Hopes of quick resolution of the present face-off between the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities were dashed on Tuesday as the Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said the government has no resources to meet the union demands.
Foreclosing possible truce to the five-week old industrial action that has paralysed academic activities in the nation’s ivory towers, Okonjo-Iwela said the striking university lecturers were asking for N92 billion in extra allowances, maintaining that government lack means of picking the bill.
Speaking in Minna at the annual National Council on Finance and Economic Development meeting, the minister said that ASUU demand was coming at a time government was making efforts at reducing the structure of public expenditures.
The theme of the meeting is: “Restructuring Nigeria’s Finances.” She said, “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 declared that if the demands of the university lecturers are met and “we continue to pay them salaries and allowances we will not be able to provide infrastructure in the universities.”
The minister argued 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 added.