Friday, September 29

Minister accuses ASUU of blackmail

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By Frank Ikpefan, Abuja On Feb 10, 2022

Minister of Labour and Employment Chris Ngige has accused varsity teachers of whipping up sentiments against the Federal Government to attract sympathy to its planned strike.

Dr. Ngige said the government had been implementing the Memorandum of Action signed in 2020 with the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).

The minister was reacting to the lecturers’ threat to throw public varsities into another round of strike to protest the yet-to-be met demands.

The lecturers said the full implementation of the 2009 agreement is what can avert the strike.

Ngige said the government released N70 billion in 2021 for both Revitalisation of Public Universities (N30 billion) and Earned Academic Allowances (N40 billion) to   demonstrate commitment to the MoA implementation.

The minister said: “It is not true. They have taken their Earned Academic Allowances for 2021. It was mainstreamed in the budget of 2021 and they got it.

“We paid N22.72 billion which was mainstreamed in the 2021 budget. And they have collected the one of 2020 where they got N40 billion and shared it between them and other unions. They got it in January 2021.

“When they called off their strike in December 2020, the release of funds was one of the agreements. They were paid N40 billion and another N30 billion for Revitalisation of Public Universities during the first quarter of 2021, bringing the total to N70 billion.

“If they say the EAA is not in the 2022 Budget, why don’t they allow the government to do a Supplementary Budget? There is a parameter that we use to calculate it. That parameter changes every year and it is the budget office that is calculating it.

“Maybe by March the Budget Office would have known what the parameter will be and put it in the 2022 supplementary budget. The EAA they got in 2021 was in the supplementary budget.

“We are implementing the MoA, we have been implementing it religiously. When they (ASUU) are talking like that, I don’t like it because they are talking just to whip up sentiments.”

The minister also directed the ASUU leadership to its primary employers – Federal Ministry of Education (FMoE) to find out the progress of the re-negotiation of the 2009 FG-ASUU agreement.

He said the report of the Prof Munzali Jibril-led Committee was not forwarded to him or the Presidential Committee on Salaries for input.

Ngige said: “They are supposed to write to their minister, who is their employer and tell him these things you are saying. When there is a breakdown in discussion that is when it comes to the federal ministry of Labour.

“They (FMoE) have not sent us any report either at the Presidential Committee on Salaries (PCS) or have they sent anything to me as minister of Labour.”

Asked if there is any meeting planned with ASUU leadership, Ngige said: “It is up to the Federal Ministry of Education to call me.  Then I will call a meeting.

“I have forwarded their complaints to the Education for them to engage them. I have forwarded a letter to the ministry of education today (yesterday).”

Ngige also said he has forwarded the reply of ASUU on the assessment done by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) on the University Transparency Accountability Solutions (UTAS) to the FMoE, National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

“They have written their own reply to the defects that NITDA pointed out in the UTAS.  NITDA said utas is not ready for usage and pointed out the things they want them to rectify.

“When NITDA did that I was the one who communicated to ASUU. I didn’t start waiting for their employers to do so just to fast track the negotiation.

“I forwarded to ASUU, Finance and NUC. The Ministry of Education is supposed to have gotten its own copy, Ngige added.

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