Amidst ongoing protests by the Academic Staff Union of Universities over part payment of salaries by the Federal Government in October, the Federal Government has maintained its position that the lecturers would not be paid for work not done.
The Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, stated this on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House in Abuja.
The part payment followed the suspension of ASUU’s eight-month strike, in line with an order by the National Industrial Court for the lecturers to return to work.
Responding to allegations by the National President of ASUU, Prof, Emmanuel Osodoke that the part payment was simply a tactic to casualise lecturers in the university system, the minister stated that the government held no such plans.
“The strike has been called off and the government has paid them what is due to them. I think that is the position of the government, that it is not going to pay anyone for work not done and they only did the number of days that they were paid,” Adamu said.
“How can anybody make a university lecturer a casual worker? It is impossible to make a university lecturer a casual worker.”
Osodeke, on Tuesday, criticised the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, over his alleged authorisation of the part-payment of salaries to members of the union.
‘Ngige no longer mediator’
ASUU, on Tuesday, criticised the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige for his alleged involvement in the part payment to union members.
“He (Ngige) has gone to court, which means he has lost his right as a conciliator. Once he has taken this case to the Industrial Court, he has lost that right as a conciliator; he has no say again, but he’s still interloping,” Osodeke said.
Asked what role the Minister of Labour currently plays in the matter, the ASUU president said, “He has nothing. He’s an interloper. If we’re calling him a conciliator, it has gone beyond him.”
Osodeke however expressed confidence that the agitations of the union would be resolved in the interest of students, parents, and the country. According to him, professors on the same salary scale were paid varying amounts, such as N200,000, N180,000, and N90,000.
The National President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, on Tuesday, criticised the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, over his alleged authorisation of the part-payment of salaries to members of the union.
This comes after ASUU in October suspended its eight-month strike in line with an order by the National Industrial Court for the lecturers to return to work.
ASUU, on Monday, stated that it would embark on a one-day nationwide protest over the part-payment.
“He (Ngige) has gone to court, which means he has lost his right as a conciliator. Once he has taken this case to the Industrial Court, he has lost that right as a conciliator; he has no say again, but he’s still interloping,” Osodeke said on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
Asked what role the Minister of Labour currently plays in the matter, the ASUU president said, “He has nothing. He’s an interloper. If we’re calling him a conciliator, it has gone beyond him.
“And we have found that it was he who actually wrote to the Minister of Finance personally, not directed, that they should stop our salary. It’s just personal. We are surprised because, having taken the case to court, by all rights, he has hands are tied. He has no business with what we do.”
Osodeke expressed confidence that the agitations of the union would be resolved in the interest of students, parents, and the country.
“But to our surprise, the Accountant General Office decided to pay what some people have referred to as half. It’s very sad because professors who are on the same salary scale got varying amounts, N200,000, N180,000, N90,000 and what have you,” he said.
The ASUU president confirmed that the part payment was the first salary paid to union members since the strike commenced.
“The question we need to ask ourselves is, can a Minister of Labour direct the Minister of Finance on what to do? The answer is no. We are under the Ministry of Education, and we thought that anybody that can give such a directive who monitors what we do through the NUC is the Minister of Education.
“It is the Minister of Education, who we are under, and the Speaker on whose intervention we called off the strike because of the issue we said that, one, they are going to pay us backlog of our salaries because ASUU is different from another union,” he said.
FG says no bias in part-payment
The Federal Government has since defended the pro-rata payment to ASUU members in October, saying they cannot be paid for work not done.
Ngige, through the spokesman for the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, dismissed media reports that the government was biased in paying the university teachers.
“They were paid in pro-rata to the number of days that they worked in October, counting from the day that they suspended their industrial action,” the statement partly read.
“Pro-rata was done because you cannot pay them for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied,” he said.
‘No work no pay is legal’
Also, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila said the ‘no work no pay’ policy embarked on by the Federal Government during the period of strike is premised on the law.
He said the decision is based on the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has insisted that it will not back down on the strike by members of the union across the country, which is currently in its fifth month.
ASUU National President, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, stated this on Tuesday while briefing reporters in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Lecturers in government-owned universities embarked on a nationwide strike on February 14 over the adoption of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) of the government as the payment system in the university sector.
They had also decried the poor funding of universities, non-payment of salaries and allowances of some of their colleagues, as well as the inability of the government to pay earned academic allowance to lecturers, among other issues.
Since the industrial action began, several negotiations between the union and the government have ended in deadlock.
Amid outcry over the effect of the industrial action on the nation’s tertiary education sector, various individuals and groups have asked the government to find a lasting solution to the crisis.
In his briefing on Tuesday in the nation’s capital, Professor Osedeke said the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige should be blamed for the present situation.
Read the full text of the briefing by the ASUU president below:
Comrades and compatriots of the Press,
It has become imperative for us in the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to update Nigerians and lovers of education everywhere in the world on the status of our ongoing nationwide strike action which began on 14th February 2022. The need for doing so could be traced to two sources. First, as a union of intellectuals that deals with facts and verifiable claims, there is need to put the records straight on our engagements with the government.
This need becomes very compelling against the backdrop of the statements recently pushed out from the government quarters. Specifically, there have been insinuations by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, that there was no agreement between ASUU and the government; that ASUU sat down to fix its own members’ salaries; and that our Union asked representatives of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) to recuse themselves from the negotiations.
Also, it appears that Dr. Ngige has deliberately misrepresented the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) convention on the collective bargaining agreement and the roles of a conciliator to serve his propagandist interest in this matter.
ON AGREEMENT OR NO AGREEMENT
Following the resumption of the strike action by our Union at the University of Lagos, on the 14th February 2022, we participated at several meetings at the instance of the Ministry of Labour and Employment chaired by Dr. Chris Ngige as “Conciliator”. To our utter dismay, nothing concrete came out of the endless deliberations as the Conciliator kept approbating and reprobating. For instance, he would declare that he fully supported our demand that the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ASUU be speedily concluded within six weeks while at the same time creating an unrealistic pathway to arriving at a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA).
Similarly, Dr. Ngige kept going back and forth on concluding the integrity test for the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for replacing the discredited Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information (IPPIS) contrary to the letters and spirit of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) of December 2021. Matters got to a head when our Union leaders were forced to express their frustration at one of the so-called conciliatory meetings.
When we expressed our frustration at the manner the engagement processes were going, Dr Chirs Ngige. went on to lampoon the Ministry of Education; saying he was not our employer. At a point, he directed our Union to go and picket the office of the Minister of Education, who is our employer! Subsequently, he tactfully recused himself.
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), having observed the snail speed and lack of result, threatened and called on the Federal government to set up a high-powered committee to look into the matter. The NLC’s intervention resulted in the “Tripartite-plus” meeting chaired by the Chief of Staff to the President and Commander in Chief, Prof Ibrahim Gambari on 12th May 2022. Contrary to his claim, the meeting that held at the State House Banquet Hall was not convened by the Minister of Labour and Employment.
In fact, Dr. Ngige did everything within his capacity to frustrate the suggestion by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, and supported by the Co-chair of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) and President of Christian Association of Nigeria, Revd. Dr. Samson Ayokunle, that the embargo placed on university workers’ salaries be lifted to pave way for amicable resolution of the crisis.
For the avoidance of doubt, at no point did ASUU say the President and Commander-in-Chief was going to sign any agreement between us and the government. What we said was that our Draft Agreement was receiving attention by the President. Our claim about a Draft Agreement was predicated on the fact that it was the second document to be produced by a joint Renegotiating Committee of the 2009 FGN/ASUU Agreement comprising representatives of MDAs and the ASUU team.
The first draft was coordinated by Emeritus Prof. Munzali Jibril, who took over the Chairmanship of the joint renegotiating committee from Dr. Wale Babalakin. That draft was submitted in May 2021 but was rejected by the government a year later! The second and current report was arrived at after the government’s team was reconstituted in April 2022 under the Chairmanship of Emeritus Professor Nimi Briggs.
The Briggs-led Renegotiating Committee began their work with extensive consultations with heads of relevant units in the MDAs and shared a written submission of their findings with our union. We were reassured then, that the new committee had a clear mandate to review the Munzali-led committee’s report through a collective bargaining process. It was that process that produced a Draft Renegotiated Agreement on 16th June 2022.
The government team was expected to present the draft document to its principal as done a year earlier. ASUU did not expect the President of the Federal Republic to sign the document because neither the 2009 Agreement under review nor any of the previous ones were signed directly by the Head of the Government.
What we said and we are saying is that the government team was expected to obtain the needed clearance to sign the Draft Agreement which came out of a collective bargaining process that began way back in 2017! If Dr. Ngige means well as a “conciliator”, why will he be putting roadblocks on the path to completing a process that has dragged on for more than five years?
LABOUR MINISTER AND COLLECTIVE BARGAINING
The Ministry of Labour and Employment, as the chief labour ministry of the country, is principally expected to apprehend disputes between employers and employees with a view to settling such disputes. The Ministry shall normally await reports of disputes by either side to the disputes for settlement. When the Minister apprehends a dispute, he/she must communicate to the parties or their representatives, his or her own proposal for the resolution of the dispute.
However, ASUU has always had serious reservations about the claim of “conciliation” by someone who has taken sides in the dispute, or by an unabashed protagonist in the crisis such as the current Minister of Labour and Employment. It is antithetical to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions (98, 151 & 154) on collective bargaining and tripartism.
It is against the principle of natural justice and the doctrine of equality for Dr. Ngige who carries himself as if he has personal scores to settle with ASUU and shoots down the Union everywhere it matters to assume the role of conciliator.
The Trade Dispute Act, the principal legislation for labour relations, does not empower the Minister to assume the office of conciliator. This is to guarantee the principle of ‘’good faith’’ in negotiations, which implies making every effort to reach an agreement, conducting genuine and constructive negotiations and applying them in good faith. A collective agreement is between an employer or group of employers or representative agent, on the one hand, and one or more workers’ organisation on the other.
To the extent that the Federal Government, through the Ministry of Education, empanelled the Emeritus Prof. Nimi Briggs committee to negotiate on its behalf with university-based Unions in Nigeria, the purpose of which is to create and agreement between the parties, that committee is the representative agent of government. Any resolution(s), reached by the parties, such as draft agreements, are then to be ratified by the authorised signatories on behalf of the parties to achieve a binding collective bargaining agreement.
ASUU, therefore, makes bold to say that the Minister of Labour and Employment has taken upon himself the role of unabashed protagonist in our ongoing dispute with the government of Nigeria for some inexplicable reasons. Dr. Ngige earlier told whoever cared to listen that he was not the employer of university academics and advised the union to march to the Ministry of Education. Nigerians may wish to know why he has suddenly turned around to constitute himself into an impediment to an amicable resolution of the ongoing crisis.
FUNDING OF PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES
Comrades and compatriots, it has become the pastime of government officials to talk tough about billions and trillions of naira whenever the thorny issues of education and health sectors’ funding come up for mention. However, it is common knowledge that various sums of money in the same region which could have been deployed for human capacity development and public good usually develop into the thin air at the end of the day!
We are therefore not surprised the leadership of the Ministry of Labour and Employment could condescend to the point of denigrating the import of massive injection of fund into the University Education sub-sector as they tried to miserably dismiss the vexed issue of funding Nigerian public universities and uplifting the country’s intellectual capital. While government and its agents, would like to look at the issue in the ‘’here and now’’ and funding as a one-off matter, we prefer to look at it longitudinally.
ASUU believes that the idea of availability of funds is a dynamic process. For instance, government can mobilize funds from different sources including non-budgetary outlets like stamp-duty, GSM and alcoholic taxes. These were parts of our recommendations at the National Workshop organised by the Federal government on sustainable funding of education in Nigeria, held between 27th and 28th November, 2018, at the Banquet Hall of the State House in Abuja.
At the workshop, MDAs were also challenged to remit, for the purpose of raising budgetary profile, excesses that accrue and not accounted for. We insist that, until and unless these sources of ‘loose funds’ are pooled and appropriated in support of education funding, Nigerian Universities will not be positioned to compete globally as well as develop and attract local and foreign grants.
The Minister of Education admitted at the Inter-Ministerial Retreat in November 2017 that Nigeria was lagging behind less endowed African countries in terms of investment in education. In his words “None of the E9 or D8 countries allocates less than 20% of its annual budget to education”. In the last seven years of the outgoing government the country’s annual budgetary allocation have not gone beyond eight percent! Is this progress?
We are appalled by the recent calls by top government functionaries at both federal and state levels to establish more universities at a time agencies run by same Chief Executives are tightly squeezed for funding. The little that is available is thinly spread across many tertiary institutions with minimal impact.
Many heads of tertiary institutions in the country would not hesitate to confess that their universities polytechnics and colleges would have gone under but for the existence of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund). We restate our opposition to the proliferation of universities and other tertiary institutions merely for political gains or electoral value. Nigerians should read through the intentions of hypocritic political jobbers when dangling the carrots of siting institutions they have no intention of developing to compete with others in Africa and beyond.
ASUU appreciates some recent efforts by critical stakeholders across the broad spectrum of the Nigerian society to resolve the logjam and restore normalcy on our university campuses. The initiatives of the NLC and its affiliate unions are quite commendable. But it is not over until it is over! We also acknowledge the interest of political actors in various groups and platforms who have promised to wade in.
ASUU’s doors of engagements are wide open to all, but we remain unsympathetic to political party sentiments and blackmail irrespective of where such are coming. For a greater and better Nigeria, education is key. So, we remain focused on our goal of making the Nigerian University system internationally competitive and our getting our products to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with their peers in any part of the world.
We appreciate the teeming Nigerians for identifying with our vision in this respect. We specifically acknowledge the support and sacrifices of our students (including our members who are running their postgraduate programmes) as well as their parents; they are our critical partners in this transformation project. We in ASUU shall do our utmost best not to let you down.
Compatriots of the Press, ASUU appreciates your concerns and sympathetic support. We are as bothered as you are because we share a common interest in the Nigeria project.
However, ASUU shall continue to be guided by the sacred canons of integrity, objectivity, and responsibility to which both academics and media practitioners subscribe. It is our fervent hope and desire that the current groundswell of interests would culminate in a convergence of solutions to this avoidable crisis in the overall interest of Nigeria. Together, we shall win.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has withdrawn from the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.
He announced his withdrawal from the contest in a statement on Friday in Abuja.
Ngige’s announcement followed a valedictory session held at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa in the nation’s capital, in honour of ministers seeking elective offices in the 2023 general elections.
He had declared his intention to run for President in the forthcoming polls while addressing a crowd of supporters on April 19 at his hometown in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Three weeks later, President Muhammadu Buhari directed all appointed members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) running for elective offices to resign on or before May 16 – a directive which affected Ngige.
While the President went further to organise a valedictory session for the affected persons to appreciate them for their service, the labour minister decided to keep his ministerial job than continue with his presidential bid.
Stressing that he had yet to fill and submit the N100 million worth expression of interest and nomination forms of the All Progressives Congress (APC) bought for him, he explained that dropping his presidential ambition was in the interest of the nation.
Other reasons, according to Ngige, include family-related and to enable him to concentrate on his ministerial job and assist the present administration, especially in what he describes as the difficult last lap
He stated that he has since communicated his decision to President Buhari and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha.
Read the full statement by the labour minister below:
WITHDRAWAL OF MY PRESIDENTIAL ASPIRATION
On Tuesday, 19th April 2022, I publicly declared my interest to contest for the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, following the constitutional provision that precludes our amiable incumbent President, Muhammad Buhari from seeking re-election to the office, as he would have completed his two terms in office by 29th May 2023.
The declaration was made in my hometown, Alor, Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State.
My declaration was sequel to pressure on me from my constituents, political associates, friends, and other well-meaning Nigerians, who felt I possess the necessary qualifications and experience for the job.
Some of these supporters even taxed themselves to procure the Expression of Interest/ Nomination Forms of our Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) for me. The forms, however, are yet to be filled and submitted.
Today, 13th May 2022, I had an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari as a follow up to the one I earlier had with him on May 11th, 2022.
Having also consulted widely with my family, constituents, supporters, and well-wishers, it is my pleasure to announce the withdrawal of my interest and earlier decision to contest the office of the President in the 2023 general elections.
As a result of this, I will NOT be participating in any of the internal party processes of the said election, starting with the primary.
I took this momentous decision firstly in the overall interest of the nation, in order to enable me to concentrate on my job, and assist the President and the Government, to weather the difficult last lap, in the life of the administration and secondly for other family reasons.
I have since communicated this decision to the President and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation.
My constituents, political associates and well-wishers across the country are by this statement informed of this latest decision, which also has the blessing and support of the overwhelming majority, hence supersedes any other interest, personal or otherwise.
Ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige Tuesday formally declared his intention to contest for the position of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He said he has a burning desire to see a prosperous, united and equitable Nigeria, according to a statement from his media office.
Ngige unveiled his presidential ambition before a crowd at St. Mary’s Catholic Church Alor, Idemili South local government area of Anambra State.
Addressing the crowd, comprising APC faithful and other supporters, the former Anambra State Governor said having served 40 years in the public service, he was fully equipped as an administrator, with huge wealth of experience, capacity and energy as well as large heart to accommodate the differences among Nigerians.
Ngige who recounted his numerous achievements as a former governor, ex- Senator and two-time minister, described himself as the “Jack of all trade and master of all” that Nigeria needs now.
He thanked the President for the opportunity offered him to serve as a minister, which broadened his knowledge of the various ministries, departments and agencies, being a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the conciliator of disputes between employers and employees in the various arms of government and the private sector.
He said his stewardship in the difficult and complex Ministry of Labour as the chief conciliator, enriched his knowledge of the problems of workers, the difficulty the industrialists and entrepreneurs face, why industries close down, and why some run far below their installed capacity and in turn employ less hands .
Ngige said, “I also know the unproductive areas and the areas of waste in the public service. I see the energy in labour which has not been properly harnessed. I have seen the low hanging fruits in agriculture , the handicaps, the factors that militate against job creation, which is one of the mandates of my ministry, especially the inter-ministerial and inter agencies cooperation that is missing. I have seen our burgeoning population without a corresponding advantage in terms of improvement in GDP.”
He said under his watch, the Labour Ministry has conciliated 1,683 industrial disputes in the last seven years, 95 percent done successfully in the ministry and its agency, the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP), while only about three percent of the disputes went up to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria(NICN).
The minister said they took labour administration to a higher level in the international arena , where their labour diplomacy brought Nigeria back to the Governing Board (GB) of the International Labour Organisation(ILO) after ten years in absence .
According to him, Nigeria came in first as deputy (titular) 2017, and now full regular member of the GB , having also been elected as the Chairperson of the Government Group , where he presided over the affairs of 187 countries of the ILO between 2019 to 2020.
“My dear friends , colleagues and comrades, many would wonder that after serving seven years as Minister in one of the most difficult ministries of government , in a polity riddled with rising unemployment, bickering and economic disputes between workers and employers, in a famished economy, Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige would have asked for a deserved rest. Yes, a deserved rest would have been okay for me as a person but the zeal, the burning desire in me to see a prosperous, united and equitable Nigeria, where no man is oppressed , where there is no chasm between the haves and have not, would not allow me to go home and rest.”
“Today, as I sit back to ruminate on the state of our country, I find a country led by a patriot, good hearted leader, Muhammadu Buhari, though greatly misunderstood especially in the South Eastern part of Nigeria . Permit me to say that I want to get the nomination of our party and to stand on its manifesto to actualize and execute the programmes of the APC.
“Shall we say the APC as party and as a government has failed? The answer is a big No. The three cardinal issues upon which Nigeria gave us a mandate in 2015 are infrastructure/economic development, security and anti-corruption. In properly assessing this government and our programmes, it is important we start from where we met Nigeria in 2015. I don’t want to be one of those in the class of wailers, wallowing in self-pity. No! I want to be your ambassador so I can go and grow prosperity, grow the resources that are needed for a big country like Nigeria. Truth be told, Nigeria has been in the years of the locust, starting from the 80s, 90s, the long period of military rule to 2015. Luckily, the leaves were all eaten away but the tree and the branches still stand. Yes I’m part of this administration, so I should know what the resources look like and I know what the challenges are. This is because I’m in the room and I’m privy to decisions taken. In scoring the administration, one can give us a pass, credit or distinction in infrastructure depending on the assessor . But let me ask. Can you score a government that has invested massively in infrastructural development, built roads and bridges like Lagos -Ibadan-Ilorin Rd, 2nd Niger Bridge almost completed, and the reactivation of the rail system anything but distinction?
“You can also score us in security, again depending on the baseline – even though we know that the security deterioration is also linked to the economic situation of the country, which has stifled jobs while population gallops by the day.”
Ngige said if he becomes President, the Nigerian Police , as the agency in charge of homeland security would be equipped with men and material to function optimally, lamenting that attempts by the current administration to increased their men by 10,000 every year in the last five years was stifled by unnecessary bureaucracy .
According to him, the decentralization of the Nigerian police is the way to go, so that governors of states can be chief security officers in name and in reality.
He added that the structure of the Nigerian police needs to change and mimic that of the judiciary which has worked well with the State judiciary and the federal arm in a handshake.
He said as a former governor and Chief security officer of a state, he knows what to do and how to do it.
Ngige recalled that as Governor of Anambra State, he met N42b debt, schools closed for one year with teachers and civil servants owed for almost a year, doctors and health professionals on strike for eight months and pensioners treated as “dead woods.”
“I met dilapidated infrastructure, with hopelessness and despair written on the faces of the people of Anambra State. The judiciary was also neither equipped nor energized to do its work. Importantly, I turned all these into history as I cleared the arrears of salaries, pensions, as well as paid off genuine creditors. I and my team rejuvenated the civil service . We further introduced knowledge based promotion through examination. Under our administration, 500km of roads across all senatorial zones were built in 30 months, unprecedented in the history of the State . Handled by the best contractors, these roads still stand like the Rock the of Gibraltar, 16 years after. Anambra then became a metaphor for solid roads under the slogan of Anambra People’s Money at work!”
The presidential hopeful assured that if elected President, he would deploy the resources belonging to Nigerians to the expansion of the infrastructure efforts of the current administration in roads, rail, air and even inland water ways.
Ngige also spoke on his role in the incessant strikes of academics in public universities.
“Some persons have been feeding the public with wrong information that my office is to blame for the incessant strikes by labour unions,” he said. “Here is an opportunity to explain my role as a conciliator. There is a misconception that the conciliator is also the man who will actualize and implement whatever is reached in an agreement. This is wrong . A conciliator is like an arbitrator and not the person who implements the agreement so reached . At most , he can do a facilitation by persuasion for the parties to implement the agreement and that’s where the role stops .
“In the case of the university unions, it is important to make it clear that the Federal Government is not owing them salaries and wages rather, what is being owed is a carry-over of allowances (Earned Academic Allowances/Earned Allowances) from the past administration and that the carry-over is being paid in installment, under a negotiated agreement . In one or two occasions that government defaulted for lack of revenue to pay, it was properly rescheduled.
“Unfortunately, detractors have told unions that Ngige is their problem. How can the Minister of Labour be their problem when he is not their employer ? The Minister of Labour is neither a member of the Governing Council of universities nor the Minister of Education or Finance. The same goes for health workers and doctors. The government side and the fixers of salaries and wages met with them and told them what they are able to pay, which is an ILO principle of Negotiation – Capacity and ability to pay . Instead of following up with negotiations, they would turn around to blame the Minister.
“For example ASUU invented a payment platform, called UTAS . UTAS has been subjected to necessary tests by National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) which said it cannot recommend the system for use, having passed User Acceptability test, but failed Integrity and Credibility test. ASUU said Ngige can do the magic, to force NITDA to clear UTAS and also force the Ministry of Finance to deploy it. This magic is beyond me. They ascribed the powers I don’t have to my office.
“However, conciliation and arbitration is within the ambit of my Ministry and we are doing whatever we can , including persuasion, and subtly moving into other ministries, to try to pressure them, in order to resolve some of the issues. I’m a concerned parent whose children are also in the public universities in Nigeria . In the Seventh Senate , I championed the cause of labour. How then can I turn around to stop the progress of these institutions? God forbid !”
Ngige urged the leaders of the university system to tell their members the truth about what is happening with UTAS at the NITDA as well as the re-negotiation of 2009 agreement ongoing in the Ministry of Education, which ASUU has shunned.
He appealed to ASUU to reconsider their position and save the education sector in Nigeria .
He recalled that two labour centres in Nigeria, the NLC and UTC had on different occasions commended his stewardship in repositioning labour and engendering social dialogue, even as the Nigerian Medical Assocition and the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors commended his efforts in resolving age long challenges in the health sector, describing him as “ a medical elder of repute.”
Earlier, the President of National Forum for South East Presidency, Patrick Enunekwu described Ngige as the most qualified among all the aspirants, saying his experience cuts across all the arms of government including the judiciary, which he worked with while serving as Governor
Enunekwu said the roads Ngige built over 17 years ago in Anambra State still stands the test of time.
Speaking in a similar vein, a former APC governorship aspirant in Anambra State, Kaodilinye Okelekwe extolled Ngige for his selflessness, determination, self confidence, far sightedness and good judgement, which are the characteristics of a good leader.
Also, the leader of the South-East APC Progressive Forum, Chukwudi Uba expressed trust in the ability of Ngige to restore security in Nigeria and revamp the economy to ensure a prosperous Nigeria where all citizens would enjoy the benefits of the resources of the country maximally.
Mr Dele Ashiru has faulted the belief that university education is tailored for employability, maintaining that graduates from the institutions are supposed to be employers of labour.
The Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), University of Lagos State (UNILAG) chapter, made the comment on Friday during his appearance on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily.
“There is a fundamental assumption that is wrong: university education is not for employability. That one is basic,” he said during the show. “If you have a good university education, you should be an employer of labour.”
According to him, access to university education is not for everybody, explaining that in developed nations; only a few people get to that level.
“If you look at systems all over the world, only a certain percentage of citizens in the country should be able to go to a university. The rest should go to what they call a polytechnic, a monotechnic, a technical college etc. such that by the time they finish from those institutions of learning, as it was in Nigeria in the past, they can move into the industry as artisans and all that,” the lecturer said.
For the ASUU UNILAG leader, the love for university education in the country is unnecessary; a situation he said does not bode well for Nigeria.
“And that’s why the pressure is on university education. Check any developed country in the world,” Mr Ashiru explained. “Those who populate their universities are not from their citizens.”
His comment comes amid the ongoing nationwide strike by ASUU. The lecturers are in the third week of a month-long industrial action to press home their demands.
Already, a series of meetings have been held between the union and the Federal Government’s delegation but ASUU is accusing the government of reneging on its agreement with them.
On Thursday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said most of the union’s demands have been met by the Nigerian government.
“A lot of them have been dealt with after our meeting in October last year,” Mr Ngige said during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“That’s why I said I was shocked they went on strike. The only place where they have a point to hold onto and do their strike is on the issue of renegotiation of 2009 – conditions of service because their conditions of service were supposed to be reviewed.”
A few days ago, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) protested across the nation, demanding the reopening of campus. They are also asking to become a part of negotiations between ASUU and the Federal Government.
The strike is the most recent in a series of industrial actions by university teachers. It comes just a little over one year since the lecturers called off a nine-month strike.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, on Thursday said he was “seriously consulting” to run for President in 2023.
He made the remark during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
“I told my constituents that were urging me on last December that I will do some consultation and that I will speak to them in April, during Easter. So I am doing my consultations,” he said when asked if he would run for President.
The Minister added that he was “qualified” to be President although he is yet to inform President Muhammadu Buhari.
He said some Nigerians, including a former Inspector-General of Police, have asked him to run.
Amid speculations of a South-East Presidency, Mr Ngige said he wasn’t running based on regional sentiments.
“If I’m going to run, I won’t run because I’m Igbo,” he said. “I will run as Chris Nwabueze Ngige, a Nigerian citizen, from the South-East of Nigeria, precisely Anambra State, and from a local government called Idemilli South and a town called Alor.
“I am not going to wear a toga of Igbo President. I’m of Igbo extraction but very qualified to be President of Nigeria.”
“The only place where they have a point to hold onto and do their strike is on the issue of renegotiation of 2009 – conditions of service, because their conditions of service was supposed to be reviewed.”
The Minister noted that the academics have produced an interim report on conditions of service which was rejected by the National Salaries, Incomes & Wages Commission (NSIWC).
“Because the things they have in there, in terms of allowances, were contrary to existing extant financial regulations,” he said.
Mr Ngige said he was hopeful the academics will call of their strike soon so that students can return to the classroom.
One bone of contention for the academics is the non-payment of university revitalisation funds, which amounts to about N1.1 trillion.
But Mr Ngige maintained that the Federal Government doesn’t have the money to pay such an amount, citing low oil prices during the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The agreement was reportedly struck in 2009.
“In 2016/2017 government said it doesn’t have the money,” Mr Ngige said. “But we will find a way by which we can fund the universities. So, a committee was set up with ASUU as members.”
According to Mr Ngige, the committee “couldn’t come up with anything that could generate funds.
“The committee even recommended that stamp duty should be taken. There was a proposal to get money from phone charges. Government made it clear that we don’t have the 1.1 trillion that is remaining.”
The Minister, who was at the State House to brief the President on successes made so far in the negotiation with the ASUU, noted that the issue of earned allowances have remained inconclusive as the Federal Government is willing to make the university lecturers happy after due process has been completed.
ASUU, the umbrella union for university academics, is currently on a one-month warning strike.
The Minister met with ASUU representatives later on Tuesday.
The academics are seeking improved welfare, revitalisation of public universities and university autonomy among other demands.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, expressed optimism that the impasse will be resolved.
Both parties disagreed on who is delaying the evaluation process for the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS), ASUU’s preferred payroll system.
While the Minister said the union is delaying the process of finalizing with the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on areas where harmonization is needed, the academics insisted that NITDA was unprepared for them.
Disagreement over a payroll system is one critical factor that the academics have listed for embarking on the latest strike.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) maintains that it will not back down on the current industrial action, accusing the Federal Government of not keeping to its promises.
President of the union, Emmanuel Osodeke said this on Monday, more than two weeks after ASUU declared a one-month warning strike over the Federal Government’s inability to honour its agreement with the body.
“For the past nine years or so, they have been giving us promises but once the strike is over, they relapse,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s meeting with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
“So, our colleagues are tired of these promises which they don’t fulfill. What we want is actions,” the ASUU leader told Channels Television’s breakfast show, Sunrise Daily.
‘We’re Paid For Work Done’
According to him, members of the union have sacrificed for the country’s educational system, noting that many schools have not missed any academic year in spite of the strike actions by ASUU.
Osodeke explained that many lecturers have not gone on leave for years as they try to meet up with the calendar, debunking claims that varsity teachers are paid for doing nothing.
“Anybody who says ASUU is paid after strike, he is telling a lie. We are paid for the work done,” he said, maintaining that if the Federal Government had followed their own part of the deal, ASUU would not have gone on strike.
Despite complaints from Nigerian students that they are the ones who bear the brunt of the incessant strikes by the union, the ASUU president told them to hold the government responsible. He said unlike, in the past, the government has not properly funded education.
While admitting that the students have the right to protest what they believe is wrong, Osodeke said ASUU is not moved by the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) planned protest.
“If the students are well-taken care of, they will not be talking about house rents because they will be staying in hostels. But today government has abandoned hostels. That is it. That is what the students should fight for. If all the students are staying in hostels, nobody would ask them to pay extra rent,” he said, calling on the government to do the needful.