The Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige says the Federal Government has been meeting with the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU) over its lingering strike and assured Nigerians that the dispute with the lecturers will be resolved soon.
Ngige said this on Wednesday while briefing the press after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House in Abuja.
According to him, contrary to insinuations that the government was not engaging with ASUU, there have been series of meetings between all parties, and the next one is scheduled for Thursday to resolve the face-off.
“As the issue is bordered on money, remunerations, welfare, we did another conciliation meeting inviting the ministry of finance, budget office of the federation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission and again, with their employers on the 1st of March,” Ngige added.
“After that, it became clear that two cardinal things were still keen — the issue of renegotiation of their welfare package as in the 2009 agreement; that agreement says you can review every five years, so, that issue stuck out like a sore thumb.
“Then another issue arose in that agreement — the payment platform of university transparency, accountability solution, which they say they’ve invented. They said they don’t want to be on IPPIS; that IPPIS was amputating their salaries and taking off certain allowances, and so, that it is not capturing their peculiarities.
“So, we now have to ask them to go back to these places, form committees with them. Education took them on the issue of 2009 agreement, which is renegotiation of their conditions of service, emolument, their remuneration allowances. Therefore, salaries, income and wages, and ministry of finance that produce the money are involved. So, they went back.”
The former governor also dismissed talks that the federal government has a different payment table for trade unions in tertiary institutions. Ngige noted that it might be impossible to raise the payment table because other unions, even in the health sector, might kick.
He said although the government is not afraid of handling the situation, it has to operate within the available resource.
The Labour Minister also promised that the 13-year-old ASUU challenge involving a 2009 negotiation agreement and payment platform issues are being renegotiated and will be resolved before the end of the current administration.
Ngige’s remark is the latest from the federal government since the face-off with the university lecturers who had embarked on strike since February 14.
The public university teachers are seeking improved funding for the government-owned institution, and the adoption of its University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) payment platform among others.
Several meetings between the federal government and the union in the past months have yielded little results. Students across the country had earlier protested against the lingering industrial action, vowing to shutdown major roads in Nigeria.
However, the critical question is when will the resolution take place. For the upteenth time, Ngige has promised to resolve the imbroglio between the federal government and university teachers, all to no avail. Running into its fourth month, the ASUU strike has crippled tertiary academic activities across the country, due to lack of political will to end the matter. The 2023 election year has started. The fear is that the strike may not be meaningfully settled until after the election. Too bad.