THE Federal Government on Tuesday said it did not have the resources tomeet the N92bn financial demand by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, at the opening of a two-day meeting of Commissioners of Finance and Accountants-General of states, said the N92bn being demanded by the university lecturers was not withinthe reach of the Federal Government.
She said, “At present, ASUU wants the Federal Government to pay N92bn in extra allowances, when the 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.
“Since I assumed office, the share of recurrent expenditure in our total budgets had increased astronomically. In fact, recurrent expenditure accounted for about 77.2 per cent of the federal budget and we are now working to re-balance this ratio.”
The minister added, “The country is still suffering from the effect of the 2010 increase in salary. Do we want to get to a stage in this country that all the money we earn is used to pay salaries and allowances?”
The theme of the meeting is ‘Restructuring Nigeria’s Finances.’
She said, “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 also lamented that Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil had resulted in deterioration of the nation’s non-oil tax.
She said that non-oil taxes accounted for 74 per cent of Nigeria’s Government revenues in 1970 but by 2012, it had declined to only 30 per cent.
She said many states and local governments were also dependent on monthly revenue allocation from the central government. “On the average only 11 percent of sub-national revenue was obtained from internally-generated sources,” she added.
Meanwhile, the negotiation between the Federal Government and striking members of the ASUU ended in a deadlock as both parties rescheduled the meeting to Monday next week.
The Chief Mediator on behalf of Federal Government and Governor of Benue State, Dr. Gabriel Suswam, who spoke with journalists on Tuesday after a marathon meeting, said “tremendous progress” has been made in the negotiations, particularly on the NEEDs Assessment and Earned Allowance issues raised by ASUU.
Suswam, who also serves as chairman of the Universities Needs Assessment Committee, expressed optimism that the issues would soon be resolved going by the progress made so far.
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