The National Executive Council of the Academic Staff Union of Universities is set to meet in Abuja today (Monday), The PUNCH reports.
The meeting will be held at the union’s headquarters at the University of Abuja.
Leaders of the union, who spoke to The PUNCH on Sunday, said the lecturers would decide whether or not to resume strike following the payment of half salary by the government.
The purpose of the emergency meeting is to discuss the payment of half-salaries to the lecturers.
Already, some branches across the country have held a congress to decide on the next steps to take.
The branch at the University of Jos, for instance, resolved that the lecturers stay home pending the payment of withheld salaries by the government; the branch at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University resolved that the 2021-2022 academic session be abolished, and the Gombe State University ASUU resolved that the examination results of students be seized.
A member of the NEC who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “Officially, the national body did not tell branches to hold congress, but many of them started calling meetings following the receipt of the amputated salary by the government. We don’t have to go on strike; there are lots of options available.”
When asked about the options available, the member said, “We can decide to stay at home, we can decide to seize results, or we can decide to cancel the session since the government won’t pay the withheld salary and we can’t work for months that we weren’t paid for.”
Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), who is the lead counsel to ASUU, in a statement on Sunday, explained why the ‘no work, no pay’ policy could not be applicable to ASUU.
In parts, Falana said, “According to the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the lecturers were paid in pro rata to the number of days that they worked in October, counting from the day that they suspended their industrial action.
“The position of the Federal Government is factually faulty and legally misleading. Since the industrial action was called off, the public universities have adjusted their calendars to ensure that the 2021–2022 academic session is not cancelled. Consequently, students are currently taking lectures or writing examinations that were disrupted during the strike of the ASUU. Therefore, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the ASUU strike, the doctrine of “no work, no pay” is totally inapplicable, as students who were not taught during the strike are currently attending lectures and writing examinations.
“Furthermore, it is public knowledge that the members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors embarked on a strike that lasted two months last year. The Federal Government dragged the striking doctors to the National Industrial Court, which ordered the NARD to call off the strike. As soon as the strike was called off, President Muhammadu Buhari jettisoned the “no work, no pay” principle and ordered the payment of the salaries for the two months that the strike lasted. On that occasion, the President overruled Dr Chris Ngige in the interest of industrial harmony in the health sector.
“In view of the foregoing, since the Federal Government is mandatorily required to treat all workers equally, the members of ASUU are entitled to be treated like members of the NARD after they had called off their strike. In other words, as members of ASUU and NARD are entitled to equality of rights, obligations, and opportunities before the law, the lecturers should be paid their salaries withheld during the period of the recently suspended 8-month industrial action.”
CONUA’s salaries rectification
Meanwhile, the FG has commenced plans to pay the Congress of University Academics their withheld salaries and rectify the “half salaries” paid to all lecturers under the newly registered union for the month of October 2022, The PUNCH has reliably gathered.
Sources familiar with the matter made it known to our correspondent on Saturday in Abuja.
The PUNCH reports that the lecturers under CONUA, just like those under ASUU, had their salaries withheld following the invocation of the ‘no work, no pay’ policy by the FG during the height of the ASUU strike.
Though the CONUA coordinator, Dr Niyi Sunmonu, noted that its members were not on strike, the lecturers still had their salaries withheld.
CONUA, a breakaway faction of the Academic Staff of Universities, was registered in October 2022 by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige.
Speaking to our correspondent, a source within the ministry, noted, “The government will pay CONUA their withheld salaries, they wrote and it was proven that they didn’t join the strike. The minister has also approved it. So, yes, they will be paid. As for ASUU, I can’t say at the moment but be rest assured that CONUA members will have their withheld allowances and salaries released.”
Confirming the development, Sunmonu said, “We have been told to start some processes with some ministries and agencies, which we have commenced, and we are following up to ensure that the salaries are paid.”
Defending the government’s decision, Ngige noted in a statement on Saturday that the government decided to pay the lecturers “pro-rata.”
“They were paid in pro rata to the number of days that they worked in October, counting from the day that they suspended their industrial action. Pro-rata was done because you cannot pay for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied,” Ngige noted.
Speaking, the branch chairman of the ASUU at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Dr Christian Opata, expressed reservations over the Federal Government’s decision to pay lecturers half their salaries but said there was no opportunity for another strike.
Opata said although the matter is a national one, the national leadership would take a decision on that at tomorrow’s (today) meeting.
Asked if there were possibilities of another strike, Opata said, “The issue is that there are opportunities for another strike. Well for us, I don’t see any opportunity for another strike. However, I cannot decide that because the zone has not met but the national leadership will be meeting tomorrow, so by tomorrow the national body will be in a position to come out with a decision, and since it is a national matter, all branches are going to abide by whatever decision is taken there.”
On what a half-salary payment suggested, he said, “I am not a mind reader, I don’t know what the government wants or what all other branches of ASUU might want to do. However, my take is that the intervention from the House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, didn’t yield the expected result. “
The ASUU branch at the University of Maiduguri would not disclose its decision on the possible resumption of the strike, saying that it would totally abide by the decision to be reached at the union’s National Executive Council meeting on Monday, November 7.
Dr Abubakar Saidu, the UniMaid ASUU chairman, said, “I will not disclose those grievances and views to the press.”
He said, “You can see that we resumed lectures and we will start exams on Monday (November 7); so the issue of the resumption of the strike or not after our NEC reaches a final decision will be solely dependent on the government, the students, and their parents.”
The ASUU Chairman, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, chapter, Dr Adeola Egbedokun, when asked if the decision had been taken to commence another round of industrial action, said their decision would be announced by the National Executive Council of the union after a meeting on Monday
Egbedokun, in a reply via a text to an inquiry by one of our correspondents, said, “You would hear from ASUU immediately after the Monday NEC meeting.”
The Chairman of the ASUU, the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Dr Biodun Olaniran, while responding to an inquiry on the next line of action over half-salaries payment, said, “That will be determined at the NEC meeting. The NEC of the union will determine how to react to it.”
He said the next action would be determined by the leadership of the union but he said he could not preempt what it would be.
CVCNU, UNILAG ASUU react
The Committee of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian Universities has said the National Executive Council of ASUU was interacting with it and trying to decide on what next to do.
Speaking in an interview with one of our correspondents, CVCNU chairman, Prof. Lillian Salami, said, “We are still interacting and trying to meet with our local chapters and decide what we will do. I can’t speak for the union; tomorrow wouldn’t be too late to know the outcome.”
ASUU chairman at the University of Lagos, Dr Dele Ashiru, told one of our correspondents that the Southwest zone was waiting for the NEC to meet to decide if it would embark on strike or not.
“Our meeting had no outcome. No resolutions. It is only when the NEC meets that they will take a resolution,” he added.
The ASUU chairman, University of Jos, Dr Lazarus Maigoro, in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Sunday, said, “For us in the University of Jos, we are not going to the classroom to teach the students but will remain at home.
“That is not to say we are on strike yet. It is only the national body of ASUU that can declare whether members should embark on a fresh strike or not.
“We will let you know when the union will meet and take a decision on the matter.”