*Ngige denies issuing directive on half pay
*UNIJOS lecturers embark on stay-at-home protest
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and Seriki Adinoyi in Jos
The federal government has dismissed media reports alleging bias in the payment of salaries of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
It also debunked claims by ASUU that their members were paid half salary for October.
The denial is coming as the University of Jos branch of ASUU has decried the payment of prorated salaries to its members, describing it as an insult, and a violation of the agreement reached by the union and the leadership of the House of Representatives.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment described the reports as “grossly inaccurate, misleading and barefaced distortion of facts,” pointing out that members of ASUU were paid their October salary pro-rata, and not half salary as the media widely reported.
According to the ministry, pro-rata was done because they cannot be paid for work not done.
The statement signed by Head of Press and Public Relations, Olajide Oshundun, further clarified that the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, never directed the Accountant General of the Federation to pay the university lecturers half salary.
The statement read in part, “following the ruling of the Court of Appeal, which upheld the order of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) asking ASUU to go back to work, the leadership of the union wrote to the minister, informing him that they have suspended the strike. The Federal Ministry of Education wrote to him in a similar vein and our labour inspectors in various states also confirmed that they have resumed work.
“So, the minister wrote to the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, directing that their salaries should be restored. They were paid in pro rata to the number of days that they worked in October, counting from the day that they suspended their industrial action. Pro-rata was done because you cannot pay them for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied.”
The ministry equally faulted a statement by the Chairperson of ASUU, Usman Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS) branch, Muhammad N. Al-Mustapha, accusing the labour minister of biased payment of salaries to selected professional members of the union.
“Those obviously being referred to by the UDUS ASUU chairperson were members of the Medical and Dental Consultants Association (MDCAN) who abstained from the eight-month strike of ASUU because they abhorred the incessant strikes by the union and its grave effects on medical education in Nigeria and production of more medical doctors.
“Accusing the minister of biased payment of salaries to selected professional members of ASUU is a barefaced distortion of facts. Mustapha said he received information that a segment of the staff in the College of Health Sciences (CHS) has been paid seven months of their withheld salaries from March to September, due to a letter written to the Minister of Finance, instructing the exemption of the under-listed staff on the application of ‘No Work, No Pay’ rule
“To set the records straight, the medical lecturers who are being referred to by the Chairperson of the ASUU UDUS branch, abstained from the eight-month strike of ASUU. This has been corroborated in a press statement by the Chairman, MDCAN UDUS, Dr B. Jubrin and Secretary, Dr. I. G Ango, on Friday, November 4, 2022.
“Realising the emergency situation in the sub-region worsened by emerging public health threats, the medical and dental lecturers in UDUS decided to continue the academic activities during the ASUU strike to save our healthcare from total collapse. To this end, the UDUS medical lecturers agreed to conduct lectures and examinations during the period of the strike.
“In line with the provisions of the Labour Act, we wrote and sought the intervention of the Minister of Labour and Employment, to ensure payment of our salaries. The Minister, having carefully reviewed our submission and that of the university management, obliged. This is not an act of favouritism as alleged by ASUU, UDUS branch leadership in their statement.
“ASUU, UDUS branch, as an association, is expected to protect the interest of all her members and appreciate the differences or peculiarities of medical education. The ASUU can legitimately fight for its lawful rights without tramping on the rights of others who are also university staff. We hope that this response will put issues in their proper perspective.”
Consequently, the ministry dismissed the accusation of selective treatment in the payment of salaries to ASUU members, urging the media to cross-check their facts to avoid feeding the public with the wrong information.
Meanwhile, the University of Jos branch of ASUU has decried the payment of prorated salaries to its members, describing it as an insult.
The branch Chairman of the union, Dr. Lazarus Maigoro, in a statement, said ASUU has resolved to stay back at home until the salary issues are resolved.
In the statement, the union said, “In view of the bottleneck placed by Chris Ngige towards paying our members the backlog of our salaries, the congress of ASUU, University of Jos met today, November 4, 2022, and resolved to stay at home, though not on strike, until the backlog of the withheld salaries are paid.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our members are back to work, willing and ready to work, but are unable to work. Based on the revised academic calendar for the 2020/2021 session approved by the Senate of the University, lectures should have started already, but the challenge of lack of payment of salaries has constrained our members from going to the classroom to teach. What this implies is that the students who have resumed already will have to wait indefinitely while we wait for our withheld salaries to be paid to us, unfortunately.”
ASUU recalled that one of the issues agreed upon at the meeting with the leadership of the House of Representatives was that 50 per cent of the backlog of eight months arrears of members’ withheld salaries would be paid immediately, but wondered that only 17 days prorated October salary was paid to members by the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
The union said: “Having stayed for about nine months running now, our members in the University of Jos considered this an insult to them by the Accountant General of the Federation. Is the Accountant General of the Federation answerable to the Minister of Labour?”
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