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.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has apologised to the National Assembly over the recent face-off between the Minister of State For Labour, Festus Keyamo and the joint Senate and House Committees on Labour, Productivity and Employment.
The Minister tendered an apology on Tuesday when he led a delegation from the Ministry on a visit to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, at the National Assembly, Abuja.
“We deeply regret the incident that happened, the altercation that followed it, between my Minister of State and members of the Joint Committee,” Ngige was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the spokesman to the Senate President, Ezrel Tabiowo.
The Minister noted that his visit was to give the lawmakers the necessary information needed to fast-track the Special Public Works Programme of the Federal Government.
Ngige also called for a good working relationship between the legislative and executive arms of government on the programme which he said was designed from the office of the President before the COVID-19.
“Having visited your domain to the Joint Committee on Labour, Productivity and Employment over some issues of the Special Public Works Programme of the Federal Government, a programme that was designed by the Executive with the legislature, if the Executive makes a proposal and it is not funded, then that proposal will be dead on the table.
“Therefore, we decided that as a team, we would come with full force and give the necessary information that we need so that we can fast track this Programme which was designed from the office of the President before the COVID-19.
“We must work together without acrimony or even drawing a very rigid line of who has this power and who doesn’t. That is the only way the programmes of government can be made sustainable and executed for the benefit of our people.
“In the Seventh Senate, the National Assembly didn’t have a rancorous relationship with the Executive of Ebele Jonathan, even though some of us were in the opposition parties,” he said.
The Federal Government has released the sum of N4.5 billion to 31 Federal Teaching and Medical Centres across the country.
The sum is to cover hazard and inducement allowances for the month of April and May.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, disclosed this on Friday while briefing State House Correspondents in Abuja, the nation’s capital.
The Minister spoke after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari.
“Just this morning before we went to see Mr President, the Ministry of Finance reported that as at 3:00 am this morning, paid the allowances for a hazard to 31 Teaching and Federal Medical Centres and special hospitals of the Federal Government’s service.
“And they have extended close to N4.5billion because we are paying them off the arrears of April and May. The payments for June will also be done when these ones are sorted out. So we have expended N4.5billion as we speak this morning for these payments,” he said.
Ngige’s comments come three days after a meeting between the Federal Government delegation and the National Association of Resident Doctors aimed at resolving the strike embarked upon by the association ended in a deadlock.
The striking doctors refused to reconvene after a brief recess and their president, Dr Aliyu Sokomba, told Channels Television that they are not ready to shift position until their demands are met.
However, Ngige insisted that the meeting was successful, as most of the demands are being resolved.
He later noted that the representatives of the striking doctors have informed them that their members do not agree with the resolutions from the meeting so far, and as such cannot call off the strike until some tangible evidence of commitment from the government is received.
Also speaking, the Minister of Health says the government has the obligation to protect the health of citizens, and since the doctors are not ready to resume, certain steps must be taken.
He also noted that a circular has been sent out to all government hospitals to open a register from Wednesday, to take note of doctors that will resume for work.
The ongoing two-week warning strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been declared as illegal and the announcement, according to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, came as a shock.
ASUU commenced the strike action on Monday over issues of the alleged imposition of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS), poor funding and proliferation of State universities, among other issues.
At the end of the Federal Executive Council meeting on Wednesday in Abuja, Dr Ngige explained that the last discussion the Federal Government had with ASUU, necessitated that a nomination is done to serve the IPPIS committee.
I was shocked that on Monday, just like every other person, I read and saw some people coming out of the university system that their lecturers have gone on strike.
It is not cheery news, they didn’t give us the mandatory notice before going on strike; so for a start, this strike is illegal.
They said it’s a warning strike, a strike is a strike; it’s the withdrawing of services from which you are being paid, he maintained.
Speaking further, Dr Ngige said the effects on the University system are not encouraging, and then questions will arise regarding payment of salaries during the strike period.
The staff that will manage the IPPISS in the universities are the staff of the universities, not people in Abuja.
So we asked ASUU to nominate people to serve in the IPPISS committee in every institution, so that is where we are after the visit to President Buhari.
Now the question will arise, if you don’t go to work if you withdraw your services, do you want to be paid? is it not corruption?
Channels Television reported that a couple of universities including the Federal University of Technology Owerri FUTO Imo state, University of Ilorin, after a 20-year absence from general nationwide warning strike, Taraba state university, the University of Ibadan and others.
“So, we have used this (N-power scheme) and drastically reduced youth unemployment but we have not gotten to our target because most African government, Nigeria inclusive, we have some bad effects of the recession that started since 2008.
“That recession may have cleared *sic* in Europe and other climes, but in Africa, the effect of the recession still abound.
“Nigeria is a country that is dependent on oil revenue. It is of late that the government of Muhammadu Buhari started a diversification programme by which we now have other things to export,” the Minister said.
Also at the event, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and its social partners offered an insight into how African countries can reduce rising unemployment rate, especially among the youth population.
The director-general of the NECA, Timothy Olawale, warned that Africa could be sitting on a time bomb unless drastic measures were taken to address increased youth unemployment on the continent.
He believes that industries will thrive if the political space allows for job creation by putting in place policies that will be favourable for employers.
He further analysed that there will be less crime and social peace in Africa if there are more jobs as economic growth creates jobs.
According to the Blueprint for Jobs in Africa which was adopted by the social partners in December 2015 in Casablanca, 63 per cent of the African population is less than 25 years old.
The Blueprint further showed that every month, at least one million young people on the continent enter the job market. And out of about 73 million jobs created on the continent in the past few years, only about 16 million jobs were grabbed by the youth population of Africa which is put at over 200 million people.
At the summit, the ILO submitted that the number of productive jobs in Africa would have to increase by over 300 million or some 26 million per year, more than doubling the number of existing productive jobs to reach 579 million by 2030.
The Minister Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has condemned the industrial action embarked upon by electricity workers, revealing that it is as a result of a power struggle between the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC).
Dr Ngige who was on Channels Television Lunchtime Politics, said that an investigation by the Labour Ministry showed the level of a power struggle between the unions, and he told them not to do anything unfair that will affect the country.
He added that the effect of the strike action has caused the country billions of Naira and loss of lives.
“My initial investigation as the Minister of Labour is that there is a power-play between NUEE and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity Workers who are domiciled there.
“There is a power struggle on who is senior and who is more potent in terms of effecting unionism and they have carried this on and inflicted the whole country with a power outage that has caused us billions of naira and loss of lives; it is unfair and I have told them not to do that.”
The Labour Minister stated that his ministry will carry out further investigation on the matter and will invoke the relevant labour laws on liable unions.
“The unions are not ‘Omni-Sacrosanct’ that we can’t do anything to them, we will look at the issue and if they are liable, I will invoke the relevant sections of the labour act on that.
“The preliminary investigation shows that there is a power play, and they cannot use power play to punish the entire nation and make us lose man-hours, billions of naira and lose lives in hospitals that their generators are not working.”
On the lingering issues between the unions, the Ministry of Power, Distribution Companies (DisCos) and Generating companies (GenCos), Dr Ngige faulted the processes adopted by electricity workers to embark on the nationwide strike, stressing that respect for the rule of law must be adhered to.
“The rule of law is not for the government alone, it is for the citizens too. There are set laws for people to apply in industrial relations and all are encapsulated in the trade dispute act.
“Before somebody on essential service, of which electricity workers are one, can proceed on industrial action; you must notify your direct employers first and the onus is on them to convene a meeting, they then approach the labour ministry, the labour minister is there, that’s my work and they give the ultimatum and there are special forms called the ‘Trade Dispute forms’ which they fill and lodge in the Ministry; all that was not done.
“They just had issues with their direct employers which are the Ministry of Power, the DisCos which is mostly privatized with the government having just 40 percent while the investors have 60 percent,” he added.
Dr Ngige also revealed that the problems are more with the DisCos and GenCos, and where it concerns the Federal Government is in the aspect of the severance package.
He stated that since the unbundling of the power sector, 400 persons out of the remaining 600 outstanding cases have been captured.
“Some of the problems are in the DisCos, the GenCos and some with the government. The Government side of the problem is where they said that some of the people that were severed when those parastatals were privatized have not been paid off.
“The statistics are there and it is only about 600 persons that their cases are outstanding and out of those, 400 have been captured and sent to the Accountant-General of the Federation because what had happened is that all the monies gathered from the sales of privatization were expended in terms of the severance benefits and other allowances that were due to the workers that had to leave those DisCos and GenCos, so 98 percent of the money went in there.
“Shortfall in salaries is a continuous thing and is being addressed and it’s not even a government thing, it is with the DisCos,” he stressed.
The strike action by electricity workers was called off in the early hours of Thursday after the union had earlier issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Minister of Power for a dialogue to resolve the lingering industrial crisis in the sector.
The workers held a protest on Wednesday, over the non-payment of a severance package for members who were affected by the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria PHCN into eleven electricity distribution companies (DisCos), six generating companies (GenCos), and a transmission company (TCN).
The workers in blocked main entrance gate and locked out some staff to the Ministry of Power.
The lawmakers expressed worry that if the strike is not averted, there will be economic consequences.
The House then resolved to call the Ministers of Power and Labor to ensure the issues with the generating companies are settled without degenerating into a nationwide strike that will cause total blackout with resultant effect on the socio-economic conditions of the people
Electricity union had earlier issued a 21-day ultimatum to the Minister of Power for a dialogue to resolve the lingering industrial crisis in the sector.
Some of the unresolved issues are illegal transfer of union properties to power investors and the alleged refusal by some distribution companies (discos) to remit deducted contributory pension of their members of staff to pension managers.