Despite a court ruling on Wednesday that barred ASUU from continuing its seventh-month strike, the federal government said it will continue to negotiate with the union.
Following a suit filed by the Federal Government, the National Industrial Court of Nigeria in Abuja ordered the striking lecturers to return to the classroom on Wednesday.
Sen. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, made the Federal Government’s position clear when he hosted visiting members of the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics.
He said: “The court ruling does not preclude us from going on with further negotiation and consultations.”
ASUU began its strike to demand that the Federal Government revisits some agreements signed between them in 2009 and also to improve on varsity funding and payment of earned allowances.
The lecturers also want the Federal Government to shelve its Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in paying lecturers’ salaries.
The Federal Government uses the IPPIS platform to pay its employees.
They demanded that rather than its IPPIS, the government should adopt the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, the payment platform designed by the universities themselves to pay lecturers.
The minister told his visitors that the Industrial Court’s ruling was in the best interest of Nigeria and its people.
According to him, the ruling is a win-win for the government, students, lecturers, and for all Nigerians.
“It is a no victor, no vanquished.
“You doctors in academics are for now members of ASUU, but you are here; even though you have dissociated yourselves and you are working.
“We want to thank you for working and teaching your students,’’ the minister said.
He noted that pro-chancellors of universities had met with President Muhammadu Buhari and made some demands that included topping up the government’s offer and seeing whether there could be some bailout.
Ngige added that the president had assured that he would consult with stakeholders on the request.
The minister also commended the House of Representatives for intervening in the ASUU imbroglio.
Ngige said that he was happy that the Speaker, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila also assured that principal officers of the House would meet with President Buhari over the strike.
He explained that whatever money would be approved to meet some of the demands would go into the 2023 budget.
“Since the House has shown interest now, it is good and wonderful. When they bring that proposal, the Executive will not have any problem.
“ASUU should also know that this is a step in the right direction. All these things have been promised to them by the Minister of Education at their last meeting.
“For me, they should do the needful and go back to the classroom,’’ the minister said.
Ngige said the government would soon direct vice-chancellors to reopen the universities in compliance with the order of the court.
We won’t return to work till after Appeal Court judgement – ASUU
Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) have vowed that no one, not even the Federal Government, can cajole them to return to the classrooms when their reasons for the seven-months old nationwide strike have not been met.
ASUU reactions was in response to a letter from the National Universities Commission (NUC) directing Vice Chancellors, Pro-Chancellors, and other relevant stakeholders to facilitate immediate reopening of University campuses, perhaps, in line with the judgement of the National Industrial Court (NIC).
Executive Secretary of NUC, Prof. Abubakar Rasheed, had in a letter signed by the NUC Director of Finance and Accounts, Sam Onazi, asked the VCs and Pro-Chancellors, to ensure the campuses are reopened as quickly as possible and return of normal academic and non-academic activities in the campuses as contained in the court judgement.
He also asked that the VCs and Pro-Chancellors ensure that ASUU members immediately resume and commence lectures, and also restore other daily activities and routines of the various University campuses.
However, ASUU Vice President, Dr. Chris Piwuna said that neither the Federal Government nor the NUC was being truthful with the issue of the strike, as they are aware that ASUU had appealed the NIC judgement which ordered its members return to classrooms.
He said: “NUC is obviously doing a fruitless job because we won’t comply with the directive. NUC and other government officials are clearly aware that ASUU appealed the NIC judgement last week, and this means that all parties must hold on till the matter of appeal is concluded at the Appeal Court.
“Because we have appealed the NIC judgement, the basis of the letter from NUC doesn’t hold anymore. We expect that the NUC should write another letter informing the Vice-Chancellors and Pro-Chancellors that there’s an Appeal pending in Court. But we know they won’t do that for reasons best known to them.
“This is just effort in futility because nobody can force us to return to the classroom until the Appeal is concluded. There’s no amount of coercion by the government or anybody that will force us to return to the classrooms until the matter is concluded in the Court of Appeal.
“I have to re-emphasize that ASUU is not insisting that the matter must be resolve in their own way, and that’s why we are in negotiation with the government. We are always ready to find a middle ground to end the protracted crisis, but the representatives of Federal Government are not helping matter. Each time we hit a middle ground, they (government representatives) would shift the goal post. They keep setting up Committee upon Committee and discarding the report.
“We have realized that what shifting ground means to the government is that we return to the classrooms while the challenges are not solved, and that’s not acceptable to us.”
Meanwhile, the Secretary General of Committee of Vice-Chancellors (CVC), Prof. Yakubu Ochefu, told journalists that officials of the Committee will take a decision on the matter after a meeting that will take place soon.
Recall that ASUU had been on strike since February 14th, 2022, to press home the demand for improved funding for universities, a review of salaries for lecturers, among other issues.
Several meetings between ASUU and the Federal Government have ended in a deadlock. Last week, the National Industrial Court (NIC) delivered a judgement directing the striking university lecturers to return to classrooms immediately.
NANS threatens to disrupt political campaigns
The leadership of the Lagos axis of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has threatened to disrupt political campaigns and make the coming weeks ugly for Nigerian politicians until the Federal Government puts an end to the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The chairman of Lagos axis of NANS, Olusesi Tolulope, said on Friday that resolving the strike has already become an ego fight between the Federal Government and ASUU, saying students were the ones paying the price.
He said the students were at the receiving end of their inability to resolve all issues around the seven-month, warning that if the ruling of the National Industrial Court, which ordered the lecturers back to work was not complied with, and the Federal Government also refuses to do the needful, the society would be sitting on a time bomb.
Tolulope stressed that students could not be rendered ‘useless’ while campaigns for the 2023 general election progress.
“Our lives also count, and we won’t be afraid to make the next few weeks ugly for those politicians too,” he warned.
He pleaded with ASUU to return back to class or at least suspend the strike while negotiations with the Federal Government continue.
“Actually, Nigerian students through NANS have been more supportive of ASUU due to some of their demands, which we found logical enough and appealing to our interest. Nevertheless, there is no agreement between NANS and ASUU on putting an end to the strike,” he said.
He added that NANS expects ASUU to address Nigerian students and the general public on their position on the court ruling, which has mandated them to return to class.
“We are hoping to hear from them in the next 24 hours,” he noted.
Tolulope appealed to Lagosians to treat the rumoured impending protests on the Third Mainland Bridge and Apapa as fake news, saying NANS does not intend to organise further protests in the state.
He added that “feelings of fear, frustration and resentment should not be created in the minds of Lagos residents out of this volatile information.”
Tolulope appreciated the Lagos State government for its understanding, tolerance and provision of security during the peaceful protest that was held on Monday, September 19, 2022.
Obey court ruling first – FG tells lecturers
The federal government has told the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to obey the National Industrial Court ruling and call off its seven-month strike.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, gave the advice while fielding questions from journalists on the margins of the 77th United Nations General Assembly, UNGA, and the Official Launch of the Nigeria Integrated National Financing Framework Report (NIFF).
The industrial court on Wednesday, ordered ASUU to call off its ongoing nationwide strike, pending the determination of a suit filed by the Federal Government.
The federal government had dragged the lecturers to court in a bid to end the strike.
“I’m not ASUU but the maximum in law is that when there is a court judgment or ruling or order you must first obey and then we can apply for an appeal if you so desire or apply for stay that is stay of execution.
“So the maximum in law, jurisprudence and everything about the law, is that you obey the court’s ruling, judgment or order, no matter how bad. The qualifying thing is that no matter how bad and no matter how you disagree with it, you first obey. Like the military people say, obey before complain.
“So we expect them to get back to the classrooms but that doesn’t foreclose negotiations, the negotiations should be on as a matter of fact, it will be on officially and non officially.
“For example, the House of Representatives had invited us to come and brief them. And together, they are stakeholders. You heard Mr President said to the committee of Pro-Chancellors when they visited him, that he would do consultation as per the two request on putting an icing on the cake on the government offer to ASUU members and the issue of resettlement fund to cushion the effect of the “no work no pay” situation they found themselves in.
“So, President will look at it, the House of Reps are stakeholders, Ministers we are not only stakeholders, we are advisers to Mr. President by the provisions of the Constitution, Section 5 of the Constitution and 147, that appoints ministers one from each state of the Federation, and we hold regular meetings with him, so we are his chief advisers.
“So, we will interface with the House of Representatives and all of us collectively will advise Mr. President,” Ngige said.
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