Lecturers in different parts of the country on Tuesday protested against the no-work no-pay policy imposed on them by the Federal Government following the eight-month strike embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
They said the actions of the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, towards the union would destroy public universities in Nigeria.
Members of ASUU, University of Lagos chapter, held a rally from the Julius Berger Auditorium of the university premises, to the school main gate, to protest against the half salaries they received in October.
The aggrieved lecturers held a big banner and placards with inscriptions that included, ‘Ngige be mindful of history, ASUU will outlive you’, ‘Teachers teach the nation but Ngige cheats the teachers’, ‘No work no pay and prorated salaries are punitive measures against renegotiated agreement,’ among others.
Speaking after the rally, titled, ‘The casualisation of intellectualism in Nigeria’, the branch Chairman, Dr Dele Ashiru, said Ngige instigated the government against ASUU.
He said, ‘‘Ngige is the agent provocateur; he is the one instigating the government against ASUU. He has inexplicable hatred against our union and that is the reason he turned our struggle to a personal fight.
“It was Ngige who poisoned FEC against our union. Ngige started the campaign of no-work no-pay against our union. Ngige dragged ASUU before the court; Ngige wrote Ministry of Finance to stop our salary and made it prorated. He registered two stinker unions to weaken our union which was against the Trade Union Act. Ngige also wanted our union proscribed by suggesting that we have not been submitting our account. Ngige is out there to destroy public universities.’’
While speaking on the half-pay, he added that the action of the government was contrary to all labour laws and best practices all over the world, adding that the government prorated ASUU salaries so as to pitch the union against its students and Nigerians.
Also addressing the members, the Chairman, ASUU, University of Ibadan chapter, Prof. Ayo Akinwole, appealed to the government to restore normalcy to the education sector by implementing the demands of the union.
He described the government’s action towards the academic members as repressive, saying it was capable of causing more danger for the university communities and the students.
The National Coordinator of Education Rights Campaign, Hassan Soweto, alleged that the government was creating potholes for the incoming administration by failing to amend ways with the union.
At the University of Jos, the lecturers also carried placards with different inscriptions.
The Chairman, ASUU, University of Jos branch, Prof. Lazarus Maigoro, who led the protest, told journalists that the group would not relent until the Federal Government paid the withheld salaries.
“We condemn the mischievous IPPIS platform as a means of amputating our hard-earned wages as well as a tool for criminal diversion of part of our salaries to private pockets using unverified deductions.
“Our branch in University of Jos calls on the Nigerian public to impress upon the government the need to adhere and honour agreements it freely and willingly entered with our union, including the conclusion of the renegotiation of the ASUU -FG 2022 agreement chaired by Prof. Mimi Briggs,” he added.
A former Vice President, ECOWAS Court, Prof. Chijioke Nwoke, described the demands of ASUU as legitimate.
Also, lecturers at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, protested against the attempt by the Federal Government to treat varsity staff as casual workers.
Speaking at the protest ground, the ASUU National Treasurer, Prof. Olusiji Sowande, accused Ngige of being the reason the FG and ASUU’s efforts to resolve the issues hit a dead end.
He also disclosed that the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress might declare a nationwide strike if the FG failed to fulfill its promises.
He also charged students to hold the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd) and the minister accountable for the wasted eight months of strike.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has filed processes at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, challenging the preliminary objection of ASUU to the substantive suit on its suspended indefinite strike.
The counsel for the Federal Government (claimant), James U. K. Igwe, disclosed this on Tuesday when the matter came up at the Abuja Division of the NICN.
Recall that based on a referral made to the NICN by Ngige, the vacation judge, Justice Polycarp Hamman, earlier issued an interlocutory order, restraining members of ASUU from continuing their indefinite strike.
The order, in suit no: NICN/ABJ/270/2022, was upheld by the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which also ordered ASUU to immediately enter its defence on the substantive suit as ordered by Justice Hamman before remitting the matter back to the President of the NICN.
However, when both parties appeared before the President of the NICN, Justice Benedict Kanyip, Igwe told the court that the defendants filed a preliminary objection, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the substantive suit.
He said the government filed a counter-affidavit and written addresses, challenging the defendant’s preliminary objection.
The counsel for ASUU, Femi Falana, who joined virtually, did not object to the processes filed by the Federal Government.
Kehinde Oyewumi, who appeared for the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, told the court that his clients filed an application seeking to be joined as a party in the substantive suit.
After listening to all the parties, Justice Kanyip deemed the processes of the claimants challenging the preliminary objection as properly filed and adjourned the matter till December 13, 2022 for hearing of the preliminary objection.