Dr Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment has accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of misleading its members and the general public, that it has filed an appeal on the order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) to call off its ongoing strike.
Ngige said this in a statement signed by Mr Olajide Oshundun, the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, in the ministry on Sunday in Abuja.
“The union is dishonest and misleading its members and the general public, that it has filed an appeal as well has a stay of execution of the order of NICN on Sept. 2, though it has none of this.
“Rather, ASUU only filed an application for a permission to appeal the order. It also attached to the application, a proposed notice of appeal which it intends to file if the leave to appeal is granted.
“The application for a stay of execution as of this moment has not even been listed for hearing. Where then is ASUU coming from?
“It is therefore contemptuous, dishonest and misleading for the union to tell its members that it has not only appealed the interlocutory injunction by the NICN, directing it to call off strike and return to work, but that it also has a stay of execution,’’ he said.
Ngige therefore described the new directive by ASUU, exhorting its members to continue with the action as an unwarranted lawlessness, noting that “the Federal Government strongly frowns at this”.
The minister advised the striking lecturers to cease taking laws into its hands by directing its members to continue with the 8-month old strike.
According to him, this is in defiance of the interlocutory injunction by the NICN which restrained the union from further action.
He accused the leadership of the union of misinforming and misleading its members and warned of consequences of contempt of court order.
Ngige reiterated government call to the union to respect the court order and return to work, while negotiations are concluded on the remaining issues in contention.
The statement also denied reports that the minister walked out on the meeting between the House of Representatives and ASUU on Sept. 29.
It said the minister left the meeting to attend to other pressing matters with the permission of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, after making his presentation.
It stated that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was earlier granted such permission by the Speaker.
The statement further recalled that at that meeting, Ngige addressed the two major issues over which ASUU is still on strike.
It said, according to the minister, “on renegotiation of salaries and wages of lecturers, I sympathise with ASUU just like other Nigerian workers.
“The economy is bad and hard time, biting hard on everybody. ASUU deserves no blame.
“The Briggs Committee was the product of reconciliation of my ministry, which had to move to the ASUU’s direct employers – Ministry of Education for a Collective Bargaining Agreement, so we can arrive on what is good to be paid to ASUU, subject to approval by the President.
“The President has a Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages chaired by the Minister of Finance, with myself as co-chair and other members – National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Budget Office, etc.
“Every MDA, whether drawing from the treasury or not, must pass through this committee on any issue concerning salaries for approval, before transmission to the President. The report of the Briggs Committee did not unfortunately pass this route.”
It said that Ngige also revealed that when the issue of payment platform – UTAS – came up, he persuaded the President to “give the platform a trial in the spirit of Executive Order 3 and 4, and the SGF supported me”.
“If the system is good, we adopt it for the whole country, but meanwhile the hardware is not there. How do you do it?
“The test – the three of them – IPPIS, UTAS, UPPPS – have failed the test. Do you recommend something that has failed a test?. So, no matter how I love ASUU, I won’t support something that failed a test.’’