By Deborah Tolu-Kolawole
The Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige during the ongoing closed-door meeting with the Academic Staff Union of Universities in Abuja said the union’s claim that the Federal Government had refused to implement the memorandum of agreement it signed with the union was not true.
According to Ngige, he was shocked when the union went on strike despite the moves by the National Inter-Religious Council co-chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad and the President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Rev Supo Ayokunle.
A statement to keep the public abreast of the meeting was issued by the ministry’s spokesperson, Charles Akpan.
The statement quoted Ngige as saying “But I must tell you that on the government side, they were taken by surprise in that before then, NIREC met with you (ASUU) and reported to the President. Having met with you (ASUU) and having given the details of their meeting with you, we sincerely hoped we won’t again take this route of industrial action. So, the government side is taken by surprise – Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance and all are taken aback.”
“It is my mandate to apprehend industrial disputes and this has been apprehended so we can discuss, and later expand to what is called tripartite plus meeting, involving members of NIREC who are top religious and traditional rulers, we cannot push aside. And that is as soon as we are done and agree on issues here.”
“It should not be one month strike. In fact, there is nothing like one month strike or warning strike in labour parlance. Strike is strike. We want this to end as soon as possible, as we sort out all grey areas in the agreement as the ILO Principles At Work allows for renegotiation of Collective Bargaining Agreement. So we go back to the draft agreement. We must avoid another situation where our children bear the brunt of two elephants fighting.”
“I did a correspondence on the report by NITDA on UTAS to you in December 2021 and you sent your observation in a reply in February 2022. I made that available to all the parties involved, that this is the observation from ASUU. So, as far as I’m concerned, it is work in progress. I’m not the Minister of Education. My Ministry is not your direct employer, but I take these proactive measures to fast track agreements and ensure we meet up the timelines.
“Apart from that, all the issues in the agreement are being religiously implemented, including but not limited to the payment of Earned Academic Allowances through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation in November/December 2021. So, most of the issues in 2020 agreement, which moved over to 2021, and for which we met in October 2021, to take progress report on, are all works in progress. So it is wrong for you to say nobody is doing anything on the MOA.”
ASUU President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke in his speech blamed the Federal Government for the ongoing strike, alleging that apart from not implementing the 2020 MOA, government also failed to convene the regular implementation monitoring meeting as agreed.
ASUU insisted that calling off the industrial action depended entirely on the Federal Government as members were determined not to shift ground until their demands are met.