Nigeria’s minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, has promised Nigerians that the ongoing one-week-old industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will end before the one month declared by the union.
Chris Ngige, who spoke on Tuesday, February 22, 2022 at the negotiation table between the union and the representatives of the government, said the government was surprised by the lecturers’ decision to embark on strike despite the assurances by the government and the intervention of ‘stakeholders’ including the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC).
“I assure you, this meeting will be a fruitful one as we have brought everybody to the discussion table. We have ‘apprehended’ the situation and we expect that from the discussion that we will have today, ASUU will understand that the government does not mean any harm. Even if there were lapses, they are lapses that can be handled without resorting to industrial action.” Ngige promised.
Responding to the minister’s claim, the union said that most of the issues in contention have not been addressed by the government, adding that the strike will continue, as the government has failed to fully meet any of his demands.
ASUU president, Emmanuel Osodeke, stated that several meetings with different agencies of government have also not yielded any positive result.
Osodeke noted that during one of its meetings in October, 2021, the ministries of education and finance promised to set up a tripartite committee in two (2) weeks but noted that nothing has been done.
“They (NIREC) actually met with the government on the 1st of February 2022 and they told us that the ministers of labour, education and the chief of staff were mandated to resolve the issue by the president.
“When you look at issues in this agreement, you will find out that none, not even one has been fully implemented as we agreed. And that is what led us to where we are.
“We are fully ready to discuss. The strike will not last for one month if the government doesn’t want it to last for one month.” Osodeke stated further.
The minister who said he was in Botswana when the union embarked on the strike, said government would not allow a situation where the students suffer the consequences of strike by the union.
“I sincerely thought ASUU and the Ministry of Education would have resolved the issues, which hopefully are not major areas of dispute, warranting industrial action. To my surprise , I came back , and the strike is still on. Be that as it may, it is the mandate of my ministry to apprehend industrial disputes wherever they occur and we have apprehended this.
“But I must tell you that on the government side, they were taken by surprise. NIREC met with you (ASUU) and reported to the President. Having met with you (union) and having given the details of their meeting with you, we sincerely hoped we won’t again take this route of industrial action . So, the government side is taken by surprise- Ministries of Education, Finance and all are taken aback.” He said.
Ngige therefore called on the federal government to fulfill the timeline of the agreements it signed.
The representatives of both federal government and ASUU went into a closed-door meeting Tuesday night.
ASUU had on Monday, February 14, 2022 declared a one-month warning strike after its weekend-long National Executive Council meeting at the University of Lagos.
The union had accused the government of consistently failing to meet its demands including signed agreements.