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Strike: Suspension Depends On ASUU, FG May Consider Court Option, Says Ngige

Channels Television  
Updated April 21, 2022
File photo of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige

 

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, believes the suspension of the strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), is dependent on the union.

Ngige made the comment when he featured on Channels Television’s Politics Today on Thursday, calling for the varsity lecturers to be considerate.

“It depends on ASUU. The ball is in their court. They should go and meet the Benimi Briggs Committee and look at what the committee is doing and make further inputs so that the work can be accelerated,” he said during the current affairs show.

READ ALSO: You Can’t Spend N200bn On Universities, But Can Spend N4trn On Fuel Subsidy – ASUU Tackles FG

The former Anambra governor, who reiterated that he cannot make a commitment on when the impasse will be resolved, called on the lecturers to do their part.  According to him, ASUU should stop threatening government officials and agencies.

“ASUU has to come down from their high horse. You cannot go and start intimidating people in NITDA and threatening the Minister of Digital Economy and Communication with revocation of his professorship that he is a fake professor. You go to ABU and say you are going to withdraw the certificate of the director of NITDA. That’s bullying. It is not allowed in the labour negotiations,” Ngige said

He said he is worried by the incessant strikes in public universities in Nigeria, stressing that “he has not slept” in a bid to see that the schools are reopened.

“The ASUU issue is a recurring decimal,” he said, recalling that the union has gone on many strikes in the last two decades.

 

“It is a very sad situation. I am a product of the public school,” the former lawmaker added.

The minister noted that there would be a meeting of all stakeholders next week as part of moves to resolve the lingering strike.

Asked what will happen if the situation remains the same after his intervention, he said the Federal Government might consider resolving the issue in court if reconciliation fails.

“What is happening now is we have given the Nimi Briggs committee six weeks,” he explained. “We are waiting for their report. The minister of education has to transmit it and say this is what we have agreed.

“He will also transmit to the presidential committee on salaries. The six-week period ends this Friday and I’m calling everybody up by next week. The law says we can go to the industrial arbitration panel, which is where I’m supposed to refer this matter if reconciliation fails, or the national industrial court if reconciliation fails.

“It is a double-barrel thing. I will choose the one I want. I will refer. The law says once conciliation has started at my level, you call off the strike.”

Before Ngige’s latest remarks, ASUU had accused the Federal Government of unseriousness in meeting their demands.

President of the union, Emmanuel Osodeke, faulted the government’s budgeting of money for the payment of fuel subsidy and wondered why it is difficult settling the lecturers.

More than two months since lecturers downed tools, the ASUU president alleged that the government has been insensitive to the union’s demands.

“A government that cannot raise N200 billion to revamp all Nigerian universities and bring them to world standard, doesn’t have money to do that but that same government can raise N4 trillion for fuel subsidy; fuel subsidy and university education, which is more important to any country that wants to move forward?” he queried during Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Wednesday.

“You can raise N4 trillion for fuel subsidy in a year, but you cannot raise N200 billion to fund your education because you don’t have money; it is a priority. You can spend N228 billion to feed children in primary and secondary schools, but you cannot raise N200.”

ASUU embarked on strike over two months ago to press for increased funding of universities among other issues.