Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, says the federal government did not promise to pay members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) before they go back to work.
Ngige was reacting to a statement by Biodun Ogunyemi, ASUU president, that the federal government failed to deliver on the timelines on offers made to the union and that lecturers would not resume work until their salary arrears are paid.
In a statement on Tuesday, Ngige said “it is false and discomfiting” for ASUU to wrongly inform the public that the government agreed to pay all withheld salaries before they would resume work.
He said on the part of the government, all timelines have been complied with and “faithfully implemented”, noting that ASUU had agreed at the last meeting with the government team on November 27 to call off their nine-month-old strike before December 9.
“The truth of the matter is that a ‘gentleman agreement’ was reached at the last meeting in which ASUU agreed to call off the strike before December 9, 2020, and the minister, in turn, agreed that once the strike is called off, he would get a presidential waiver for ASUU to be paid the remainder of their salaries on or before December 9,” the statement said.
“The Minister of Labour and Employment informed that he had consulted with the Minister of Education on getting a waiver on the issue of ‘No Work, No Pay’ as stipulated in Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004, but a reservation has been made concerning this request because of the ongoing strike by ASUU. The minister, therefore, agreed to work on this to be actualised before Wednesday, December 9, 2020.”
The minister said during the lockdown he got a special presidential approval to demonstrate good faith to ASUU members and they were paid.
“They were subsequently paid for two months of February and March after which it was extended to April, May and June, the months they were on strike, on compassionate ground, bringing it to five months, ” he said.
“Asking the government to pay these four months before it goes back to work means ASUU is placing itself above the law of the land and no government will encourage it as it is a recipe for chaos in the labour milieu.
“The minister later invited ASUU to a virtual conciliatory meeting, which they turned down. He further requested them to show good faith over the five months’ salaries government made to them by returning to classroom and start virtual and online teaching, as being done by private universities, while government sorts out the rest of their requests; they also refused.”
Ngige said the N40 billion earned academic allowances have also been processed as well as the N30 billion revitalisation fund — bringing the total sum to N70bn.
“Likewise, the visitation panels for the universities have been approved by the President but the panel cannot perform its responsibilities until the shut universities are re-opened,” he added.
“The gazetting is also being rounded off at the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation while the Ministry of Education is ready to inaugurate the various visitation panels.”