‘Seun Ibukun-Oni, Abuja – The Federal Government has accused the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of lying to its members and the general public that it has filed an appeal on the order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) to suspend its ongoing strike.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, made the accusation in a statement signed by the Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the ministry, Olajide Oshundun.
Ngige said,“The union is dishonest and misleading its members and the general public, that it has filed an appeal as well has a stay of execution of the order of NICN on Sept. 2, though it has none of this.
“Rather, ASUU only filed an application for a permission to appeal the order. It also attached to the application, a proposed notice of appeal which it intends to file if the leave to appeal is granted.
“The application for a stay of execution as of this moment has not even been listed for hearing. Where then is ASUU coming from?
“It is therefore contemptuous, dishonest and misleading for the union to tell its members that it has not only appealed the interlocutory injunction by the NICN, directing it to call off strike and return to work, but that it also has a stay of execution.”
Ngige described the new directive by ASUU, exhorting its members to continue with the action as an unwarranted lawlessness, noting that “the Federal Government strongly frowns at this”.
The minister advised the striking lecturers to cease taking laws into its hands by directing its members to continue with the 8-month old strike.
According to him, this is in defiance of the interlocutory injunction by the NICN which restrained the union from further action.
He accused the leadership of the union of misinforming and misleading its members and warned of the consequences of contempt of court order.
Ngige reiterated the Federal Government’s call to the union to respect the court order and return to work, while negotiations are concluded on the remaining issues in contention.
The statement also denied reports that the minister walked out on the meeting between the House of Representatives and ASUU on Sept. 29.
According to the statement, the minister left the meeting to attend to other pressing matters with the permission of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, after making his presentation.
It further explained that the Secretary to the Government of the Federation was earlier granted such permission by the Speaker.
The statement recalled that at that meeting, Ngige addressed the two major issues over which ASUU is still on strike.
It said, “On renegotiation of salaries and wages of lecturers, I sympathise with ASUU just like other Nigerian workers.
“The economy is bad and hard time, biting hard on everybody. ASUU deserves no blame.
“The Briggs Committee was the product of reconciliation of my ministry, which had to move to the ASUU’s direct employers – Ministry of Education for a Collective Bargaining Agreement, so we can arrive on what is good to be paid to ASUU, subject to approval by the President
“The President has a Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages chaired by the Minister of Finance, with myself as co-chair and other members – National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Budget Office, etc.
“Every MDA, whether drawing from the treasury or not, must pass through this committee on any issue concerning salaries for approval, before transmission to the President. The report of the Briggs Committee did not unfortunately pass this route.”