Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Onuminya Innocent in Sokoto
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has expressed its resolve to hold a two-day national protest to demand the immediate reopening of the country’s public-owned tertiary institutions which had been shut down for five months.
The resolution by the NLC came just as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Usman Danfodio University chapter has debunked claims by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige that its medical lecturers have backed out of the ongoing strike embarked upon by the university lecturers’ union.
The NLC accused the federal government of not negotiating in good faith to resolve the crisis in Nigeria’s public Universities
The Labour movement had at its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Abuja, on June 30, 2022, threatened to embark on a nationwide protest to compel, “the federal government to conclude the ongoing negotiation with trade unions in Nigeria’s universities and be prepared to commence implementation of whatever Collective Bargaining Agreement arising therefrom so that public universities in Nigeria can resume normal activities.”
The federal government was then given a 21-day ultimatum to resolve the dispute or face a one-day nationwide labour protest which might culminate in a full blown worker’s strike.
The ultimatum would end on July 26.
However, in a mobilisation letter sent to all the state branches of NLC and the Federal Capital Territory, the Congress directed them to activate all the mechanisms to implement the decision of NEC to organise a national protest beginning from Wednesday, July 26 to Thursday, July 27.
Among the resolutions reached at the NEC meeting were the condemnation of the alleged unserious attitude of government to negotiations as well the activation of, “no work–no pay” policy on the striking university workers.
The NEC described the stoppage of salaries of the university workers as draconian.
The NEC went on to resolve to organise a one-day solidarity action in support of Congress affiliates in the education sector.
But in a statement issued yesterday, NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, said the decision of the NEC have been activated accordingly with a circular to affiliates and state councils for compliance.
The NLC lamented the delay in resolving the dispute between members of ASUU and other non-teaching staff unions despite the setting up high-powered negotiating team headed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari for that purpose.
It also recalled that a tripartite meeting was convened by the federal government on May 12, 2022, at the instance of the organised labour and well-meaning Nigerians to resolve the crises in the tertiary institutions.
According to NLC, negotiations were held and the meeting was adjourned for three weeks to allow the Prof. Nimi-Briggs Committee to turn in their report and also to allow the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) to subject all the proposed unviersity payment platforms to integrity test including IPPIS.
“The committee was asked to conclude its work and report back to the negotiation meeting.
It was the federal government at the Tripartite Plus negotiation meeting, that requested that the meeting be adjourned for three weeks to enable the Briggs Committee to submit their report and for integrity test to be conducted on the payment platform proposed by the trade unions.
“How can government now turn around to blame the unions for the work of a committee they appointed? This was the same way the last committee report on this matter was aborted,” it stated.
The NLC statement added: “Given the foregoing and in line with the resolutions of the NEC of the Nigeria Labour Congress which took place on the 30th of June 2022, we demand the following from the federal government:
“The federal government should immediately conclude the ongoing negotiation with trade unions in Nigeria’s universities and be prepared to commence implementation of whatever Collective Bargaining Agreement arising therefrom so that public universities in Nigeria can resume normal activities.
“The federal government should immediately pay the salaries of striking university workers which had been frozen on the premise of the so-called “no work-no pay” policy especially as recommended by the leaders of Nigeria’s two major faiths.
“We demand that the federal government meets these demands in line with the resolutions of the statutory organs of the Congress.
“All the decisions of the NEC have been activated accordingly with a circular to affiliates and state councils of Nigeria Labour Congress.”
NLC also spoke on the need for the review of the 2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement between the federal government and the union in the tertiary institutions, saying that it had expired long before now.
“Given the free fall of Nigeria’s currency, the naira, and its continuous devaluation, the need for the review of the 2009 Collective Bargaining Agreement is public knowledge.
“As it stands today, the highest earning university Professor and staff earns less than $800 as take-home pay. This is indeed very ridiculous and is a major factor to the high rate of brain drain in our system making us unable to retain our best brains.”
ASUU Debunks Minister’s Claims That Medical Lecturers Suspended Strike
Meanwhile, ASUU, Usman Danfodio University Chapter has debunked claims by Ngige that its medical lecturers have back out from the ongoing strike embarked upon by the union.
In a statement at the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) Secretariat, Sokoto, yesterday, the chairperson of the union, Prof. Muhammad Almustapha accused Ngige of misleading Nigerians.
He added that recently Ngige in an interview with Arise TV on 14 July, 2022, had said the medical lecturers of the university had suspended the strike since it didn’t produce the desired results.
“Ngige on the July 14, 2022 pitiably and shamefully said medical lecturers of the university are at work, they have written their Vice Chancellor that they are at work.”
He noted that the statement was the imagination of the minister which was intended to misinform the general public against the sensibility of Nigerians.
He explained that Ngige depicted his inhumane nature and wanton disregard for truth, honesty and integrity a character unbefitting of a federal minister.
“How could a senior minister of the Federal Republic, who is supposed to be an elder statesman continue to dish out disinformation to over 200 million Nigerians, knowing fully well that he was not saying the truth,” he added.
He maintained that Ngige had not be telling the president the true picture of things about the negotiations, calling on the minister to resign with immediate effect.
He further disclosed that the entire members of ASUU, UDUS branch including the College of Health Sciences were fully on total and comprehensive strike and have never had the intention of calling it off until federal government wake up to its responsibilities.
“Contrary to Ngige claims there is no letter written by the Vice Chancellor of Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto or any of his representatives or any union officials, depicting that the medical lecturers are not on strike.
“We challenge the self-acclaimed “Conciliator,” Dr. Chris Ngige to produce any factual evidence to back his crooked claims,” he stated.
He said his calling on Ngige to resign was not on personal hatred for the minister, but based on his antics and biasness which earned Nigeria number of strikes during his tenure.