that the demand for the payment of earned allowances was the only issue that had not been resolved.
“The other aspect of it is the earned allowance. The earned allowance is the only one that has not been sorted out for now. Everybody knows and agrees that we are in a recession,” he said.
“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.”
Ngige said the government offered the union an undisclosed amount of money pending the time when it audits the first tranche of money given to the union.
“So they (ASUU) 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,” he said.
“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.
“Within those six months, government has offered something that they will be paying on a monthly basis and ASUU has also made a counter proposal to government so both parties have gone back to their principals.
“ASUU has a principal which is the national executive body, and government has come back to look at our finances viz-a-viz with the national assembly, which will appropriate that particular fund because for 2016, there is nothing in the budget for it.”
He said the union was expected to return to the negotiating table with its counter proposal.
ASUU had embarked on a one-week warning strike to press home its demands.