The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) says the Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige did not invite the union for a meeting.
Ngige had after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday said he will be meeting with the union to continue discussions about the lingering strike embarked on by ASUU.
But ASUU president Emmanuel Osodeke said the union was not informed about any meeting with the Federal Government.
“We were not invited to any meeting. None of our members was invited. We have a secretariat but we never got any invitation from them,” the ASUU leader said in an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily on Thursday.
“The problem we have with this government, especially with the minister of labour, is that if you can tell the world that you have fixed a meeting which you didn’t, how do you expect us to believe other things you have said?
“He should confirm to the world that he sent an invitation to ASUU for a meeting on Thursday.”
The Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige says the Federal Government has been meeting with the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) over its lingering strike and assured Nigerians that the dispute with the lecturers will be resolved soon.
Ngige said this on Wednesday while briefing the press after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House in Abuja.
According to him, contrary to insinuations that the government was not engaging with ASUU, there have been a series of meetings between all parties, and the next one is scheduled for Thursday to resolve the face-off.
“As the issue is bordered on money, remunerations, welfare, we did another conciliation meeting inviting the ministry of finance, budget office of the federation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission and again, with their employers on the 1st of March,” Ngige added.
“After that, it became clear that two cardinal things were still keen — the issue of renegotiation of their welfare package as in the 2009 agreement; that agreement says you can review every five years, so, that issue stuck out like a sore thumb.
“Then another issue arose in that agreement — the payment platform of university transparency, accountability solution, which they say they’ve invented. They said they don’t want to be on IPPIS; that IPPIS was amputating their salaries and taking off certain allowances, and so, that it is not capturing their peculiarities.
“So, we now have to ask them to go back to these places, form committees with them. Education took them on the issue of 2009 agreement, which is renegotiation of their conditions of service, emolument, their remuneration allowances. Therefore, salaries, income and wages, and ministry of finance that produce the money are involved. So, they went back.”
The former governor also dismissed talks that the Federal Government has a different payment table for trade unions in tertiary institutions. Ngige noted that it might be impossible to raise the payment table because other unions, even in the health sector, might kick.
He said although the Government is not afraid of handling the situation, it has to operate within the available resource.
The Labour Minister also promised that the 13-year-old ASUU challenge involving a 2009 negotiation agreement and payment platform issues are being renegotiated and will be resolved before the end of the current administration.
Ngige’s remark is the latest from the Federal Government since the face-off with the university lecturers who had embarked on strike since February 14.
The public university teachers are seeking improved funding for the government-owned institution, and the adoption of its University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) payment platform among others.
Several meetings between the Federal Government and the union in the past months have yielded little results. Students across the country had earlier protested against the lingering industrial action, vowing to shutdown major roads in Nigeria.
The Federal Government will resume talks with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) by next week as part of moves to end the lingering strike by the lecturers.
Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige, said this on Friday in his opening remark at a meeting with the striking National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
“As a conciliator, I manage you people in measured steps. That is why I want to take all of you holistically and I ask for your cooperation. When I finish with you today, I will continue with ASUU next week,” a statement by the acting spokesman of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Patience Onuobia, quoted Ngige as saying.
“I have done NASU and SSANU yesterday and they were happy. I want you people to be happy as we leave here.”
He said that strikes in the education sector could have been averted if the unions embraced his open-door policy.
“If you are from any union, you don’t need to book an appointment to see me. The doctors started using that advantage, and JOHESU also did the same. That is why the health sector is quiet. But the education unions don’t take advantage of my open-door policy,” the former Anambra State governor said.
“We don’t have to cry over spilt milk. Let us look at your issues to see the ones we can handle immediately, the ones we can do in the medium term and the ones we can do in the long term. There are certain ones that are over and above me, that are not in my hands to do.
“My job is to prepare an agreement after conciliation on what you have agreed with your employers, the Federal Ministry of Education, put timelines and monitor them, to see whether the results will be there.”
The minister believes the strikes in the sector were mainly due to economic reasons and he says with dialogue, the solution would be reached.
The move is the government’s latest effort to end the strike which was embarked on by ASUU on February 14, 2022.
Following the industrial action, students recently protested in Benin City, calling for the reopening of schools.
Several high-profile personalities including the First Lady of Lagos State, Ibironke Sanwo-Olu, have also waded into the matter. She is concerned that with students at home for over two months, they risk taking up crimes.
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.
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.
Senator Chris Ngige believes he has the capacity to turn the country’s fortunes for good, insisting that if he wins the presidential race in 2023, two years would be enough to do that.
“If my party gives me the ticket, many Nigerians know that Chris Ngige is the round peg for the round hole of Nigeria. I will fit in, and in two years, only two years, you would see the effect of my governance,” the Labour and Employment Minister said when he featured on Channels Television’s Politics Today.
According to him, while the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is the major challenger against his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), he is confident that the ruling party will win the 2023 polls.
He argued that the APC has been winning most of the bye-elections across the country, saying it is an indication that it is the party to beat in the next general elections.
“Have you looked at the INEC bye-elections results in the last 18 months? My party is constantly winning elections because the people know. Don’t think that these people you see in the rural areas don’t know what is going on in the country. They know!” he said on Thursday.
“PDP is our main challenger but we shall win them. They have always been challenging us,” the former governor maintained.
The minister said he has the qualities to lead Nigeria, recalling his years of public service. As far as he is concerned, his loyalty to the ruling party is also a critical factor that puts him in good stead to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari.
“If you look at it, I am a two-time minister which means I started with the administration in 2015 and then I was reappointed,” Ngige argued.
“So, I have passed through the crucibles so to say as a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC). So, the government programmes, Vis-à-vis the manifesto of our party, the APC, are known to me.”
His comments followed his declaration for the presidential seat earlier in the week. He joins a growing list of top politicians that have formally declared their intentions to contest for the post in next year’s polls.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has stated that he has little control over the current impasse between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government.
Dr Ngige made this known on Monday while receiving members of the government side of the 2009 Federal Government/University-based unions agreement re-negotiation committee led by the Chairman, Prof. Nimi Briggs.
“As a conciliator, I have to make use of the labour instruments at my disposal. The bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education, do not feel the strike,” Ngige said
“There are things that are above me. I am not the Minister of Education. I cannot go to the Education Minister and dictate to him how to run his place”.
Speaking against the backdrop of the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU), Ngige said the union needed to make known their grievances to the right ministry to enable speedy resolution.
“But I told ASUU that you should be bombarding them at the Federal Ministry of Education for this to be moved forward. There are many ways to do so. If you go to the labour act,” he said.
“There is something called picketing. You can picket. The strike is an ultimate thing. Picketing means that you can stay in the corridor, clapping or singing. Workers are permitted to do so. But I am tired of every time there is a disagreement, it is a strike.”
“And the bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education don’t feel the strike. It is the children and some of us parents that have our children in public schools. I have my children in public universities.
“Three have graduated in medicine from Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University Teaching Hospital in Awka in 2020, LUTH College of Medicine in October 2021 and UniAbuja in December 2021. Others are still there including those on my foundation’s scholarship and sponsorship”.
The Federal Government has said that it is not opposed to renegotiations of the conditions of service of all workers in the public universities across the country.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige stated this on Monday while receiving members of the government side of the 2009 Federal Government/University-based unions agreement re-negotiation committee led by the Chairman, Prof. Nimi Briggs.
Speaking against the backdrop of the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU), Ngige said as the conciliator, he has been pushing to see that everything contained in the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the government and the union was done, including the implementation of the renegotiated positions.
The minister recalled that the renegotiation commenced in 2017 when the Federal Government was inaugurated. a committee headed by Wale Babalakin SAN who was later replaced by Professor Manzali, but COVID-19 struck in 2020.
He explained that in the December 2020 agreement, he gave the government side a timeline to return to the university unions who are their employees to sort everything out.
“I started pushing to see that things were done. What the Manzali committee came up with is a proposal. Both Manzali and ASUU did not sign. At our last meeting in February before ASUU proceeded on strike, we said everyone should go back to his principal,” Ngige stated during the meeting.
“I asked the Education ministry several times what they had done with the document. We later got information on areas of disagreement. There is nothing wrong with that. It is bound to happen. I told ASUU to put up a committee, they said Manzali committee had expired.”
“So, I am a parent. I feel it. I didn’t send my children to Igbinedion or Afe Babalola or Cambridge.”
Ngige said his daughter as American citizenship could have accessed American education but he refused.
According to him, the Nigerian university system produced him and he remains proud of it.
“When we went to universities here, I knew the course content and as a medical doctor, the doctors we trained here are better than the ones trained abroad. That is one of the counsels I gave to my children. You can do your first degree. One got admission in Ghana, I said no. Others got in Canada and UK, but I refused. If anybody will be interested in the welfare of workers in Nigerian universities, I am number one. I told my colleagues that what university professors showed us here as their salaries is unacceptable.”
The minister said he had commissioned studies on productivity with regards to emoluments and based on the results he got, it was clear that payments done ten years ago when the exchange rate was better, amounted to nothing now with 100 percent depreciation of Naira compared to the Dollar.
“Why won’t I support if ASUU and their unions now want a renegotiation of their conditions of service, which is the main thing in the proposal by previous Manzali?”
Meanwhile, Prof. Briggs who is also the Pro-Chancellor of the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndifu Alike, Ebonyi State, said the renegotiation committee was consulting all stakeholders with a view to finding a lasting solution to issues in dispute.
The Federal Government has urged the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to advise its affiliate, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to abide by the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act and call off its ongoing strike.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 2022 edition of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) in Lagos, today, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige also urged the Council to discuss as part of its agenda, a workable recipe that appropriately conciliates disputes with associations that are not properly registered as trade unions, to ensure that they fully abide, by the provisions of the law.
“What will be the relationship with workers’ organizations that are not properly registered as trade unions? The labour Act is there and it says the minister can discuss with them. But they don’t fully conform with legal provisions, especially in terms of style of negotiation and conciliation. NLAC should therefore come to the aid of the country here.
“Even though the Trade Disputes Act permits the minister to apprehend and deal with these workers that have not been registered as unions, you can also see that when dealing with them, you encounter problems because they do not fully understand the nuisances or obey the labour laws as it should be.
“If you are a union, you give adequate notice before proceeding on strike. If you are a union too and your strike is apprehended, you go back to your work while the necessary adjustment is made to give you justice. NLAC is expected to get the workers’ side of the tripartite live up to their responsibilities in this regard.”
The minister noted that some associations in critical sectors of health and education such as the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA); National Association of Resident Doctors(NARD) are in actual fact, not properly unionized.
“The Nigeria Medical Association is not a trade union; the National Association of Resident Doctors is not a trade union. They are associations of workers.
“The university teachers are registered under the Academic Staff Union of Universities and are affiliated to the Nigerian Labour Congress but that affiliation is only in name. It is not indeed, because they don’t obey the Labour Act as it concerns conciliation.
“For example, ASUU declared a month strike and called it a warning strike. It did not notify their employer, the Ministry of Education, nor did they notify me, the minister of labour that there is a breakdown in negotiation. I know that they had some discussions which were in limbo but I should be notified properly so that I can arrest the breakdown and bring it forward for proper conciliation.
“Now, I apprehended the dispute in consonance with the Labour Act. They came for conciliation, only for them to go back and continue the strike. This is illegal. The law is that once a dispute is apprehended, everybody returns to status quo ante. The law also says that if I arrest a dispute and the party or parties are not ready to confirm, I should transfer the dispute within fourteen days to either the Industrial Arbitration Panel or to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in line with section 17 of the Trade Disputes Act.
“But I’m concerned that if do this suo motu, this will not solve the problem of getting our children back to school outright
“So, I’m using this opportunity to plead with the NLC to which ASUU is affiliated, to call them to order, make them obey the law, to let them know what the Trade Disputes Act says and as university teachers who are even teaching industrial law, to abide by the law.
“They should call off that strike. That strike is not appropriately instituted. I have conciliated and made sure the issues in disputes have been decisively been dealt with.”
Ngige recalled the numerous benefits of the Council especially as they relate to the review of the labour laws and adoption of the various conventions of the ILO and commended the Federal Government for moving ahead with global best practices even while working to adopt the conventions.
The minister referred to Convention 102 which is on social security, listing the pillars to include comprehensive medical care, compensation for accidents at work, workers’ insurance and maternal health, saying the Employee Compensation Act 2010, National Health Insurance Scheme as well maternity and now paternity leave currently being accessed by public servants are in this direction.
He restated the commitment of the ministry to ensuring regular meeting of the council.
Earlier in his welcome address, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Labour and Employment and the chairman of the Council, Peter Tarfa said the meeting was a demonstration of the ministry’s commitment to the regular meetings of the NLAC to strengthen the council in its role as the apex body, charged with the responsibility of ensuring industrial peace and harmony as well as sound labour administration practice.
He said “national industrial relation space” has remained turbulent despite the government’s effort, hence the need for the collective input of all stakeholders for a solution.
“These challenges will therefore require our collective efforts to resolve. To this end, the critical role of the council in promoting industrial peace and harmony must be reinforced to resolve long-lasting industrial disputes and enhance national productivity and economic development.”
He added the ministry has taken necessary steps to forward to the Federal Executive Council, two of the conventions recommended by the Council in in 2021 in Owerri viz Violence and Harassment in the World of Work Convention 2019 (No. 190) and the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No.187) He added that others were in progress.
He regretted the ravaging effects of COVID-19 on the economy which has compounded the challenges faced by the government and opened up more frontiers of industrial crisis.
“If we do not halt this ugly trend, attaining Goal 8 of the Sustainable Development Goals which aims to promote inclusive and sustainable economic development and decent work for all would continue to be a mirage,” he said.
Goodwill messages were presented at the well-attended council by the Country Director of the ILO, Vanessa Lerato Phala, the NLC, TUC and NECA
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has appealed to the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to shelve their industrial action as the Federal Government continues to negotiate with the union to end the dispute.
Ngige made the appeal during an interview on Channels Television’s Sunday Politics, as the resident doctors strike enters Day 59.
“I want to appeal to NARD for them to reconsider their position, get back to work tomorrow or next and then come back again for discussions. We have so many things to discuss,” Ngige said.
“I have nephews who are resident doctors. I have three of them at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, UNTH Enugu, Orthopaedic Hospital, Enugu. I have so many of them. I have a son who will graduate in Medicine in October. I cannot destroy the profession, I have to protect the profession too.”
The Minister also reacted to the court case filed by the Federal Government against the striking doctors.
According to Ngige, it is the Federal Ministry of Health and the office of the Attorney General of the Federation that can withdraw the case from court.
“The court has ruled and said ‘Go and do some more settlement but meanwhile, you go back to work and continue the settlement’,” he added.
Despite the National Industrial Court’s ruling ordering the striking doctors to return to work, the Minister asked the plaintiffs – Health Ministry and Attorney General’s office as well as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and NARD to approach the Labour Ministry to press their demands.
While noting that he had advised his colleague in the Health Ministry, Dr Osagie Ehanire “to see what he can do so that the discussion will set off,” Ngige said he had always advocated for settlement.
Ngige’s comments come two days after the National Industrial Court ordered resident doctors to suspend their strike action and go back to work, pending the determination of the substantive suit.
Justice Bashar Alkali gave the order on Friday while ruling on an application by the Federal Government.
But the striking doctors have faulted the court’s ruling, vowing to appeal the order.
“As we are all aware, especially those that were present in court today (Friday), the NIC has given a ruling on the application for interlocutory injunction filed by the Federal Government,” the association said via a statement. “We are not satisfied with the ruling.
“After consultations with our lawyers, we have instructed our lawyers to appeal the ruling and file an application for stay of execution.”
The leadership of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has refused assent to a new memorandum of understanding brokered by the Nigeria Medical Association to end the three weeks old strike that has crippled medical services in government hospitals across the country.
NARD President, Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, declined his assent owing to an undisclosed clause.
According to Okhuaihesuyi, NARD’s leadership has to consult with members of the association before he appends his signature.
Addressing journalists after the over six hours closed-door meeting, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, said all other unions in the negotiation, including the Nigeria Medical Association and the Medical and Dental Consultants of Nigeria, signed the new agreement, having agreed on all the issues raised.
Meanwhile, the minister also clarified that the meeting did not discuss the issues of ‘no work, no pay,’ but said all parties at the meeting agreed to an out-of-court settlement.
The Federal Government had taken the striking doctors to court last week, as it asked the National Industrial Court to mandate the doctors to return to work.
The hearing on the case was adjourned to September 15.
The doctors had embarked on a strike on August 2, citing unpaid benefits and other issues.
While the industrial action lingered, the Federal Government threatened to enforce a ‘no work, no pay’ policy.
President Muhammadu Buhari has affirmed that dialogue is the way to go to resolve the security situation in the south-east.
This is according to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, after a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday, alongside the President’s Chief Of Staff, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.
Addressing state house correspondents after the meeting, Senator Ngige said the President has also enabled series of dialogues to be held with leaders in the region.
He added that discussions at the meeting equally encapsulated what the south-east is demanding from the Federal Government as well as what the government plans to do for the region to assuage the feelings of the people.
He further disclosed that complaints from the national labour union regarding a breach of agreement had reached the President and they have begun plans to halt any further friction in the midst of the fragile situation within Kaduna State.
Meanwhile, members of the South East Governors’ Forum have condemned the activities of secessionist groups in the region and other parts of the country.
They distanced themselves from the agitations of such groups and frowned on the violence that ensued which led to the loss of lives and destruction of properties.
In a bid to tackle the security challenges and restore peace in the region, the governors went beyond their political differences and met on Saturday in Enugu State.
“We condemn in totality, the activities of violent secessionist groups in the South East and elsewhere; we firmly proclaim that we do not support them, they do not speak for South East,” said the Chairman of the Forum and Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi, at the end of the meeting.
Minister of Labour and Employment Dr Chris Ngige says President Muhammadu Buhari has tolerated a lot from critics, reiterating that many Nigerians want to stretch him (Buhari) beyond reasonable limits.
Ngige spoke when he featured as a guest on Channels Television’s News Night which aired on Monday, stating that many leaders will not condone the kind of criticisms Buhari faces.
“Can President Obasanjo give you people the latitude?… He will not grant you people that! So, this president (Buhari) is a willing horse and you people (Nigerians) want to ride him to death,” Ngige said during the show.
The former Anambra State governor while stressing that the present government has delivered its promises in many areas, called on critics and members of the public to give kudos to the Buhari government.
“There must be a limit to politicking. If a government has done well, if a person has done well, give him accolades. In the areas he has not done well, point them out and discuss,” he added.
Calls for the presidential seat to be zoned to the southeast region have gathered momentum and sharply divided opinion in Africa’s most populous nation.
But Ngige has concurred with those who see the 2023 election as a time for the Igbos to get the seat.
Ngige believes that tensions in the southeast and the feeling of marginalization by people in the region will be addressed if the nation’s number one position is occupied by an Igbo man.
“The people in the area have perceived that they are marginalized, that they are unappreciated, whether it was done by propaganda and brainwashing or not, that is now immaterial.
“So I agree with that proposal, unfortunately, the Nigerian constitution does not have that. This is where I quarrel with those who authored the 1999 Constitution.
“I still believe today, tomorrow, that the Abacha Constitution of 1995 that espouses rotational presidency into the six zones in Nigeria, a single five-year tenure in order to heal all the wounds; the wounds of civil war, and the wound of June 12.
“Now, that constitution would have been the best constitution for Nigerians to use for the next 30 years by which the six zones would have tested the presidency,” the minister stated.