The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that the Federal Government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will meet again in February to review the developments in the issues regarding the months-long industrial action.
He made this known on Wednesday on Channels TV’s Politics Today when asked what will happen if the ASUU decides to embark on another strike, should the government fail to keep to its own end of the bargain.
“I will make sure the government does its own bit,” he assured, adding that the agreement has been structured in such a way that “it is a win-win situation for everybody”.
“For the revitalisation, we have given government up to the 31st of January to pay that. We have also opened the window so that by the end of February, we will sit down again and review all these situations. Nobody is going to keep anybody in suspense.
“I will not give ASUU the opportunity to go on strike. Because I have three biological children that suffered from this imbroglio that we found ourselves in and about 15 people on my scholarship in Nigerian Universities. So I am a committed parent,” the minister added.
This comes hours after the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) “conditionally” suspended its strike, ending a protracted industrial action that started in March 2020.
ASUU National President, Biodun Ogunyemi made the announcement during a briefing of the union in Abuja, explaining that the development followed the agreement reached with the Federal Government and a meeting with its National Executive Council (NEC).
The suspension of the strike takes effect from Thursday, December 24.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said that he will do everything to ensure that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) does not go on another industrial action.
He explained that three of his biological children have also been victims of the system, so he is personally committed to resolving the issues.
“I will not give ASUU the opportunity to go on strike. Because I have three biological children that suffered from this imbroglio that we found ourselves in and about 15 people on my scholarship in Nigerian Universities,” the Minister said on Channels TV’s Politics Today on Wednesday.
“My three biological children are here in Nigerian Universities. They even went to secondary school here. Two of them are American citizens and I had the option of leaving them to go study in America and enjoy the free education or whatever, but I didn’t. So, I am a committed parent. I am involved, even more than some ASUU members because some of them have their children in private schools.”
Ngige said this hours after the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) “conditionally” suspended its strike, ending a protracted industrial action that started in March.
National President of the association, Biodun Ogunyemi made the announcement during a briefing of the union in Abuja on Wednesday.
Ogunyemi explained that the development followed the agreement reached with the Federal Government and a meeting with its National Executive Council (NEC).
The suspension of the strike takes effect from Thursday, December 24.
Meanwhile, the union has stressed that it will not hesitate to commence another strike if the government does not keep to its end of the bargain.
But Ngige has vowed to do everything possible to ensure that does not happen.
“I will make sure the government does its own bit,” he said.
He gave an assurance that the agreement reached is so structured “in such a way that it is a win-win situation for everybody.”
“For the revitalisation, we have given government up to the 31st of January to pay that. We have also opened the window so that by the end of February, we will sit down again and review all these situations. Nobody is going to keep anybody in suspense.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, is hopeful that the ongoing strike by university lecturers will soon be called off.
He made the remark on Tuesday as the Federal Government resumes negotiations with the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to end the industrial action that has crippled academic activities in universities for about nine months.
Ngige, in his opening address at the meeting held in Abuja, urged the academics led by the ASUU President, Professor Biodun Ogunyemi, to ensure the discussions yielded the desired result.
According to him, the government has addressed all grey areas, and those who plan to occupy the streets in January 2021 to begin an #EndStrike protest will be disappointed.
At Thursday’s meeting, the federal government was represented by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige and the Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission (NUC), Prof. Abubakar Adamu Rasheed.
In his opening remarks at the meeting, the Minister said he expects to hear ASUU’s feedback on the offers the government made in their last meeting.
However, ASUU President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said his union hopes to get more offers from the government to take back to its members.
Two previous meetings scheduled earlier had been postponed as the striking lecturers said they were still consulting.
The Federal Government has announced the reduction of the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly known as petrol from N168 to N163.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, after meeting with the organised labour which began around 9 pm on Monday and ended at 1:30 am on Tuesday.
According to the Minister, a technical committee has been set up to ensure price stability in the industry.
Ngige stated that the committee, which will report back to the larger house on January 25, will appraise the market forces and other things that would ensure stability in the industry.
The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Mr Ayuba Wabba, also maintained the position of the minister, saying that the agreement was reached by both sides.
The product presently dispenses at N168, following the decision of the Petroleum Products Marketing Company to increase the ex-depot price of petrol from N147.67 per litre to N155.17 per litre in November.
Meanwhile, there is no conclusion yet on the demand for a reversal of the electricity tariff and the Federal Government said talks were ongoing with the distribution companies.
For the sixth time since the current administration announced a hike in the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff in November, members of the organized labour movement and the Federal Government’s team have been holding series of talks, to continue the discussions on the demand of the workers union.
Both the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) had called for a reversal of the recent hike, threatening to embark on a nationwide strike and protests, the reason why the government had to convene a meeting a month ago.
At the last meeting, the Federal Government explained that it needed one week to make further consultations.
The strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities may soon be called off after an eight-hour meeting between ASUU leaders and federal government representatives ended on an amicable note.
Briefing journalists after the eight-hour meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, said the dialogue was fruitful.
ASUU’s president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi agreed with the Minister’s remarks.
Ngige said the government has made a proposal which ASUU will take back to their executives.
The minister explained that several issues were discussed in the Friday meeting, including salary shortfall, the payment system for lecturers and revitalisation of universities.
He expressed optimism that all the issues will be resolved at their next meeting.
ASUU has been on strike since March over unmet demands by the federal government.
The NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, was absent at the meeting, but he was represented by the General Secretary of the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), Joe Ajaero.
Ajaero disagreed with the remarks of the labour minister and the SGF that the last meeting was a recess, insisting that it did not end peacefully.
He also insisted that the agenda for discussion should be presented for adoption before going forward.
Others in attendance include the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo; the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouk.
The Federal Government says the issue of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) would soon be resolved.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, disclosed this on Tuesday during an interview on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
Ngige said the Ministries of Finance, Education, Labour and Employment and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation will meet with the body.
“The issue of ASUU will soon come to an end,” he said. “Two reasons – ASUU have called the Federal Government represented by Finance and the Accountant-General Office and their direct employers, the Ministry of Education to come for the test.”
Ngige’s remarks come three days after ASUU said it had not called off its nationwide industrial action which started in March.
According to ASUU Vice President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, the strike is still in force until the Federal Government meets their demands.
Also, President of the union, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, had vowed that the union would sustain its ongoing strike action until its requirements were met.
Ogunyemi said ASUU was asking the Federal Government to implement the 2012 universities’ needs assessment.
The ASUU leader had during a press conference on March 23, announced the nationwide strike, adding that the union rejected the use of force to enrol on Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS).
The National Universities Commission ordered universities across the country to close for a month, beginning from March 23, due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
The Federal Government on Tuesday met with the organised Labour over the hike in electricity and fuel tariffs.
The meeting called by the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigerian Labour Congress in attendance held at the Banquet Hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Channels Television learned that the meeting which is at the directives of President Muhammadu Buhari is to discuss solutions to the recurring labour issues with a view to finding an end to incessant industrial actions.
In attendance at the meeting is the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, the Minister of Works, Babatunde Fashola and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Timipre Sylva.
This comes as the labour unions are threatening to down tool over the pump price of petrol and electricity tariff.
They are also complaining of non-implementation of the N30,000 new minimum wage, alleged corruption in government agencies, loss of jobs across the industries, high cost of living and, businesses not booming in the light of the effects of COVID-19.
The labour unions and their civil society allies are meant to commence an indefinite industrial action and national protest from Wednesday, September 23.
On his part, the Minister of State for Petroleum said all is not well with the economy, calling for cooperation to fix the economy
While making a presentation on the topic, “Understanding the importance of fuel subsidy on the Nigerian Economy and the gains of deregulation,” Sylva noted that subsidy payment is a major source of corruption.
According to the minister, oil prices are low, adding that there is also a cut in production to about 1.412 million barrels per day.
Sylva who stressed that the nation’s major source of income which is oil, reduced by over 50 per cent, maintained that Nigeria was losing about N1billion daily to subsidy between 2016-2019.
Prior to this time, the country was losing about 3.7 billion naira daily.
Speaking further, he explained that despite the deregulation, fuel price in the country is the cheapest in the West African region.
He added that subsidy cost the government N2trillion in 2011 and N1.3trillion in 2013.
The Federal Government has threatened to sanction members of the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) over its planned strike.
The union had threatened to embark on a nationwide seven-day warning strike if the government fails to meet their demands which include payment of hazard and inducement allowance by mid-night of Sunday, September 13.
In a statement signed by its national chairman, Joy Josiah, JOHESU said the warning strike will only involve federal institutions while the states and local government health institutions will be placed “on red alert for possible entry into the fray if the federal government foot-drags in attending to our demands”.
But speaking on Friday in Abuja, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, asked the union to shelve its planned industrial action.
Ngige argued that the Federal Government has the powers to sanction union over behaviour he described as “off the line.”
“As part of the government, we have our own powers to sanction unions. We told them yesterday we have our powers. It is here, the powers of the President and the Minister of Labour to sanction unions,” Ngige said while displaying the Labour Laws.
“When the existence is no longer beneficial on the interest of the nation, especially those on essential services, we don’t need to all flex our muscles and say this is our power.
“We don’t want to use it. We don’t want to come close to even using it. The way the government has been made a punching bag, everybody punches and says this government is deceitful, this government has not done this even when we have done them.”
On his part, JOHESU president vowed that the union will go ahead with its plans to down tools should the government fail to address their concerns.
“Laws of the International Labour Organisation on no work no pay and all that have been selectively used on us.
“I want to state it clearly that the JOHESU leadership here, we are ready to even pay the sacrifice of going to prison because that is the last of the threat. It was said before and today it is also being quoted,” Josiah said adding that their demands are legitimate.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has asked the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), to end the ongoing strike which they kick-started on Monday.
The resident doctors issued a nationwide strike ultimatum to press on eight demands centred on a pay rise, adequate facilities, and better welfare packages.
According to Mr Ngige, in a statement on Monday, the resident doctors should embrace dialogue to resolve outstanding issues with the Federal Government.
The Minister, who listed the efforts by the Federal Government, maintained that six of the demands have already addressed.
“Recall that most of the issues listed in the demands are issues that have been under Conciliation since May 2020 that resulted in their strike in June 2019.
“The NARD leadership in three conciliatory meetings with the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) leadership in attendance can attest that out of the eight (8) demands listed after their Bauchi NEC meeting, the Federal Government via the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) and Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning (FMoFB&NP) has already addressed about six of the demands comprehensively and satisfactorily.”
Mr Ngige stressed that despite the economic challenges facing the country, and a revenue shortfall, the government has been able to spend N20 billion on health workers between April and June this year.
“Even with the lean resources available due to the COVID-19 effect on oil output and price resulting in low revenue, the Federal Government has addressed the COVID-19 Special Hazard and Inducement Allowances for Medical and Health Workers to the extent that as of today, N20 billion has been expended by the FMoH and FMoF&NP on this allowance for April, May, and June 2020 with very little grey areas of outstanding payments to some Health Workers for June 2020.”
The Minister noted that “the issue of Group Life Insurance for Medical and Health Workers were also dealt with fully with the Office of the Head of Service passing the records to both NARD and FMoH, to pass on to their medical doctors and other health workers to make appropriate claims when necessary, with the details of the 13 Leading Insurance companies and brokers, an exercise that cost the Federal Government N9.3 billion as a premium to run from the COVID-19 period of March 2020 to March 2021.”
He stated that the life insurance covers both Health professionals and workers, and all federal civil servants and public servants in federal organisations.
Similarly, Mr Ngige said that the Federal Government also appropriated the sum of N4 billion from the Special Intervention COVID-19 N500 billion 2020 Appropriation, for funding of Medical Residency Training and with intent to do the same in the ongoing 2021 Budget to be submitted to NASS for consideration. He added that the N4 billion has been processed for payment.
“Other issues like the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital right between NARD and the authorities were addressed while old issues not related to the COVID-19 period and issues of State Governments not addressing the Consequential Minimum Wage Adjustments, and low patronage of Residency programme are work in progress.”
The Minister asked the union not to throw caution to the wind by ignoring the case before the National Industrial Court.
He stated that the interlocutory injunction against further strike actions by NARD, which was gotten by the Citizens Advocacy for Social Rights (CASER) and Association of Women in Trading and Agriculture (AWITA) is still valid and the union should respect the Country’s Laws and withdraw the September 7 strike ultimatum.
Meanwhile, the Minister fixed Wednesday, September 9 to reconvene the ongoing conciliation meeting between NARD, the Federal Ministry of Health, and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning.
“The President joins the medical community, labour fraternity, the legislature, where the celebrant served as Senator, and people of Anambra State, whom he served as Governor, to salute Dr Ngige for his meritorious stewardship to community, state, country and humanity, wishing him greater health, strength and sound mind,” the statement partly read.
While wishing the minister well in all his endeavours, President Buhari acknowledged Ngige’s role as “conciliator-general between government and organized labour.”