Uncertainty as ASUU rejects FG’s offer to withhold pay

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There is no relief in sight for university workers represented by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who are fighting for the release of their delayed salaries as a result of last year’s strike.

According to theĀ  Ebantel, the union lost its lawsuit against the federal government last week over wages withheld during the 2022 strike.

The development came after the National Industrial Court, NIC, dismissed ASUU’s complaint against the Minister of Labour and Employment and the Federation’s Accountant General.

ASUU went on strike in 2022 for eight months on topics like as revitalisation of public universities and a reassessment of professors’ pay and allowances, among other things.

After multiple talks and efforts to settle the strike failed, the federal government took the union’s action to the National Industrial Court.

The industrial court granted the federal government’s request for an interlocutory injunction to prevent ASUU from continuing its strike awaiting the outcome of the main complaint.

However, when they returned to work in early November last year, the union’s members were perplexed because the federal government had paid them half salaries for only 18 working days in October.

The event came as a result of the federal government’s insistence on enforcing the ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy when university employees were absent from their roles.

Chris Ngige, the then-Minister of Labour and Employment, stated that lecturers were paid pro rata for the number of days worked beginning with the day they suspended their strike.

When it ruled in the federal government’s action against the ASUU, the National Industrial Court maintained the no work, no pay rule once more.

Members’ pay were demanded by the union from February 14 to October 7, 2022, when the strike was called off.

However, the court ruled that the federal government was within its rights to withhold wages from workers who engage in strike action.

ASUU filed a separate complaint against the federal government in June of this year, alleging discriminatory, unfair, and illegal treatment of its members.

Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, filed the complaint on behalf of ASUU.

The union asked the court to rule on whether, after paying the salaries of members of the Joint Staff Union, National Association of Resident Doctors, and lecturers in the Medical Facilities/Medical and Dental Academic of the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nnewi Campus, Anambra State, the defendants’ decision to withhold the salaries of the claimant’s members from February to October 2022 was discriminatory and illegal.

The union also asked the court to rule on “whether ASUU members were not entitled to payment of their salaries from February to October 2022, during which their members were on strike.”

The President of the NIC, Hon. Justice Benedict Kanyip, rejected the lawsuit last week on the grounds that it was an abuse of judicial procedure, frivolous, and vexatious.

Justice Kanyip further ordered ASUU to pay 500,000 Naira (N500,000) to the Attorney-General of the Federation within 30 days.

“This position is strengthened when the supporting affidavit of the instant suit is considered.” The Claimant recounted what constitutes the work of a lecturer in paragraphs 6 to 12 and 15 of the affidavit in support of the instant suit, how the strike it embarked on does not abdicate the responsibilities of its members as lecturers, how the strike continued despite the defendants refusing to pay its members’ salaries for the period of the strike, how the strike continued thereby, and how the teaching job component of their job was only restored upon the orders of this Court an If ASUU had submitted their defense processes, they should have addressed these issues in Suit No. NICN/ABJ/270/2022. However, ASUU’strategically’ chose not to.

“ASUU is thus to blame for all of these’strategic’ blunders.” It cannot, under the instant action, re-litigate a suit to which it purposefully failed to file a defense. This would be re-litigation by the backdoor. “I agree,” the court said.

Before the court ruling, President Bola Tinubu had approved a partial relaxation of the “No Work, No Pay” decree against ASUU members last month.

According to Tinubu’s spokesman, Ajuri Ngelale, Tinubu approved the waiver with the mandatory requirement that the Federal Ministries of Education and Labour and Employment secure a Document of Understanding establishing that the President’s exceptional waiver would be the last one granted to ASUU and all other education sector unions.

Ajuri stated that the waiver will allow previously striking ASUU members to earn four months of salary accruals instead of the eight months of compensation withheld during the union’s eight-month strike.

According to him, Tinubu invoked the Presidential Prerogative of Mercy in order to “mitigate the difficulties being felt during the implementation of key economic reforms in the country, as well as his recognition of the faithful implementation of terms which were agreed upon during the deliberations between ASUU and the Federal Government of Nigeria.”

The union was not agreeable to the condition tied to its members earning four months of salary accruals out of the eight months of income, according to Ebantel findings.

According to a leading union official, signing the pact would amount to’slavery.’

He stated that the union will never renounce its rights as a result of the withheld wages.

The ASUU UNN branch chairman, Comrade Nobert Oyibo Eze, told Ebantel that the government had yet to contact the union about the eight-month backlog of salaries resulting from last year’s strike.

He further stated that the ASUU national body has not issued a statement in response to the latest court ruling.

Eze stated that in order for the country to function well, leaders must regard the interests of the people.

He also cautioned that “it is going to be worse for this country if the courts stop doing what is proper.”

”ASUU has not received any formal information from the government regarding the idea of four months salary and signing documents,” he added. And the truth is that we have completed the task. And you cannot deny us our pay after we have completed the assignment.

”You see, the problem with the Nigerian system is that we have a hypocritical, self-centered, and exceedingly wicked political class.

 

“Why would they want to respond to a doctor and a professor and claim they went to university when they did not?” They claim all kinds of educational titles; they want to be doctors and professors, and they want to show that they have the degrees. So education is important to them, but it cannot be funded in our country. What exactly is this country’s government doing?

“Recently, it was widely reported that the National Assembly authorized N160 million for each member to purchase bulletproof automobiles. As a result, they are the only ones who are safe.

”They cannot pay the large salary they are paying the workers. There would be money whenever it came to their own.

“I read somewhere two days ago about how N104 billion was sandwiched, smuggled into the budget as an end-of-year parting gift, with a senator receiving N300 million and a member of the House receiving N200 million.”

“There would be money whenever it came to their own needs.” However, when it comes to providing for the workers who create this money, they will be discussing an empty treasury. Are they speaking to children?

”During his campaign, President Tinubu stated that if he is elected president of this country, he will ensure that strikes in colleges are avoided by providing whatever the universities require to function.

“Has he called the union members to dialogue since assuming the presidency?” Why do we have a system in which the people, the masses, who work, are crushed?

“Today, we pay N700 for a litre of fuel; how much is our salary?” A professor’s income is insufficient to feed him for two weeks.

”I want to tell them that if they want things to work in this country, they must take the people into account. Who are they going to govern if we all die?

“Why is our political class so self-centered?” Other governments are pouring money into the system to build a cutting-edge university. In Nigeria, they are busy establishing universities that are not funded. The health-care system is in poor health.

“I’m saying that unless those salaries are paid, things will not work well in universities.” And they’re even using the eight months’ pay that we labored for as a cover because the main reasons we went on strike are no longer discussed.

“We went on strike because our take-home package no longer transports us.” This pay we are receiving today was negotiated and implemented in 2009. What is the current exchange rate in comparison to 2009?

“How much does a Nigerian professor earn when you convert dollars to naira?” It is a pity that our people go to locations where things work, and that they send their children to study abroad because things are going well there.

”How come the people who are now in government, those who went to university and received bursaries, free education, and federal scholarships, can’t even grant scholarships or pay salaries?

“Primary and secondary schools are crying all over the place.” Then go to universities, educational colleges, and polytechnics.

”No one is happy with the strike. The strike will end once they lift the system. We will continue to strike as long as they continue to play politics.”

When asked to comment on the court decision, he stated, ”The courts are no longer the hope of ordinary people. I am unable to comment on that matter because the national body has not issued a statement.

“You see, they’re using the courts to do whatever they want.” The court isn’t helping matters. Nigerians no longer have faith in the legal system.

“It will be worse for this country when the courts no longer do what is right; nobody will want to go to court.”

”We completed our task. There is no doubt…Do they mean we didn’t work?

“After the strike, we went back and made certain that every gap was filled.” Because we are educating, JAMB has continued to admit people.

 

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