Published by Enioluwa Adeniyi on 17 November 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari-led government on Tuesday stated that it will not allow members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities to embark on strike.
The Minister of Labour, Employment and Productivity, Chris Ngige, said the Federal Government will begin the process of paying members of the ASUU their outstanding funds on Wednesday.
Ngige stated this on Tuesday while answering questions on ASUU’s threat to embark on strike if the Federal Government fails to attend to its demand.
He said, “The strike will not happen. For one, I know that the fund to pay with is there and the Ministry of Education has assured me that by Wednesday they would emanate letters to make sure that the disbursement reaches the accounts of the various universities. We are not paying the unions directly, it will get to the universities’ accounts.
“I will have a meeting with the Minister of State for Education who is the one in charge of the affairs now because the main minister (Adamu Adamu) is overseas on health grounds. I will evaluate the situation with him and we would make sure that the disbursement goes on.”
Recall that the union had given the Federal Government a 21-day ultimatum over their failure to implement the agreement reached with it.
Ngige on Tuesday was asked if he had received a notice from ASUU indicating that the lecturers would embark on strike, he said, “No. I’m still in the office (as of 7 pm) and I’m working. Till now, I have not gotten communication from them but that is not to say that having seen that they have been addressing press conferences that they have issued an ultimatum, that the government won’t be proactive or the Ministry of Labour will not be proactive.”
According to Ngige, one of the mandates of the ministry is to settle industrial disputes. “As far as we are concerned, we have hit the ground running, making contacts with their real employers – the direct employers of university teachers, which is the Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission,” he said.
The minister when asked if the revitalisation fund was ready, said, “The fund is ready. The fund is in the account of the National Universities Commission and the Ministry of Education. They were doing what they called auditing of the earlier disbursed funds.
“Universities were supposed to retire the earlier funds given to them. As of the last meeting, 11 universities had not satisfactorily done that and, therefore, we gave a timeframe of two weeks to get those universities to conform and they would release the money.”
The minister argued that what was agreed with ASUU “in December last year has been paid,” saying the current issue has to do with the subsequent payment.
“The other one had been paid (between) January and February. This is now the second charge that is due in the agreement,” he added.
According to him, the government has paid earned allowances totalling N22.72bn.
“I am not trying to make a case for the Ministry of Education and NUC (on) why they should not do what they are supposed to do but I know that before the next two weeks, we can sort out some of those low-hanging fruits. There are no problems because the money is already there,” Ngige said.
Ngige while speaking on UTAS, said the National Information Technology Development Agency had subjected the payment software to “critical tests,” while university bursars were in Abuja to review the platform. He also said the NUC had also made provisions for the hardware.
The minister said, “Don’t buy everything hook, line and sinker that the Federal Government is not doing anything. If it was a system that we didn’t want to use at all from Day 1, we would have said it and we would not waste anybody’s time. But this government believes in home-grown things; we believe in local content. This is part of our local content so that we can save foreign exchange for the country.”
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