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Femi Falana, the lead counsel of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, has asked the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila to apologise to the members of the union.
The Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, and human rights lawyer also criticized the speaker for denying the agreement reaches with ASUU.
Falana in a text to a Punch correspondent said that a member of the Federal Executive Council worked against the efforts aimed at resolving the issues related to the strike between the government and the university teachers.
Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, the President of ASUU, had accused the speaker of deceiving the union into suspending its strike. But several lawmakers on Wednesday defended the speaker.
Falana in his reaction said, “It is public knowledge that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila intervened in the last strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Several meetings were held with the relevant stakeholders by the leadership of the House. While briefing the Nigerian people on the resolution of the crisis on October 10, 2022, the Speaker did categorically state as follows:
“We agreed with ASUU and the government on certain things which we took to Mr President. I have visited the president twice. The first time we made our recommendations with the government shifting some and ASUU shifting some. We spoke with Mr President. There was one sticking issue which was the issue of no work no pay. And the President did ask that he would suggest the recommendations and would have one more meeting which we did on Friday after the budget.
“That meeting was even better than the first one we had with him, and Mr President had agreed to settle things. I am not going to talk about that now, and that he would disclose whatever it is tomorrow, Tuesday which is tomorrow.”
However, when the Federal Government insisted on the disputed issue of “no work, no pay”, the Speaker assured the lecturers on October 24, 2022, of his ability to resolve the issues in dispute.
Gbajabiamila said, “The Executive position that it is not obligated to pay salaries to lecturers for the time spent on strike is premised on the law and the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions.
“Nonetheless, interventions have been made to explore the possibility of partial payments to the lecturers. We look forward to a favourable consideration by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR who has manifested his desire to what is prudent and necessary to resolve all outstanding issues.”
“From the information at my disposal, the intervention of the House Leadership in resolving the crisis was sabotaged by a member of the Federal Executive Council.
“Having been embarrassed by the circumstance, the Speaker should have apologised to the ASUU and the Nigerian people instead of denying the agreement reached with ASUU and President Buhari on the decision of the Federal Government to pay for the period covered by the strike. The Agreement was based on the commitment of the lecturers to ensure that the 2021/2022 academic session was not cancelled.”