The Nigerian government has said the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) through its demands “is placing itself above the law of the land and no government will encourage it as it is a recipe for chaos in the labour milieu.”
According to the country’s minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, ASUU had agreed at their last meeting to call off their nine-month-old strike before December 9 (Wednesday) as the government has delivered on offers made to the lecturers.
The federal government was reacting to claims by the President of ASUU, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, that the government had failed to deliver on offers made to the union which has led to the union’s failure to call off the strike.
Ogunyemi observed that the lecturers would only return to classes if their salary arrears were paid.
Meanwhile, in a statement from the minister’s media office titled, ‘We have kept our promises to ASUU – FG’, the minister stated: “The N40b Earned Academic Allowances have also been processed just as the N30bn revitalisation funds, bringing it to N70bn. Likewise, the visitation panels for the universities have been approved by the President but the panel cannot perform its responsibilities until the shut universities are re-opened.
“The gazetting is also being rounded off at the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation while the Ministry of Education is ready to inaugurate the various visitation panels.
“They were paid for February and March, after which it was extended to April, May and June, months they were on strike on compassionate ground, bringing it to five months.
“Asking the government to pay these four months before it goes back to work means ASUU is placing itself above the law of the land and no government will encourage it as it is a recipe for chaos in the labour milieu.
“The truth of the matter is that a ‘gentleman agreement’ was reached at the last meeting in which ASUU agreed to call off the strike before December 9, 2020, and the minister, in turn, agreed that once the strike is called off, he would get a presidential waiver for ASUU to be paid the remainder of their salaries on or before December 9.”
Meanwhile, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), has said that the eight-month-long strike by ASUU was an indication that university lecturers had not taken into consideration the larger challenges facing the country.
“Government conceded something. The problem is that they refused to look at the problem of the whole country. The Minister of Labour is working hard at it. It is amazing how ASUU will stay out of classrooms for so long. There’s a need for our elite to understand the challenges facing the country,” the President added.
By Abel Ejikeme