The Federal Government has declared as illegal the two-week warning strike embarked on by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) over welfare demands.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, made the declaration during a news briefing at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council FEC meeting chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock Villa, on Wednesday.
Ngige said that government was not properly and formally notified of the industrial action, and that for university lecturers to expect to be paid for the two-week period they would not work, amounts to corruption.
He explained that the Federal Government and ASUU were in negotiations to merge the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), which the lecturers had opposed and a special university payment system which they proposed to government.
This is the middle ground, following the government’s directive to all lecturers to register for the IPPIS by which all other government staffers are paid, or forfeit their salaries henceforth.
According to Ngige: “We are on same page because they say they want to help fight corruption and weed away ghost workers and and they said they have developed a University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS).
“At the last visit to Mr. President, we said bring UTAS and we will merge it with IPPIS for you as a special peculiarity; because, the staff that will manage the IPPIS in the university are staff of the university not people in Abuja. We asked ASUU to nominate to serve in IPPIS committee in every institution. That is where we are after the visit to Mr. President.
“So, I was shocked on Monday, I read and saw some people coming out of the university that lecturers have gone on strike. I have my children in Nigerian university and I saw them and it is not a very cheery news. They didn’t give us the mandatory notice before going on strike. So for a start, this strike is illegal.
“They said it is a warning striking but there is nothing like warning strike. A strike is withdrawal of services for which you are being paid. Then the question will arise, if you don’t go to work, do you want to be paid? Is it not corruption? So this is the dilemma.
“So to solve the dilemma I have invited them to the meeting for tomorrow (Thursday). I have invited the minister of education, their principal employer, the Finance Ministry and the Accountant-General of the Federation. We will meet and discuss the way forward because no employee is empowered to dictate his employer on how he or she should be paid.”
The Ministry and its parastatals also presented their performance scorecards to the FEC, with Ngige underscoring the need for private sector operators to take optimum advantage of the Employees Compensation Scheme of the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) to offer succour for their workers injured on duty.
Meanwhile, the FEC committee on implementation of newly increased Value Added Tax (VAT) presented its report fro approval, thus all government contracts awarded and signed for before the February 1, 2020 commencement date will retain five percent; while those awarded after that date will attract 7.5 percent new VAT rate.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, disclosed to newsmen at the briefing that the contract for rehabilitation of the “tricky, steep and dangerous” 15-kilometre 9th Mile section of the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, was re-awarded to dobetail into the total contract sum of N29.4 billion.
The contract, which involved redesigning of the road to manage persistent erosion and other challenges, was retrieved from an earlier contractor for incompetent execution and now awarded to RCC construction firm, already handling the majority of the remaining stretch of the highway.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, also presented the Ministry’s scorecard to the FEC, in continuation of assessment of Ministers ordered by the President.