The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said he is tired of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) going on a strike every time there is a disagreement with the Federal Government.
The minister said this in a statement Monday in Abuja by the Head of Press and Public Relations, Patience Onuobia, after a meeting with members of the government’s team on the 2009 Federal Government/University-based Unions’ Agreement Renegotiation Committee, led by its Chairman, Prof. Nimi Briggs.
The statement reads: “I started pushing to see that things were done. What the Munzali Committee came up with is a proposal. Both Munzali and ASUU did not sign. At our last meeting in February, before ASUU proceeded on strike, we said everyone should go back to his principal.
“I asked the Education Minister several times what they had done with the document. We later got information on areas of disagreement. There is nothing wrong with that. It is bound to happen. I told ASUU to put up a committee; they said the Munzali Committee had expired.
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“As a conciliator, I have to make use of the labour instruments at my disposal. The bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education do not feel the strike. There are things that are above me.
“I am not the Minister of Education. I cannot go to the Education Minister and dictate to him how to run his place. But I told ASUU that they should be bombarding the Federal Ministry of Education for this to be moved forward.
“There are many ways to do so. If you go to the Labour Act, there is something called picketing. You can picket. A strike is an ultimate thing. Picketing means that you can stay in the corridor, clapping or singing. Workers are permitted to do so. But I am tired that every time there is a disagreement, it is a strike.
“And the bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education don’t feel the strike. It is the children and some of us, as parents that have our children in public schools…”
The minister said the Federal Government remained committed to the renegotiation of the conditions of service for all workers in public universities across the country.
Ngige said the Nigerian university system produced him and he remained proud of it.
“When we went to universities here, I knew the course content and as a medical doctor, the doctors we trained here are better than the ones trained abroad. That is one of the counsels I gave to my children. You can do your first degree. One got admission in Ghana, I said no. Others got in Canada and the UK, but I refused.
“If anybody is interested in the welfare of workers in Nigerian universities, I am number one. I told my colleagues that what university professors showed us here as their salaries is unacceptable,” he said.
Prof. Briggs, who is also the Pro-Chancellor of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndifu Alike, Ebonyi State, said the re-negotiation committee was consulting with all stakeholders with a view to finding a lasting solution to issues in dispute.
Also, ASUU has said there would be no resumption in public universities until the re-negotiated 2009 agreement is signed, implemented and the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) deployed.
The union’s University of Abuja (UniAbuja) Zonal Coordinator, Dr. Salawu Lawal, announced this while addressing reporters at the university yesterday in Gwagwalada.
He said ASUU members would return to the classroom when their demands are met by the Federal Government.
The Abuja zone comprises the Federal University of Lafia; Federal University of Technology, Minna: Nasarawa State University, Keffi; Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, and UniAbuja.
Lawal said: “You would recall that ASUU declared a four-week rolling strike at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) National Executive Council meeting on February 14.
“Owing to the failure of the Federal Government to act within that period, the national action was rolled over for another eight weeks, following the resolution taken at an emergency NEC meeting at the Festus Iyayi National Secretariat on March 14.
“The action, as you are probably aware, is to, among other things, compel the Federal Government to sign and implement the draft renegotiated 2009 ASUU-FGN Agreement submitted to it by the Prof. Munzali Jibril Committee in May 2021.
“Deploy for use in the Nigerian university system was the home-grown payment and personnel solution called UTAS developed by ASUU as a replacement for the failed Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).”
“As usual, the Federal Government has ignored ASUU’s call for full implementation of that famous agreement and other memoranda signed with the union.
“No meeting has been held between the two parties since the commencement of the ongoing strike. The only exception is our union’s re-submission of UTAS for a retest.
“The summary is that unless and until the renegotiated 2009 agreement is signed and implemented and UTAS deployed, there will be no work in public universities.”