Buhari Didn’t Ask me to Hands Off Talks with ASUU – Ngige

FG has No Agreement yet with ASUU – Labour Minister

The Federal Government (FG) has not yet reached any agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), contrary to claims by the union.

This clarification was made yesterday in a statement released by the Media Office of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige.

The statement signed by the Minister’s media aide, Emmanuel Nzomiwu, also debunked the claim by ASUU that the minister was misinforming President Muhammadu Buhari on the ongoing strike.

The minister, therefore, advised the union to perish the thought of meeting with the president on the strike, but to go through the relevant authorities empowered by the law to handle industrial disputes in the country.

The statement maintained that the Federal Government has committed enormous resources towards addressing the demands of the university lecturers, but the union had failed o reciprocate the gesture by calling off its protracted strike.

The statement reads: “This government has been paying their allowances since last year. The government released N40 billion to ASUU and other university workers in the first quarter of last year for Earned Academic Allowances/Earned Allowances, N22.27 billion  to them in August 2021 for the same EAA/EA and N30 billion for revitalisation fund, not minding the N304 billion expended by TETFund. By December last year, they had received N92.27 billion as agreed in our 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) and just two months after, on February 14, 2022, they went on strike.

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Anger over Prolonged ASUU Strike

“With the minimum wage increase, there was 10 per cent increase in the salaries of workers in the university system and N35 billion was paid to them as minimum wage consequential adjustment arrears in May 2022. I appealed to the president to pay them their withheld salaries for the seven months they were on strike in 2020 and the president granted it on compassionate grounds.

“The visitation panel set up late last year has finished its work and the president has signed its outcome waiting for it to be gazetted. The UTAS, ASUU’s developed payment platform is being tested by NITDA. NASU and SSANU have also developed their own called U3PS. They are insisting that even if UTAS is 100 per cent perfect, their members will not be part of it. What should the government do in this situation?

“So, it is not true that the minister is misinforming the president. It is ASUU that wants to circumvent the relevant government authority in charge of fixing wages and get the government to sign an agreement like the one they reached with the previous government, which offered them N1.3 trillion, which the current government found difficult to implement because of the declining revenue of the country. They didn’t get the N220 billion in six years as contained in the agreement with the previous government. This time, the Federal Government wants to sign an agreement and implement it religiously. This is what ASUU does not want. They should perish the idea of meeting with the president on strike. There are relevant authorities for handling strike. They kept the children at home and are accusing the president of being uncompassionate.

“Since one month, they refused to translate the proposal of the Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee on the Renegotiation of their Conditions of Service to the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages, which is the final committee on wage increase. There is an embargo on increase in wages since 2019, following COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is a provision in the proposal that if they go on sabbatical, the Federal Government and the universities should pay. They elongated the wage structure from Grade level 6 and 7 step 10 to step 13.The proposal from Briggs gave them 109 to 180 per cent increase in salaries.

“The Trade Dispute Act says that if there is any complaint emanating from a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), such should be domiciled in the Federal Ministry of Labour for seven days. If there is going to be a wage increase, then such CBA should be domiciled with the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the government authority on wage fixing mechanism in the country.”

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