The Federal Government has once again appealed to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to call off their strike and resume academic activities without further delay. Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, made the appeal yesterday in Abuja, shortly after receiving notification letter of his nomination by Sun Newspaper Publishing Limited for the award of ‘Public Service Icon 2021’.
WhilenotingthattheFederalGovernment wascommitted to addressing all the industrial disputes by the various unions in the university system including ASUU, he explained that everything contained in the December 2020 agreement were religiously executed to theextentthattheFederalGovernment aggregately paid N92 billion from the 2021 budget to cover the revitalisation funds and Earned Academic Allowances/ Earned Allowances for non-teaching staff.
He further faulted the demand by the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) for a highpowered panel with requisite mandate to resolve all the disputes within 21 days, saying the President had already put in place his own high-powered team comprising his Chief of Staff, the Ministers of Labour, Education, Finance, Communication and Digital Economy. On renegotiation of conditionsof serviceof theuniversitylecturers, Ngigemaintained that the renegotiation must be guided by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) principle of ability to pay. He added: “There is no point giving you percentages on paper that nobody can pay. Munzali worked out a percentage which placed the university workers on about 200 percent pay rise. The Federal Government through the Education Ministry said they cannot pay. The Ministry of Finance said they cannot pay.
They came to me and I said nothing is wrong with renegotiation because even if a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is signed, it could be renegotiated. “The document produced by Munzali was not signed by both ASUU and the Federal Government. It is a proposal. Manzali’s committee had elapsed. The Education Ministry didn’t act as I wanted. The minister was away but his lieutenants didn’t do anything for five months, contrary to my expectations. The minister has set up another committee headed by Prof. Nimi Briggs. They have been working and I have given them six weeks to come up with a proposal.”
On the payment platform for university lecturers, Ngige said NITDA informed him that UTAS proposed by ASUU passed user acceptability test but failed integrity and credibility tests, which form the bulwark against hacking. The management of Sun newspaper, led by its Managing Director, Onuoha Ukeh, described Ngige as a quintessential public servant whose contributions to national development started in his days as a staff of the Ministry of Health where he later retired at the management cadre.