Minister of Labor and Employment Chris Ngige said that if the government does not respond to the invitation to negotiate, it may be forced to bring the Academic Personnel Union of the Universities (ASUU) before the National Arbitral Tribunal and even the National Industrial Court.
He urged the striking ASUU to take the opportunity of a recent federal government invitation to return to the round table.
The minister said he had invited the union leadership to a zoom meeting, but they insisted on meeting him face to face.
“I invited ASUU to a zoom meeting that complies with the Covid 19 guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC), but they insisted on meeting me face to face. We have labor laws, ”he said.
ASUU had said that negotiations on Zoom would not be able to find the desired solution to the ongoing dispute.
In order for the strike to be suspended, the federal government must make significant progress in meeting its main demands, including paying arrears of allowances, the revitalization fund, and creating visitor boards for federal universities.
However, Ngige warned that if the union refuses to come to the round table, the federal government could potentially resort to labor laws to see what can be done.
He said: “The law allows the federal government to take the union to the National Arbitration Court and even to the National Industrial Court.”
According to a statement by his media consultant Emmanuel Nzomiwu, the minister spoke in his home town of Alor, Anambra, where he donated N 15 million palliative care to vulnerable households to mitigate the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic on them.
He said the ASUU strike dealt exclusively with the integrated wage and salary information system (IPPIS), adding that “every other reason given by ASUU is an alibi”.
Ngige accused the union leadership of deceiving members and not telling them the truth.
“We have a hierarchy of arbitration. There is the National Arbitration Panel. When I’m tired, I can forward it to the National Arbitration Panel. When I’m tired, I can refer it to the National Industrial Court. It is better for them to negotiate first-hand if we don’t bring an outside referee with them, ”said Ngige.
The minister described ASUU’s position in the dispute with the federal government as ridiculous and said: “As an employee, you do not have the right to dictate to your employers how to receive wages.
“It is even in the International Labor Organization (ILO) convention on wages. You cannot tell your employers how to pay you. But the most important thing is that your salaries and wages come to you. As a worker, you receive your salary as compensation for services rendered. So that’s everywhere on the statute.
“But for strange reasons, this was a problem with the Academic Staff Union at the Nigerian universities. Why? They indicated that they were migrated from the Government Integrated Financial Management Information (GFMIS) platform to the IPPIS. “
Ngige said the federal government complained that it had lost a lot of money by paying lecturers from the GFMIS platform, which only transfers money for your salaries to the university system through the scholarship holder’s office, from where they are paid .
“The anomalies are that some of the people are ghost workers. They don’t exist at all, but their names do exist and they pull money from the federal government.
“Some people get more than their guilt because some who teach at various other universities are supposed to receive 50 percent of the remuneration for teaching at those other universities based on salaries and the maximum number of universities they should teach is two . Some teach at three, others at four universities.
“Again, the taxes that your scholarship holder and vice chancellor deduct do not reflect PAYE (Pay As You Earn) taxes. They are not, and because they are not, the different state governments, the different state governments, where the universities are based, applied to the Joint Tax Board (JTB) to request these deficits, request these deficiencies, ”said Ngige.
The minister said over time that tax deficit shortfalls totaled over N 800 billion, and JTB punished the federal government for those funds that were not paid to the states.
He added that the federal government had paid over N 800 billion to states from the Federation General Ledger’s office.
Ngige also complained about the ASUU’s uncompromising stance in the dispute.
He said he didn’t care that the strike, which started on March 9, was not going well, and brought the lecturers to a round table with the Federal Ministry of Education and the general accountant of the federal government.
“We had discussions and they now said that some of the agreements we had in the 2019 Memorandum of Action were not implemented vigorously, and we agreed that they would get $ 25 billion for their earned academic allowances and another $ 25 billion for them Revitalization of the university system will be paid.
“The federal government paid the first tranche of N 50 billion, N 25 billion and N 25 billion. Then there was the question of the national minimum wage. Based on the national minimum wage, there was the problem of consistently adjusting this minimum wage, which cost the Federal Government N 160 billion. I negotiated it.
“The federal government had to pay retrospectively from the signing of the national minimum wage by the president. As a result, the federal government of ASUU was unable to pay the next tranche of N 25 billion as it was due to be paid in October last year. You said there was a violation.
“We said we owe it that we can pay for it. So we restructured and agreed that between April 2020 and May the government could pay them N20 billion and another N20 billion for academic allowances they earned. We all agreed, ”said Ngige.
The minister said the federal government even agreed to test the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) system proposed by ASUU to promote President 5’s order for local production. However, the union required 18 months for its researchers to complete work on it.
He said government officials recommended ASUU to migrate to IPPIS while waiting for their researchers to complete work on UTAS and submit it for an integrity test to get all parties to agree, but the union refused to return to the round table.
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