The federal ministry of labour and employment has said that Chris Ngige, its minister is not the reason why the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) is on strike.
The ministry, therefore, warned those accusing the minister of being the headache of the university lecturers to jettison such a notion.
The ministry position comes as the lecturers continue their strike which has paralysed academic activities in public universities across Nigeria.
A statement by Olajide Oshundun, the ministry’s head, press and public relations, said it was necessary to make the clarification in order for the public to understand the ministry’s role basically as conciliators and arbitrators in labour disputes.
According to him, “ASUU should know that we are arbitrators and conciliators. We cannot manufacture agreements. Regardless, we are not constrained from listening to the government side and pushing them to do their own bit as quickly as possible.”
He clarified why the ASUU was not invited to the Thursday meeting at the Presidential Villa. Media reports had, last week, quoted Ngige as saying that relevant agencies would hold a meeting pertaining the ongoing university strike the next day.
Already, ASUU president, Emmanuel Osodeke, said his union did not receive any invitation, stating that the union was sidelined from the meeting.
However, the statement by the labour ministry explained that the meeting was meant for only inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government and that none of the university-based unions, including ASUU, was invited.
“The meeting in question was called to assess the progress made so far on addressing the few outstanding demands of the striking university workers, such as the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of their conditions of service.
These two committees were empanelled by the minister and the chief of staff to the president at the last tripartite plus meetings of the unions and the government side.
“For the avoidance of doubt, none of the unions was invited to the last Thursday’s meeting and the minister of labour and employment, Chris Ngige, while briefing State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting on Wednesday, June 22, 2022, clarified that the meeting would hold the next day (Thursday, June 23,2022), for the government side alone.
“As expected, the meeting held and all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU. It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr. President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.
“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the ministry of labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement,” the statement.