•Ngige: No agreement with lecturers yet
• Investment in education pays best dividend, says Atiku, urges FG, ASUU to end dispute
Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The federal government has said the proposal made by the Prof. Limi Briggs-led Committee in relation to the demands by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other unions in universities would gulp N1.12 trillion to implement.
Also, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has said contrary to claims by ASUU President, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, there is currently no collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between it and the union awaiting signing by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The disclosure by Ngige came just as former Vice President and presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2023 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has said investment in education pays the best dividend than any other form of investment.
Ngige, in a statement signed by the Deputy Director Press and Public Relations in the Ministry, Olajide Oshundun, said having rounded off its work, the Briggs Committee had proposed 109 -185 per cent increase in the university wage structure.
It explained that based on the recommendation, federal government would incur, “an additional N560 billion as salaries alone, on top of the present N412 billion, less all other allowances such as earned academic allowances and fringe benefits, teaching allowance, field trip responsibility and post-graduate supervision allowances, and hazard allowances which were to gulp another N170 billion.”
The statement added: “In all, the sum of N1.12 trillion will be needed to pay the salaries and allowances of university lecturers and other staff in the university system.”
Ngige stated that at present, the wage bill of the university staff and their colleagues in teaching health systems gulp nearly 50 per cent of the total federal government staff personnel cost/wages.
“Recall too that the staff of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education have also placed their wage review in the front burner since two months ago,” he said.
While explaining how the Briggs Committee reached at the proposed wage increase, Ngige said what happened was that ASUU insisted that relevant advisory ministries and agencies should recuse themselves from the sitting of the Committee, accusing them of non-cooperation.
“All alone with the Prof Briggs Committee, ASUU started fixing their salaries and allowances to the exclusion of the statutory government ministries and agencies that manage the entire annual finances of government, budget and fiscal policies and the Office of the Head of Service that is in charge of ensuring that public service rules and regulations are not undermined in any condition of service offered to public officers in the universities.
“Because of this exclusion engineered by ASUU, and the arising complaints to the Chief of Staff to the President and the Minister of labour and Employment by the concerned MADs , the Chief of Staff and the Minister of Labour set up an inter-Ministerial/Agency sub Committee comprising the affected MDA’s under the Minister of State Budget and Planning to quickly look into Prof. Briggs Committee report which to all intents and purpose was still a proposal in June 2022 at the government side meeting.
“This assignment was to be completed with the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages and given two weeks to come up with their recommendation,” he said.
Ngige said based on the foregoing, no agreement had been reached between the federal government, ASUU and other university unions on the renegotiation of their salaries and allowances(wages).
He said the Chief of Staff to the president and himself had set up an inter-Ministerial/Agency sub-committee comprising the affected MDA’s under the Minister of State Budget and Planning to quickly look into the Briggs Committee report which to all intents and purposes was still a proposal as of June 2022, at the government side meeting.
The minister however said the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages has finished the review of the Nimi Briggs proposal and would shortly submit same to the president.
“This clears every doubt that there is an agreement before the president waiting for his signature. There is none,” he said.
Ngige further said any CBA produced between unions and the federal government would not be signed by the president, but by the government negotiating team and MDAs led by the direct employer with the conciliating ministry witnessing.
“This clarification has become necessary in view of the deluge of deliberate misinformation being dished out to Nigerians by the President of ASUU, Prof. Osodeke as well as his branch leaders, calling on President Buhari to sign an agreement which they claimed to have reached with the federal government.
“We wish therefore to inform Nigerians that there is no such CBA that has been reached between the federal government, ASUU and other university unions on the renegotiation of their salaries and allowances(wages). What is in existence is a proposal,” the minister added.
The minister however said that the government has been locked in negotiations with ASUU and other university based unions since the lecturers commenced their strike on February 14, 2022.
“Note that that Prof Nimi Brigg Committee just like the Prof. Munzali Committee it replaced is an internal committee of the Ministry of Education to receive ASUU demands and renegotiate areas of 2009 Agreement while also receiving briefs from the MDAs mentioned above that act as advisers, before making any counter offer to ASUU and other unions.
“Unfortunately, ASUU insisted that these relevant advisory MDAs recuse themselves from the sitting of the Briggs Committee accusing them of non-cooperation,” he added.
On the integrity tests being conducted on the various preferred payment platforms submitted by the unions, Ngige said they had been concluded and results being awaited, adding that the IPPIS was still in the works and all would be concluded in the next one week.
Investment in Education Pays Best Dividend, Says Atiku, Urges FG, ASUU to End Dispute
Meanwhile, Atiku has said investment in education pays the best dividend than any other form of investment.
He made the statement yesterday on the sidelines of the graduation ceremony of the Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
The ARU Awards Board had on November 12, 2021, conferred the award of Master of Arts on International Relations on Atiku, following the successful completion of his degree programme at the university.
The graduation ceremony could not hold then because of the Covid-19 disruptions.
However, the former vice president was not physically present at the graduation ceremony yesterday, having collected his certificate earlier.
He was also not represented in line with the policy of the university.
The PDP presidential candidate it was gathered, stayed away from the event in solidarity with Nigerian students (and their parents and wards) who have been at home for months with no end in sight to the protracted strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
“In all honesty I could not mount the podium with other graduands to collect my certificate today. I had worked hard to complete my studies and was excitedly looking forward to donning the graduation robe and collecting my certificate. However, I am compelled to skip the event in solidarity with our students who through no fault of theirs are being degraded at home,” he stated.
Atiku restated his position that the mind is a very terrible thing to waste, stressing that there’s no return on investment that could surpass that on education.
“Education is a game changer because it unlocks the sustainable ‘crude oil’ in the brain as against that in the bowels of the earth.
“Education remains a priority to me. That explains why I invested in it and was prepared against all odds to walk this journey that has earned me a higher degree today.”
He pleaded with the federal government and ASUU to resolve all extant issues to pave the way for the strike to be called off so that students can return to school for their own good and to the benefit of our country.
Even more importantly, he counselled on the need for all stakeholders in the society to make the funding of ASUU a continuous and deliberate policy for the sake of our youth.