• Appeals to union to shelve action •Senate wades into face-off, asks Saraki to mediate
Omololu Ogunmade and Paul Obi in Abuja
The federal government yesterday declared the planned nationwide strike Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) as unconstitutional given that the union was yet to exhaust all the necessary mechanisms required before a strike could be embarked upon.
The government also appealed to the union to shelve its planned strike billed to commence today.
In a statement released late last night and signed by the Director of Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, quoted the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, as urging ASUU “to rescind its decision on the strike so as to give the government an opportunity to discuss the all contending issues arising from the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) it reached with government.
Ngige explained: “In view of the prevailing circumstances, the issuance of warning strike by ASUU was unconstitutional as the body was yet to exhaust the conflict resolution mechanisms clearly mapped out in the labour laws.
“The claims of nationwide consultations by ASUU cannot be true as the Ministry of Labour and Employment which is the chief conciliator of industrial relations disputes is yet to receive a direct petition from ASUU against the federal government who is the jurisdictional employer,” the minister stated
The minister therefore “appealed to ASUU to give the present administration the opportunity to fully address its grievances which stemmed from the inactions of the past administration.”
Meanwhile, the Senate yesterday waded into the rift between the federal government and ASUU and mandated its President, Bukola Saraki, to mediate on the matter.
The union had last Monday issued an ultimatum to the federal government to fulfill the agreement it reached with it in 2009 or face a one-week warning strike.
Moving a motion for Senate’s intervention in the matter yesterday, Senate Committee Chairman on Tertiary Education, Senator Jibril Barau, drew the attention of the parliament to the threat of warning strike by ASUU and harped on the need for the federal government to urgently engage the lecturers in a dialogue before the matter snowballs into a full bloom industrial action.
Jibril had argued that fulfilling the agreement it reached with ASUU in 2009 was necessary for the well being and development of the Nigerian public universities and warned of the consequences of failing to respond to ASUU threat.
“The ASUU is insisting that if the Federal Government of Nigeria continues to fail to implement their aforesaid agreements as well as made certain key necessities, the public shall continue to be incapacitated in carrying out their functions as centre for knowledge acquisition, research and community service in citadel of learning.
“The Senate further notes that there are six vital issues whose continued pendency before the federal government and ASUU are creating discontent among members of the union and they have therefore been calling for the intervention of stakeholders to prevent the breakdown in the university system nationwide.
“The Senate is further concerned that one of the six issues in contention is the introduction of the single treasury account (TSA) system in the universities which is believed by ASUU to be hampering the smooth running operations of public universities,” Jibril said.
The Senate therefore called “on the executive arm of government to engage the ASUU in first talks to proffer solutions on how best to implement all the agreements that both bodies entered into since 2009 and implementation of key necessities that are vital for the well-being and development of our universities as canvassed by ASUU.
The parliament also resolved that whatever “was agreed to be paid by lecturers and other actions to be taken as a result of prayer one above should be captured in the 2017 budget for prompt implementation.”
It also commended “ASUU for choosing the path of dialogue rather than confrontation as a means of resolving all the outstanding issues between it and the federal government and to urge the union not to relent in its approach of dialogue.
In his remark, Saraki said preventing the strike was imperative “in the interest of the people that we represent and to ensure that we must find a way of seeing the implementation of this agreement, which is over eight years now.”
Saraki promised to honour Senate’s mandate by getting “the relevant parties to quickly come to the table so that we can find a way of moving forward and report back to us.”