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Federal Government on Sunday, said that the meeting it convened on Thursday was only for the government team involved in the resolution of the face-off with the university-based unions that led to the ongoing strike.

Recall that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige had on Wednesday while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting said that the government team involved in the industrial dispute with the university-based unions would be meeting the next day (Thursday) for progress report on efforts so far made towards finding a truce.

But appearing on Channels Television, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke had said that government excluded his union in the invitation for the meeting.

However, reacting to the allegation of exclusion, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Ngige explained that invitation to the meeting was only sent to the government team involved in resolving the impasse .

The Minister in a statement issued by Olajide Oshundun, Head, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, noted that the meeting was to review efforts made so far towards an amicable resolution of the face-off with University workers.

The statement read: “The attention of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has been drawn to an interview on Channels Television by the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Professor Emmanuel Osodeke where he said that his union did not receive any invitation from the Federal Government to attend the meeting held last Thursday, June 23, 2022 at the Presidential Villa Abuja.

Prior to Osodeke’s interview, all kinds of write-ups authored by members of ASUU had been trending on the social media, accusing the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr Chris Ngige of being the headache of the university lecturers.

While it is not our wish to join issues with either Osodeke or those hack writers in the social media, we wish to use this opportunity to set the record straight for the benefit of members of the public who may have been misled.

We will start by making some clarifications on the government side meeting held last Thursday, June 23, 2022, geared towards accelerating the resolution of the multiple strike actions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other university-based unions, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).

The meeting was meant for the inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government, including the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA). The committees are reporting to the office of the Chief of Staff to the President and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.

The meeting in question was called to assess the progress made so far on addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their conditions of service. These two committees were empanelled by the Honourable Minister and the Chief of Staff to the President at the last tripartite plus meetings of the unions and the government side.

For the avoidance of doubt, none of the unions was invited to last Thursday’s meeting and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr Chris Ngige, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting last Wednesday, June 22, 2022, clarified that the meeting would hold the next day (Thursday, June 23,2022), for the government side alone.

As expected, the meeting held and all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU. It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr. President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.

It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement.

Consequently, all insinuations that the Ministry of Labour does not sympathise with the students, unions and parents, of which the Minister is one, should be disabused. The Minister had on several occasions received commendation from the ASUU leadership for his role in the resolution of the impasse in the education sector. Acting with the Chief of Staff to the President, he empanelled the two committees to work assiduously and according to the law, towards the resolution of the teething issues of payment platform and renegotiation of the conditions of service. The claims made here are verifiable, being out there in public domain.

Nonetheless, the ministry will not allow itself to be bullied by any union into forcing any payment platform on government, which took a decision to adopt the IPPIS a long time ago in 2017.

ASUU should know that we are arbitrators and conciliators. We cannot manufacture agreements. Regardless, we are not constrained from listening to the government side and pushing them to do their own bit as quickly as possible.

These clarifications are necessary so that the public will understand our role in the Ministry of Labour as conciliators and arbitrators in a labour dispute.

Source: Vanguard.

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