From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
The Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment clarified that it had not invited the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to Thursday’s meeting at the Presidential Villa.
Media reported last week that his minister, Chris Ngige, said the agencies involved would hold a meeting regarding the ongoing university strike the next day.
But ASUU President Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, in an interview on Channels Television, said his union had not received any invitation from the federal government to attend the meeting.
However, a statement issued last weekend by the ministry’s spokesman, Mr. Olajide Oshundun, explained that the meeting was intended only for interdepartmental committees of federal government departments and agencies and that none of the university unions, including including ASUU, was invited.
According to the statement, the meeting was convened to assess the progress made so far in addressing the few outstanding demands of striking university workers.
“We will start by providing some clarification on the meeting on the government side held last Thursday, June 23, 2022, aimed at expediting the resolution of the multiple strike actions of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other university unions, the Association of Senior Staff of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Union of Non-Academic Staff of Universities (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
“The meeting was aimed at interdepartmental committees of federal government departments and agencies, including the Federal Ministry of Education, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Federation Budget Office, the Commission Wages, Incomes and Wages (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) The committees report to the Office of the Chief Office of the President and the Federal Ministry of Labor and Employment.
“The meeting in question was called to assess the progress made so far in addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their terms of service. These two committees were constituted by the Honorable Minister and the President’s Chief of Staff during the last tripartite meetings plus trade unions and the government side.
“For the avoidance of doubt, none of the unions were invited to last Thursday’s meeting and the Minister of Labor and Employment, Senator Dr Chris Ngige, while briefing State House correspondents after the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, clarified that the meeting would be held the next day (Thursday, June 23, 2022), for the government side only.
“As planned, the meeting was held and all stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and, accordingly, received further information and directives from the President in order to expedite discussions with the ASUU It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will submit their reports, in order to allow the President to be fully informed and to take decisions on the disputed payment platform and the renegotiation of terms of service, in particular the issue of salary increases.
“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labor will bring together all stakeholders, including unions, at a conference table to review the agreement before signing or endorsing it.
“Therefore, any insinuations that the Ministry of Labor does not sympathize with students, unions and parents, of which the minister is a part, must be disproved. The Minister had repeatedly received praise from the ASUU leadership for his role in resolving the impasse in the education sector. Working with the President’s Chief of Staff, he formed the two committees to work diligently and in accordance with the law, resolving initial payment platform issues and renegotiating terms of service. The claims made here are verifiable, being out there in the public domain.
“Nevertheless, the department will not be bullied by a union into imposing a payment platform on the government, which took the decision to adopt IPPIS long ago in 2017.
“ASUU should know that we are arbitrators and conciliators. We cannot manufacture agreements. Be that as it may, we are not forced to listen to the government side and push it to do its part as quickly as possible.
These clarifications are necessary for the public to understand our role within the Ministry of Labor as conciliators and arbitrators in a labor dispute. The statement read.