•Says lecturers got paid for work they did… Declares no agreement has been reached with union… Advisory council member disagrees with ASUU over Ngige’s role
By Deji Elumoye and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The federal government yesterday insisted on implementing the ‘no work no pay’ policy notwithstanding the Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) protests against alleged incomplete payment of the October, 2022 salary to its members.
The Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, made the federal government’s position on the renewed face-off with ASUU known after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja.
Reporters had asked the Minister to comment on the insistence by the public universities’ lecturers to embark on a work-free-day in protest of the federal government’s decision to pay its members pro-rata, accusing government of attempting to turn university lecturers to ‘casual workers’.
Responding, Adamu said, “the strike has been called off and the government has paid them what is due to them. I think that’s the position of the government. It is not going to pay anyone for work not done and they only did and I think that’s the number of days that they were paid.”
He denied the allegation that university lecturers were being turned into casual workers by the payment saying: “How can anybody make a university lecturer a casual… Do you know the meaning of casual worker? If you know the meaning of the casual worker, it is impossible to make a university lecturer a casual worker.”
Asked if the federal government was willing to take steps to assuage the ASUU and stave off possible strike action, the Minister said “I don’t understand, is there any problem now?”
When informed that the lecturers were planning work-free-day, he said “Oh? Okay, I’m not aware. I’m not aware. That they are going on strike? No, nobody has told me.
“So let’s wait till the work-free-day comes, then I’ll find out the details and we’ll discuss, you can ask me then, but at the moment, I’m telling you honestly, I do not know that there is a problem”.
Asked to respond to the claim by ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodoke, that the union only had an agreement with the Minister of Education and the Speaker of the House of Representatives and not with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Adamu said “I cannot add any light on something that I did not know.
“And since they said they have no business with the Minister, did they show you the agreement? Well, I’m not aware that there’s any agreement between us”, he said.
Meanwhile, a former Director of Skills and Certification at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr. Ibrahim Jibia has disagreed with ASUU and a section of the press over the role of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige in conciliating the lingering disagreement between the federal government and the lecturers’ union.
In a statement in Abuja, yesterday, Jibia, a labour relations expert, and member of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) absolved Ngige of blame over the eight months strike and faulted allegations by ASUU that the Minister was destroying the university system.
Reflecting on the trajectory of the now suspended strike, Jibia said the Minister took every step to ensure early resolution of the dispute through social dialogue and blamed ASUU’s inconsiderate demands and uncompromising stand for the collapse of conciliation and the consequent resort to the National Industrial Court.
He said, “ASUU commenced action on February 14, 2022 and the Minister promptly apprehended it by convening conciliation on February 22 in line with section 18 of the Trade Disputes Act.
“At that meeting, unresolved matters in the 2020 Agreement such as Earned Academic/allowances, revitalisation fund, conditions of service and UTAS payment platform were discussed and ASUU was appealed to suspend action.
“I recall that when the National Labour Advisory Council of which I’m a member, converged in Lagos on March 20, 2022, we adopted a resolution that unions must obey the provisions of section 18 of the Trade Disputes Act, mandating them to suspend strike once it is apprehended as the Minster did in this instance.
“ASUU did not comply, leading to another conciliation on March 22, 2022.”