Indications emerged yesterday that the Federal Government may consider the option of proscribing the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU if it fails to call off the prolonged strike after an offer was made to it.
The Federal Government has also approved an additional N100 billion for the university sector as part of the understanding in the re-negotiation of the 2009 Agreement.
Besides, N50 billion was equally approved to be shared by the university-based unions as earned allowances.
The four university-based unions that have been agitating for the payment of earned allowances are ASUU, which calls its own Earned Academic Allowances, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Union of Education and Associated Institutions, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT.
Recall that ASUU embarked on a month warning strike on February 14, 2022 and has been rolling over the strike till date, while the other three unions, starting with NAAT, downed tools in March.
Among the contentious issues are the non-release of revitalization funds, earned allowances, problems associated with payment of salaries through the use of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS and the re-negotiation of the 2009 Agreement.
While ASUU has insisted that its members should be paid through its preferred platform, the University Transparency and Accountability Solution, UTAS, the non-teaching staff, especially SSANU and NASU, have designed their own payment platform, the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System, U3PS.
All the the three platforms have been submitted to the government through the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA, which has subjected them to integrity tests.
While SSANU and NASU through their umbrella, Joint Action Committee, JAC, on Saturday signed agreement to suspend the strike on Wednesday for two months, ASUU has remained adamant, insisting that the government should pay its members the withheld five months salary before it would suspend the six months strike.
The Federal Government had invoked the ‘no work, no pay’ policy for the striking public university workers and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu on Thursday told journalists that there is no going back on its total implementation.
Banning ASUU on the cards
Multiple sources in the Presidency and the Ministry of Education told Vanguard that if ASUU refused to reciprocate the Federal Government’s gesture by calling off the strike, the government would consider the option of prescribing the union.
One of the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Because of the priority President Muhammadu Buhari has paid to education, he has approved additional N100 billion for the universities and about N57 billion for the Polytechnics and Colleges of Education.
“This is part of the understanding with the unions on the re-negotiation of the 2009 Agreement. The government has also approved 35 per cent increase in salary for professors and 23.5 per cent increase for other lecturers. Government also approved N50 billion for earned allowances for the striking unions.
“It will be unpatrotic on the side of ASUU not to reciprocate the government gesture and call off the strike for our children to go back to school. The government is not also unmindful of the cooperation of SSANU and NASU for being patriotic.
“It is part of the labour laws that the unions, especially ASUU, should apply cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended and conciliation is ongoing.
“From available information, the Minister of Labour and Employment apprehended the strike on February 22, 2022, and subsequently held conciliation meeting on that day with ASUU and on March 1, whereas, the disputes with SSANU and NASU were apprehended on May 3 by the Minister of Labour and Employment.
“Why should ASUU say that the Federal Government has done nothing? You should also recall that the President co-opted his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, and the Secretary to the government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, to join in the negotiation to end the strike. Why is ASUU recalcitrant and daring everybody?”
Expressing disappointment that ASUU had allegedly not appreciated the government efforts, the sources said the federal government had many options before it, which include prescribing the union.
“The government has so many options if ASUU refuses to be patriotic. One of the options is the proscription of ASUU which is contained in the Trade Unions Act and even in the Trade Disputes Act.
“The President can proscribe an association whose action is inimical and constitute economic sabotage to a country. In the Trade Unions Act, the President can withdraw the certificate of any organization whose conduct is not in tandem with the terms for their registration.
“Also, Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act permits the Minister of Labour to approach the National Industrial Court. CAP 78, laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2004, to refer the matter to the National Industrial Court for adjudication to enforce the legality or otherwise of the ongoing prolonged strike by ASUU and to interpret in entirety the provision of Section 18 of the Trade Dispute Act as it applies to cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing.”
Attempts made to confirm the option of prescribing ASUU or dragging it to National Industrial Court if it fails to suspend the strike after the alleged government offer from the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, was unsuccessful at press time yesterday.