By Emegwoako C. Paschal
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is preparing for a new battle with the federal government over the government’s decision to pay lecturers half-pay in October 2022.
On the same day, Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, stated that the federal government cannot violate the “No Work, No Pay” rule because it affects ASUU members, and that their October salaries were calculated on this basis.
Already, the ASUU leadership is said to have called an emergency meeting of its National Executive Council in Abuja to decide how to respond to the federal government’s half-monthly salaries.
Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, National President of ASUU, stated, “Half salaries were paid, with no explanation whatsoever.” We learned that Ngige wrote to the Accountant General’s office and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, instructing them to only pay us for the time when we called off the strike. We were told there was a letter to that effect, but we have yet to receive it. We’re going to call a meeting.”
Anger erupted across federal universities this week when union members received half-pay in their accounts.
ASUU members at the University of Jos yesterday ordered their members to remain at home indefinitely, pending the payment of federal government-held salaries.
The ASUU branch announced this in a statement signed by its chairman, Professor Lazarus Maigoro.
“One of the issues agreed upon at the meeting was that 50% of the backlog of eight months arrears of our withheld salaries will be paid to our members immediately,” the statement reads. “However, as of the time of writing this press release, only 17 days prorated October salary had been paid to our members by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.”
“Having stayed for about nine months now, our members at the University of Jos considered the Accountant General of the Federation’s insult to them.” Is the Federation’s Accountant General accountable to the Minister of Labour?
“We are also aware that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, wrote a memo to the Accountant General requesting that our members be paid only from the day the strike was suspended.”
“This raises further doubts in our minds about whether the agreement reached with House leadership on some of the issues will be implemented at all by those charged with the responsibility of doing so in order to avoid further needless strikes.”
“From all indications, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has personalized the matter between himself and our union and is on a vendetta mission.”
“It’s clear now that he wasn’t pleased that the House of Representatives brokered a truce on some of the issues we went on strike for, and he’s gone behind the scenes to undermine it.” It is also clear to us why he shamelessly walked out on the leadership of the House of Representatives during one of the meetings with all stakeholders in front of all Nigerians because he never wanted any kind of resolution to the issues being discussed.
“In light of Ngige’s bottleneck in paying our members the backlog of our salaries, the congress of ASUU University of Jos met today (yesterday, November 4, 2022) and resolved to remain at home, though not on strike, until the backlog of withheld salaries is paid.”
“I was shocked when I received an alert from my bank and noticed that I got half salary; they didn’t even talk about the backlog of the eight months of the strike,” a university teacher in Lagos said.
ASUU went on strike on February 14 to press for increased university funding and a review of lecturers’ salaries, among other things.
During the back-and-forth over the union’s demands, the federal government threatened not to pay the lecturers during the strike, but the decision was said to be reviewed.
On October 14, the union called a halt to the strike and instructed members to return to work immediately.
According to the Minister of Labour and Employment, the federal government is barred from intervening in the No Work, No Pay rule because it affects ASUU members.
Ngige stated that the federal government’s payment of half salaries to university teachers for the month of October was nothing out of the ordinary because lecturers were paid based on work done.
He stated that the issue of “No Work, No Pay” as it pertains to ASUU members is currently before the National Industrial Court and cannot be reversed until the court rules otherwise.
“In light of the current ASUU strike, the court will have to rule on whether a worker in Nigeria can go on strike and still be paid.” “Can they be compensated?” enquired the minister
Meanwhile, following the decision of medical lecturers to withdraw from the previous prolonged ASUU strike, the Medical and Dental Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto chapter stated that it took the action in the interest of the medical students and to ensure that their ongoing examinations were completed.
According to a statement signed by the branch Chairman, Dr. B. Jibirin, the association avoided disrupting medical training, which would have exacerbated the country’s already acute shortage of medical doctors.
“Recognizing the sub-emergency region’s situation, exacerbated by emerging public health threats, the medical lecturers at UDUS decided to continue academic activities during the ASUU strike in order to save our health care from total collapse.”
“To that end, the UDUS medical lecturers agreed to hold lectures and exams during the strike.” In accordance with the provisions of the Labour Act, we wrote and requested the intervention of the Minister of Labour, Employment, and Productivity to ensure our salaries were paid.”