Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The Federal Government on Friday declared as illegal the strike embarked upon by university workers over the non-implementation of their seven-point agenda by government.
It, however, pleaded with the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (NASU) to give it three months to offset backlog of minimum wage of their members, saying a supplementary budget to that effect will soon be sent to the National Assembly for approval.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, who spoke with newsmen at the Presidential Villa after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, also stressed that the President did not break any law by reappointing Ahmed Idris as the Accountant-General of the Federation (AGF) after attaining the mandatory retirement age of 60 years.
According to him, the strike by SSANU and NASU is illegal since discussions to sort out some of the contentious issues were still on.
He recalled that the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of SSANU and NASU had given the Federal Government till midnight of February 5 to address about seven-point demand they made, saying if the government failed to address the issues, they would embark on indefinite strike.
According to him, the meeting with President Buhari was to discuss labour related matters especially the threat by the University workers to embark on strike.
He said that the government had “apprehended” the strike by engaging on social dialogue with the unions, adding that it would be an illegality if they should go ahead with the planned strike.
His words, “I was around to see Mr. President on so many urgent labour issues. We will not claim ignorant of the fact that three unions in the University system, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU, the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT had given us notice of strike.
“The first two unions SSANU and NASU did that under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee, JAC, and as government, we have moved to apprehend the strike because we just came out from a strike that lasted for nine months that was executed by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“So in consonance with the labour laws, we have apprehended both strikes. They gave us Trade dispute notice, we scheduled meetings with them after apprehension, we held meeting with NASU and SSANU last week Tuesday and government position was explained to them.”