By Gloria Ikibah
The lingering crisis between the Federal Government and members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is seen to have no end in sight, as the union announced yesterday its intention to appeal the order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) directing the suspension of its seven-month strike.
The National President of ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, reacting to the judgement said that efforts are being made to appeal the ruling.
According to him, while the judge has the right to render his decision, the union has the right to appeal.
Naijablitznews.com recalled that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, had on behalf Federal Government, referred the matter to the NICN in order to resolve the industrial action.
Ngige had taken the university lecturers to court, seeking an order compelling them to end their strike and return to work.
Counsel to the Federal Government, James Igwe (SAN), urged the court to grant the government’s request, arguing that the seven months already lost due to the strike could not be regained.
Citing section 18 (1) (e) of the Trade Dispute Act 2004, Igwe argued that a worker should not go on strike when a matter is already before the court, so he urged the court to order the lecturers to end their strike and return to work.
Although ASUU argued, through its counsel, Femi Falana (SAN), that the Federal Government’s request for an accelerated hearing was unnecessary because there was no urgency in the matter because the strike had lasted seven months, the court agreed with the government’s submission by issuing an injunction barring the lecturers from continuing the strike.
The court, in a ruling by Justice Polycarp Hamman, barred ASUU from continuing with the strike until the case was resolved.
Justice Hamman who is on vacation ordered that the case file be returned to the President of the Industrial Court for reassignment to another judge.
While urging members to remain calm, Osodeke stated that the union has already filed an appeal against the court ruling.
In the same vein, the union urged members and Nigerians to remain united in a terse statement issued by the Chairman of Lagos Zone, Adelaja Odukoya, even as it suggested that the order would be vacated.
Part of the statement reads: “Our President, Emmanuel Osodeke, has urged members, students and stakeholders to remain calm as there is no cause for alarm on the back to work order by NICN.
“Our lawyer is filing an appeal and stay of execution of the judgment. Members should remain resolute and strong. A people united can never be defeated. Solidarity without compromise.”
In the main time, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) have issued statements in response to the industrial court order.
NANS stated that it rejected the Federal Government’s “black market” judgment against ASUU. According to Giwa Temitope, National Public Relations Officer of NANS, the judgment betrayed equity because the government should not have brought ASUU before the industrial court at all.
He stated that the only way to end the strike is for the government to meet the union’s demands, which it willingly agreed to with ASUU..
“As an association, NANS is disturbed to read the news of the judgment because we believe that it is not right. Ordinarily, the Federal Government should not have dragged ASUU to court. We want to state categorically that the court cannot force ASUU back to the classroom.
“And, as it stands today, we maintain that the court has not resolved the problem and we reject the ruling in its entirety. The court could have directed the FG to pay rather than directing lecturers to go back to classrooms,” Temitope said.
This was confirmed by the body’s Southwest Coordinator, Emmanuel Olatunji Adegboye, who stated:
“The fact that they had to drag ASUU to court is a signal that this government cannot handle crisis. And we want to state categorically that the court cannot force members of ASUU back to lecture theatres.”
National Coordinator of ERC, Hassan Soweto, said the court verdict is unfair and shameful, saying it confirms his belief that “the judiciary is simply an arm of the apparatus of the capitalist state, just as the police and the army.”
In response to the court order, he urged the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) to declare a 48-hour nationwide warning strike.
He said; “At this stage, all we can say is that our solidarity with ASUU on its resolve to fight for adequate funding of public universities remains unshaken despite the court order.”
Due to the NICN ruling, the Congress of University Academics (CONUA) has urged Vice Chancellors of public universities to reopen the institutions for academic activities to resume.
According to the group’s National Coordinator, Niyi Sunmonu, this has become necessary because the court is one of the country’s recognized tools of democratic engagement.
Sunmonu stated that because CONUA members have not been on strike, reopening the universities will allow students to resume their studies, alleviate restlessness among students who have had their studies interrupted, and facilitate the restoration of peace in the country.
In reaction to the judgement, an Abuja-based lawyer, Douglas Ogbankwa, convener of Vanguard for the Independence of the Judiciary, said that while he received the court verdict with mixed feelings, the order, which is the current one, must be obeyed by ASUU before they can take preventative steps to ventilate their position.
“The comments by ASUU that they will not obey the court order amounts to contempt of court. As ministers in the temple of justice, our duty as lawyers is to ensure that orders of courts are obeyed.
He stated that ASUU, as a legal entity, must work within the confines of the law, obey the order, and, if dissatisfied, take legal action to overturn or discharge the same.
Another lawyer, Godwin Ogboji, stated that because the industrial court that rendered the decision is the court of first instance, ASUU can legally appeal the decision and seek an injunction pending appeal or a stay of execution.
“The consequence of any of these applications is that the strike will continue pending the determination of their appeal, which can be further taken to the Supreme Court.”
He urged ASUU to consider the interests of students who have been forced to stay at home for nearly eight months due to the government’s refusal to do the necessary.
According to Akamihe Ephraims, a lawyer, while ASUU is required by law to obey the court order, “you can force a horse to the river but you can’t force it to drink. Assuming public universities are immediately re-opened, I doubt if the order can make ASUU lecturers who have not been paid their salaries for seven months running to start delivering lectures to students immediately.
“Even if by providence they find themselves in the classrooms, I doubt if they’ll be able to impart knowledge if these issues are not immediately resolved.
“The government appears content that public universities are shut down so long as it does not affect them and their children. I think they only started taking them serious when students joined the strike last week and started blocking highways and threatened to picket airports, which affects their movement.”
Mr. Femi Aborisade, an Ibadan-based labor activist and human rights lawyer, called the decision a miscarriage of justice. He stated that the strike is a protest against a series of collective agreements that have not been implemented since 1992. Collective bargaining agreements are enforceable under section 254C(1)(J)(i) of the Constitution.
“The Federal Government should be honourable and do the needful by implementing agreements willingly entered into since 1992. That is the way to resolve the dispute meaningfully. Court orders directing lecturers to resume cannot resolve the dispute. It can only suppress one of the parties.”
Meanwhile, Dr Salihu Lukman, National Vice Chairman, Northwest of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), has backed the court’s decision. In response to the development, he stated that lecturers owed it to their students who were subjected to the strike to sacrifice their seven-month salaries.
According to Lukman, the verdict serves as a wake-up call to the Ministry of Labour and Productivity to avoid a repeat of the ASUU strike in accordance with existing laws and regulations.
ASUU Strike: NITDA Confirms IPPIS Did Not Pass Integrity Test Carried Out
….. As Speaker Invites AGF, SGF, Minister of Labour, Budget Office, Others
By Gloria Ikibah
The House of Representatives on Thursday expressed annoyance over the fialure of the Federal Government to discontinue use of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) which did not pass the integrity test carried out by the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA).
Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila stated this at the resumed fact finding meeting of the lingering strike declared by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over the non-implementation of agreements signed with Federal Government.
Naijablitznews.com reports that this meeting is in continuation of the efforts to find solutions to the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Speaker of the House of Representatives alongside his deputy Rep. Ahmed Idris Wase and other leaders of the House on Thursday met with the Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Mrs Folashade Yemi-Esan, chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta, NITDA, among other government officials.
The meeting was a follow up to an earlier one the Speaker held with ASUU officials on Tuesday, where issues related to the strike were discussed.
The Director Information technology and Infrastructure Solution Department of NITDA, Dr. Usman Abdullahi, revealed that the IPPIS adopted as payment platform which was conceptualized in 2006 and put to use since 2011 failed the integrity test conducted as a result of the controversy trailing the UTAS payment platform funded by ASUU in 2022.
Dr. Abdullahi further stated that the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Professor Isa Pantami, had advised his counterparts on the failed IPPIS payment platform.
According to him, the Minister after the audit of various payment platforms directed NITDA to subject the three solutions: IPPIS as well as University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) and the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System (U3PS) to the Agency’s integrity tests.
He said: “On the issue of advising government, NITDA is in a position to advise government. The Honourable Minister has been advising that this solution is payment systems particularly used by government have not gone through NITDA’s due diligence process.
“He (Minister) has been saying that and of course he has been mentioning that to his colleagues. And I’m sure as a result of that government said include IPPIS.
“Now in response to your second question Honourable Speaker Sir, the IPPIS is what is currently in use by Government, so IPPIS is used by government, and so it is one that is domiciled in the Accountant General’s office”.
Talking about the unique features in all the three solutions, the Director affirmed that IPPIS is good in one, UTAS is good in another, U3PS is good in another, so in terms of rating, you have to look at all the three and then rate them accordingly.
“So, that is something we felt is not at that point that we want. That would be at the point of advice, the expectation is that we should do all these tests, once they meet the due diligence requirements and then we will advise and say this is good and has passed the requirements however this is the grading.
“So, we feel we are not in a position at the moment because the issues with them are critical across board”.
In a quick response to his submission, the Speaker who was angered by the recurring cases of corruption in the Accountant General’s office, maintained that NITDA should accept part of the responsibility for the failed IPPIS solution.
He said: “You know where I’m going with that question, okay let me explain to you. It means that the issues we had in the Accountant General’s office, it means that there is a problem with IPPIS itself otherwise we wouldn’t have that quantum and humongous deficiency whereby I’m not about any person, but an office drops the ball on that amount. IPPIS therefore should be queried”.
On his part, the Deputy Speaker, Hon. Idris Wase, who queried the presentation of the NITDA official, said: “If you tell me that you carried out the test and they all failed and then you do not deem it fit to advise in the immediate to stop it.
“I think there’s no patriotism in that one, there’s no patriotism because if all the systems failed and then you allowed the one that has failed you to be of service to the nation. Are they of good service? And in your grading, exams are simple, you have a criteria to say A, B, C fail and that must be the reason to say this one fails and if you tell me you do not have the scorecard of the three.
“I would say with all modest, you are not being honest. Your Excellency, going further we have the to put them on oath”.
Also, the chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Mr Ekpo Nta, told the House leadership that in view of the general agitation in the tertiary education sector, the agency advised the government to look at the possibility of increasing the salaries of the staff in the entire sector, comprising universities, polytechnics and colleges of education.
He however, said that at the end of the day, the government decided to increase the salaries of lecturers in the universities by a certain percentage, while professors were considered for higher percentage.
Nta disclosed that he was not aware of any agreement between the Federal Government and ASUU for salary increment.
Also speaking at the meeting, the acting Accountant General of the Federation, Mr. Sylva Okolieaboh, said under no circumstance should employees dictate to their employers how they should be paid, faulting ASUU’s insistence on UTAS.
The Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Folashade Yemi-Esan, confirmed that ‘Her Office’ received official correspondence from the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy following NITDA’s observations about IPPIS on the need to take a holistic look at the platform and that a Committee was set up to carry out the assignment.
She noted that IPPIS is not just a payment platform but that it also has a human resource component, which all government agencies have been directed to activate, and that all the workers across MDAs have fully complied with the payment system.
After hours of deliberations, the Speaker suggested that a further follow-up meeting with ASUU officials be held on Thursday next week, which the stakeholders subscribed to. The meeting was, therefore, adjourned to Thursday next week.
The Minister of Labour and productivity Chris Ngige, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Head of Civil service of the Federation, Accountant General of the Federation, Director General, Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, Ekpo Nta, Director General Budget Office among others are to appear before the lawmakers next week Thursday.
Crisis deepens as FG moves to deregister ASUU
- A threat by the Federal Government to withdraw the Certificate of Registration (CoR) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) introduced a new twist to the rift between the two bodies yesterday.
The new twist came barely a day after the government said the National Industrial Court (NIC) injunction ordering varsity teachers back to the classrooms would not affect negotiations with the union.
‘It’s a declaration of war’, ASUU kicks over court order
The government threatening to withdraw the union’s CoR because of its alleged failure to submit the financial reports of its audited account as required by law in the last five years.
It was learnt that the government, through the Registrar of Trade Unions, has issued a query to the union on why its CoR should not be withdrawn for running against the law.
Labour and Employment Minister Dr. Chris Ngige confirmed the development while hosting the leadership of the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) at work on Wednesday night.
The minister had referred the matter to the NIC, following a breakdown of negotiations between the striking varsity teachers and the Federal Ministry of Education; their primary employer.
Despite series of meetings chaired by Education Minister Adamu Adamu, both parties failed to reach an agreement.
Ngige said the university based – unions were in the habit of not obeying the law that set them up, with regard to the submission of their yearly audited account.
The minister said he has asked the Registrar of the Trade Unions not to allow the hammer of the law to descend on ASUU because of the prolonged strike as any action taken by the government would be wrongly interpreted.
He noted that going by the provisions of the law, the leadership of the university based unions that collect check-off dues from their members were mandated to render an account on how the money was spent.
But ASUU President Prof Emmanuel Osodeke described the planned move to de-register ASUU as a trade union as an attempt by the minister to blackmail the university lecturers back to work.
The ASUU boss urged President Muhammadu Buhari administration to investigate how the minister has used the ASUU strike to undermine the government and the interest of students.
Ngige alleged: “ASUU has not responded to the relevant Section of Trade Union Creation for submission of audited accounts. How do they utilise their money?
“The money they collect as check-off dues, should be accounted for. So, the Trade Union Act says that in June of any given year, unions should produce audited accounts at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
Speaking of the ASUU strike, Ngige said: “You went on strike. The Minister of Labour brought you here one week after and we discussed seven items one after the other and agreed on five of the items.
“The two items we couldn’t reach agreement on are the usage of UTAS; we asked NITDA to go back and test. We met with the traditional rulers, Sultan and NIREC and asked NITDA to give us a report in six weeks.
“We asked them to go to Education Ministry to negotiate their conditions of service, which is the only thing outstanding in the renegotiation of the 2009 Agreement.
“When you say the government is not implementing the 2009 Agreement, it is not true. It was in the renegotiation of 2009 in 2013 that President Jonathan and his team agreed to pay you N1.3 trillion – N220b every year for six years. Maybe because they knew they were going away. But that was what they agreed on.
“By 2019, we had reconciled here again. But, we said this government is unable to meet your demand. What do we do? We structured a payment plan for one single tranche of N220 billion.
“This government started paying. They have paid N50 billion or so. I am not sure, but we asked them to go and reconcile the figures from the Budget Office and ASUU. When they say the 2009 agreement, the public is deceived. It is the 2009 revitalisation of the government of Goodluck Jonathan we couldn’t pay. It is not wrong for the government to say it is unable to pay.
“Let us restructure our debt or our promise to you. It was an agreement. A Collective Bargaining Agreement can be renegotiated anytime. That is where we are.
“Another thing to be renegotiated was their conditions of service, to include salaries scale, which is the CONUASS. We referred that one back to the Education Ministry, their primary employer.
The ministry (Education) invited Chairmen of Councils, with Prof. Mini Briggs to chair the renegotiation committee. What also will guide that negotiation is the availability of the fund and by extension, the ability to pay, which is the ILO principle in wage fixing mechanism.
“It is not enough to say I will give you N1.3 trillion and not pay it. That is why the negotiation went on and different proposals were made. Those proposals are now the subject of contention. When the committee on education gave them a proposal on what they can pay, they did not do enough consultation with the government.
“They did not consult the Minister of Finance. They did not consult the Budget Office of the Federation. They did not consult the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission.”
It’s all blackmail, says Osodeke
President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, yesterday dismissed the threat by the Federal Government to deregister the union over alleged infraction on the submission of the unions’ financial reports of its audited account.
He described the planned withdrawal of ASUU’s Certificate of Registration (CoR) with the invocation of the Trade Union Act by the Registrar of Trade Unions as a ploy by Labour and Employment Minister to blackmail the varsity union.
According to him, the Registrar declined to take delivery of the reports when they were taken to the Labour ministry.
In a short statement, Prof Osodeke said: “It is part of Ngige’s fight and attempt to blackmail the union. We submitted our audited account up to 2021 to the Registrar of Trade Union in the Labour Minister’s Office but they refused to accept the submission without any reason.
“We even paid the fees for submission they refused to accept. The same documents were sent through speed post, they returned the package without even checking the content.
“Our legal counsel Falana and Falana Chambers also went there with the documents. They refused to collect. They did all these just to try to blackmail the union.
“We challenge the Labour minister to publish when all the Labour unions in Nigeria submitted their last audited account.
“The Buhari government needs to investigate Ngige to know why he is using the ASUU strike to undermine the government and the interest of Nigerian students.” (The Nation)
FCTA reads riot act to private schools flouting revalidation, data assessment exercise
An unspecified number of private schools in the Federal Capital Territory have been criticised for not complying with the ongoing revalidation/registration and data capturing of the Department of Quality Assurance of the Education Secretariat exercise.
To this end, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) has said it would not hesitate to shut down any such institution that fails to comply with the exercise.
The FCT Permanent Secretary, Mr Olusade Adesola made the threat during a meeting to address the private schools’ low compliance on Thursday in Abuja.
The Permanent Secretary, who expressed his displeasure over the slow pace of compliance, noted that the FCT revenue drive by Departments, Boards and Agencies will not be compromised.
He said the MDAs involved had been given a marching order to ensure due diligence in the process of their statutory duties and responsibilities.
He, however, reiterated the Administration’s resolve to enforce compliance, frowning at the nonchalant attitude of defaulters while they keep enjoying the many quality services provided by the Administration in their various locations of operation in the territory.
Adesola explained that the process of revalidation/registration and data capturing is part of the requirements for operating schools in FCT.
He, therefore, cautioned schools’ management who are in the act of obstructing officials of the FCT Administration from accessing their schools for the routine inspection to desist forthwith or face the full wrath of the law.
The Permanent Secretary, highlighting the various stages, procedures and approval in the process mandated that all statutory laws and regulations pertaining to the management of schools in the FCT must be fully complied with.
He said the non-compliance to the guidelines and non-payment of the approved annual/accreditation charges by some private school owners could greatly impair the smooth operations of the education sector.
He extended the revalidation, registration and data capturing exercise to the 31st of December 2022 to allow for the successful completion of the intensive process.
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