By Victor Ahiuma-Young
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, Thursday, said the Federal Government had done everything possible to please the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, to end its protracted strike that had paralysed academic activities in universities for about 10 months.
The minister, in a statement by his Media Officer, said only ASUU leaders could tell why members were yet to return to the classroom to the frustration of students and their parents.
He dismissed as baseless and dishonest, the statement credited to the University of Jos chapter of ASUU, led by Dr. Maigoro, that the minister was responsible for the prolonged nationwide strike.
According to Ngige, “It is rather ASUU, which has bluntly refused to reciprocate the Federal Government offers by refusing to either teach, conduct researches or engage in other academic values for which they are paid, that should be held responsible.
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“Strangely, ASUU claims ‘patriotism’ as the basis for this prolonged industrial action, forcing every patriot to raise concern over this weird definition of patriotism by ASUU officials.
“Living by its words, the Federal Government has fulfilled all the demands over which ASUU went on strike on March 9.
“The visitation panels to the universities have been approved by the President and will swing into action once the universities re-open.
“The office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, on the other hand, is also rounding off the gazetting of the panels while the National Universities Commission, NUC, has received the approved list which will be published later next week.
“Also, the revival of the Renegotiation Committee for the 2009 ASSU/FG Agreement demanded by ASUU has been set up by the Ministry of Education with Professor Munzali as Chairman, replacing the ex-chairman, Dr Wale Babalakin(SAN).
“The new committee is currently meeting. Similarly, the government has also acceded to a hybrid payment platform which is not 100 percent IPPIS, for the payment of salaries and Earned Academic Allowances/ Earned Allowances.
“This pending the result and conclusion of the integrity and usability test on the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions, UTAS, by the National Information and Technology Development Agency, NITDA.
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“Besides, the government has also processed for payment the sum of N70 billion, comprising N40 billion for Earned Academic Allowances/Earned Allowances and N30 billion for the revitalisation of the universities.
“The Accountant-General of the Federation at present awaits the accounts details from the Federal Ministry of Education and the National University Commission for the remittance.
“Of note is that even while ASUU was on strike during the COVID-19 lockdown, the government on the insistence of the Minister of Labour and Employment, and out of compassion, paid them February, March, April, May and June salaries to cushion the effects of the Covid-19 on them and their families.
“He further made every entreaty to them to come onboard virtual negotiations, with a view for an early call-off of the strike, to enable students to benefit from virtual/online classes, fashionable at the time, and even now, all over the universal academic community, but ASUU bluntly refused,” Ngige added.