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Chris Ngige, minister of labour and employment, says the federal government may consider taking the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the industrial court if the process to resolve the strike fails.
On February 14, ASUU embarked on a one-month warning strike over the non-implementation of an agreement reached with the federal government in 2020.
On March 14, the union extended the strike by eight weeks following dissatisfaction with the federal government’s “disappointing” response on the matter.
Amid the strike, the federal government and the leadership of ASUU have held a series of meetings, but no agreement has been reached by both sides on ending the strike.
Speaking on Thursday in an interview with Channels Television, Ngige said ASUU must refrain from “intimidating” officials in the ministry of digital communications and economy and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) over the deployment of the University Transparency Account System (UTAS) proposed by the union.
The labour minister added that the federal government does not have the resources to review the salaries of varsity lecturers by 180 percent as contained in a previous proposal submitted when Munzali Jibril, a professor, was leading the renegotiation committee.
“The solution is that number one, ASUU has to come down from its high horse. You cannot go and start intimidating people in NITDA and threatening the minister of digital economy and communications with revocation of his professorship; that he is a fake professor and that they did not approve it,” he said.
“They went to ABU and said they are going to withdraw the certificate of the director of NITDA. That is bullying. It is not allowed in labour negotiations.”
The minister also said the Nimi Briggs-led renegotiation committee has been given six weeks to submit its report, adding that the six-week period will end on Friday.
Ngige said he will invite parties involved in the matter for a meeting by next week.
Asked what will happen if the status quo remains after his intervention, the labour minister said the federal government will consider taking the union to the industrial court if reconciliation fails.
“What is happening now is we have given the Nimi Briggs committee six weeks. We are waiting for their report. The minister of education has to transmit it and say this is what we have agreed,” he said.
“He will also transmit to the presidential committee on salaries. The six-week period ends this Friday and I’m calling everybody up by next week.
“The law says we can go to the industrial arbitration panel, which is where I’m supposed to refer this matter to if reconciliation fails, or national industrial court if reconciliation fails.
“It is a double-barrel thing. I will choose the one I want. I will refer. The law says once conciliation has started at my level, you call off the strike.”
This post was written by Obiajulu Joel Nwolu.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.