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Again, FG warns ASUU over disobeying the National Industrial Court

The Federal Government has advised  the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to cease taking laws into its hands by directing its members to continue with the 8-month old strike in defiance of  the  interlocutory injunction by  the National Industrial Court (NICN) which restrained the union from further action.

In a statement at the weekend,  the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige  said a new directive by ASUU, exhorting  its members to continue with action is an unwarranted  lawlessness, noting that the Federal Government strongly frowns at this .

He accused the  leadership of the union of misinforming and misleading its members and warned of consequences of contempt of court order.

“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 National Industrial Court  on September 21, 2022, 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 National Industrial Court, directing it to call off strike and return to work, but that it also has a stay of execution.”

The Minister  once again called on 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 last Thursday, 29 September , 2022. It said the  Minister  left the meeting to attend to other pressing matters  with the permission of the Speaker of the House of Representatives,  Hon. 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 , Senator Ngige  addressed the two major issues over which ASUU is still on strike.

“On  renegotiation of  salaries and wages of lecturers, I sympathize with ASUU just like other Nigerian workers.  The economy is bad and hard time, biting hard on everybody.  ASUU deserves  no blame. They know  that many times  during  reconciliation, I  said that left to me, this is what lecturers will get. I know the enormity of the work they do and have brothers who are also lecturers.

“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.”

The Minister revealed that when the issue of  payment platform – UTAS came up on January 9, 2020, he was the one that persuaded the President to give the platform a trial in the spirit of Executive Order 3 and 4.

“The SGF supported me. That was how I took it upon myself to write to all the parties, Communication and Digital Economy,  NITDA, ASUU  and others. At a point, I  had to spend three and half hours at the  Office of the Accountant General, while UTAS was on demonstration because we must support this platform that promised to save us foreign exchange.

“ 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.

“ I had  advised ASUU when the first result came, to have UTAS  do a handshake with IPPIS so as to capture all the university system  peculiarities. They accepted but while negotiation was going on , they went on strike.”

The Minister also narrated how the medical doctors once threatened to go  on strike over IPPIS.

 “But  their peculiarities  have now been captured by IPPISS, even those teaching in the universities with special allowances . About a year ago, NARD wrote me that they would go on strike if we don’t put them on IPPIS. This is because all their peculiarities have captured and no one is losing anything.

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