By Eunice Odigie, Benin City
The Benin Zone of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on Wednesday expressed serious doubt over the capability and commitment of Senator Dr. Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, to midwife any peaceful and early resolution of the issues that led to the ongoing strike in the country’s public universities.
The Benin Zone of the Union hinged its doubt on Dr. Ngige’s obvious approach in the handling of the ongoing strike, which the Union said may probably not midwife an earnest resolution of the crisis in the country’s public universities.
In a release issued in Benin City yesterday and signed by the Union’s Zonal Coordinator, Prof. Fred Esumeh, ASUU observed that since the development of UTAS, the Minister of Labour and Employment has been making remarks characteristic of a spoiler, confusionist and anti-ASUU, rather than a conciliator.
Esumeh said that by the provisions of the Law, Dr. Chris Ngige, as the Minister of Labour and Employment is saddled with the conciliatory role during industrial disharmony, to calm an already tense situation and bring about a peaceful resolution, but he has chosen to be the mouth piece of other Unions that were not part of the 2019 MoA.
Esumeh accused the government of introducing IPPIS to divert the public attention to the lack of sincerity, and will to faithfully implement agreement reached with ASUU, insisting on the Union’s rejection of IPPIS, given its violation of the University Autonomy Act and its inadequacies to carter for the peculiarities in the university system.
He maintained that on account of IPPIS vs UTAS imbroglio, government had been and still withholding salaries of ASUU members for months, even when the Union met with timelines agreed with government to develop UTAS amidst COVID-19 challenges.
The Union accused government anchored by the Minister of Finance, her Labour and Employment counterpart as well as the Accountant General of the Federation of the weaponisation of hunger to compel and coarse ASUU members to enroll on the IPPIS platform. The Union added that this move of government smacks of impunity and it is undemocratic in a democratic setting.
ASUU reminded Dr. Ngige that democracy which Nigerians, including him are enjoying today is anchored on the rule of law, and adherence to the law is sacrosanct.
The Union urged the Minister of Labour and Employment to calm nerves of members of ASUU and facilitate the payment of salaries of members instead of playing to the gallery and violating the law.
The Union urged Nigerians to ask Dr. Chris Ngige if, the February 2019 MoA with ASUU included other Unions, if from the onset he was not willing to implement the terms of agreement he midwife in 2019, and why he chose not to play a mediatory role that he should.
The Union recalled that Dr. Ngige has once accused Lecturers of playing ludo and again his assertion that government dictates how to pay its workers even when such offends the law.
ASUU further urged Dr. Ngige to stop the threat of legal action, just as the Union insisted that government should end the strike by honouring agreements.
The Union also urged government to keep faith with its slogan that education is the bedrock of development and nation building, calling on government to make education particularly at the tertiary level accessable to the poor.