The Federal Government has appealed to striking university lecturers to resume discussion on some of the issues raised by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The leadership of ASUU had on March 23rd, declared an indefinite strike over the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System and the non-implementation of the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement.
The union leaders had accused the Federal Government of failing to implement the contents of the memorandum of action (MoA) that was signed last year by both sides.
ASUU’s National President, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, who announced the strike at its headquarters in Abuja, noted that the federal government, after two consultative meetings with its team led by Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen, Chris Ngige, had failed to address the issues raised by the union.
But in a statement on Sunday, Ngige accused the leadership of ASUU of deceiving the members and not telling them the truth.
In the release signed by his media aide, Emmanuel Nzomiwu, the minister warned that if the union refuses to resume discussion, the government may resort to labour laws to see what can be done.
He said the law permits the Federal Government to take the union to the National Arbitration Panel and even the National Industrial Court.
Ngige said the ASUU strike was all about IPPIS, adding that “any other reason given by ASUU is an alibi.”
The minister recalled that he invited the leadership of the union for a zoom meeting but they insisted on meeting him face to face.
He said: “I invited ASUU for a zoom meeting in compliance with World Health Organisation (WHO) and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) COVID-19 guidelines, but they insisted on meeting me face to face. We have labour laws.
“On what can be done, we have hierarchy of arbitration. There is the National Arbitration Panel. If I am tired, I can refer it to the National Arbitration Panel. If I am tired, I can refer it to the National Industrial Court. The better thing for them is to come and negotiate on firsthand basis where we are not bringing an external arbitrator.”
He described the position of ASUU in the dispute with Federal Government as laughable, noting that as employees of the government the lecturers lacked the powers to dictate to government on how to receive their wages.
“It is even in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention on wages. You cannot dictate for your employers how to pay you. But the important thing is for your salaries and wages to come to you. As a workman, you receive your pay as compensation for services rendered.
“So, that is on the statute everywhere. But for some strange reasons, this has been an issue with the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities. Why? they claimed that they are being migrated from the GFMIS (Government Integrated Financial Management Information (GFMIS) platform to the IPPIS).
“The Federal Government is paying them and the Federal Government says, ‘we are losing a lot of money paying you from the GFMIS platform, which only transmits money for your salaries to the university system, specifically the bursar’s office, from where they pay you.
“The anomalies are that, one, some of the people are ghost workers. They don’t exist at all but their names exist and they are drawing money from the Federal Government.
“Some people receive more than their due because after the salaries, some who are teaching in various other universities are supposed to take 50 percent as extra pay for teaching in that other universities and the maximum universities they should teach is two. Some teach in three, some teach in four universities.
“Again, the taxes that are being deducted by your bursar and your Vice Chancellor’s are not reflective of the taxes of PAYE (Pay As You Earn). They are not and because they are not, the shortfall of the taxes that are deducted, the various state governments, the various state governments where the universities are domicilled have petitioned the Joint Tax Board (JTB) to demand for this shortfalls, to demand for this shortfalls,” Ngige said.
ASUU president, Ogunyemi said the union has never declined invitation to negotiations with government.
He said: “ASUU has never declined invitation to negotiations with government. What we asked government representatives to do was to send us their response to the last letter we sent to them.
“ASUU leadership has been holding Zoom meetings with their members. We need to be sure of what is coming from government before accepting to attend any meeting.
“How can they claim to have invited us to a meeting without clear agenda or any letter of invitation?”