The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) members are owed salary arrears, but according to the House of Representatives spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila never committed to making good on that promise.
As you may remember, the last round of strikes by ASUU began on February 14, 2022, and lasted until October 14, 2022, when it was finally called off.
ASUU and the federal government held a series of discussions and negotiations throughout that time, which were mediated by the House leadership under Gbajabiamila, to end the 8-month strike.
But according to a statement released by the House Spokesman on Wednesday, ASUU President Professor Emmanuel Osedeke had blasted Gbajabiamila and accused him of duping the union into calling off the strike on the promise that their salary arrears would be reimbursed.
In a statement, he said that on Tuesday, December 27, 2022, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), accused Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, speaker of the House of Representatives, of using deceit to persuade the union to end its strike action.
In particular, he claimed that the Speaker broke his written promise to the government to immediately balance the arrears of wages owing to union members for the time they were on strike.
“For the record, at no point did the Speaker of the House of Representatives commit to offsetting the arrears of salaries owed to union members for the time they were on strike. The House of Representatives helped to resolve the strike by making commitments to improve the welfare package of university lecturers and revitalization funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities. These commitments are reflected in the 2023 Appropriation Bill, which includes one hundred and seventy billion naira (N170,000,000,000.00) to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers and additional three hundred billion naira (N300,000,000,000.00) in revitalization funds.
“Furthermore, the House of Representatives continues to work with stakeholders; the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to facilitate the adoption of elements of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). This effort is being supervised by the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, Rep. Aminu Suleiman.
“Professor Emmanuel Osodeke knows that the Federal Government of Nigeria is under no obligation to pay university lecturers’ salaries for the duration they were on strike. This is a settled matter in law. See S. 43(1)(a) Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN). The Executive decision not to pay salaries to lecturers for the time spent on strike is warranted by the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions. Nonetheless, the Speaker has made interventions for an exemption in this regard, and Professor Osedeke is well aware of this.”
According to Kalu, the primary goals of the House’s participation were to safeguard the public interest and guarantee that there was a viable tertiary education system.
However, he asserted that Osedeke’s maneuvering was to blame for the eight-month closure of the universities and urged him to cease spreading false information.
“The public interest in ensuring a well-functioning tertiary education sector is a matter of paramount concern for all who understand the transformational role of education in any society. For this reason, the 9th House of Representatives has been consistent in our efforts to explore avenues for reform and improvement to the framework of public education in the country from basic education through tertiary. Our objectives in this regard will not be achieved when stakeholders choose to ignore substantive issues and the consideration of bold ideas in favor of cheap blackmail and immoral propaganda.
“Professor Osodeke’s bad-faith approach to negotiations and his affinity for political brinkmanship are significant reasons the universities were on strike for so long. His ongoing interventions continue to threaten the progress being made to preclude the possibility of further disruptions to the academic calendar of the universities.
“Therefore, I call on him, in his capacity as President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to desist from making further misleading statements against the House of Representatives and the Speaker, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila. There is no place for belligerence and selfish agitation in this critical moment. This is the time for calm heads and steady hands, working together for the common good”, Kalu said.