The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has dismissed the claim by the Academic Staff Union of Universities that its members could not return to the institutions on an empty stomach as baseless, insisting that only four months’ salaries were outstanding.
According to a statement by Ngige on Tuesday, since the lecturers began their strike in February, the government had been magnanimous to pay their salaries up to June, as of July to November were the remaining months.
The minister said during the COVID-19 lockdown, the government had reached out to ASUU to “show good faith over the five months salaries government made to them by returning to the classroom and start virtual and online teaching as being done by private universities, while the government sorts out the rest of their requests, but they also refused.”
Ngige’s statement was in reaction to the ASUU President, Biodun Ogunyemi, who had earlier lamented that the government failed to deliver on the timelines on offers made to the union and blamed the federal government for the lingering strike.
Ngige, however, insisted that the blame rests on ASUU that failed to call off the strike despite the effort by the government.
“The truth of the matter is that a ‘gentleman agreement’ was reached at the last meeting in which ASUU agreed to call off the strike before December 9, 2020, and the minister, in turn, decided that once the strike is called off, he would get a presidential waiver for ASUU to be paid the remainder of their salaries on or before December 9,” Ngige’s statement read.
“For instance, the Federal Government promised to constitute a Negotiation Committee for the 2009 Agreement and has fulfilled it with the last week’s inauguration of the committee that has Prof Muzali as chairman.
“The N40billion Earned Academic Allowances have also been processed just like the N30 Billion revitalisation Fund, bringing it to N70billion. Likewise, the visitation panels for the universities have been approved by the President, but the panel cannot perform its responsibilities until the shut universities are reopened.
“The lecturers were paid for February and March, after which it was extended to April, May and June, months they were on strike on compassionate grounds, bringing it to five months. The outstanding salaries to ASUU were for July, August, September and October as no federal public servant has been paid for November 2020.