The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has said he is surprised that the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Ministry of Education are yet to resolve their face-off, which has led to the current strike by the union.
Ngige, while speaking at the resumed conciliation meeting with the union on Tuesday, said the government was surprised ASUU negated on the understanding and assurances it gave the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar and the Chairman of CAN, Rev. Supo Ayokunle.
The minister, who said he was in Botswana for the meeting of the African Regional Labour Administrative Centre (ARLAC) when ASUU declared the strike, stated that the government was taken aback by the renewed strike by the university lecturers, which started on February 14, 2022.
He said, “I sincerely thought ASUU and the Ministry of Education would have resolved the issues, which, hopefully, are not major areas of dispute, warranting industrial action. To my surprise, I came back, and the strike is still on. Be that as it may, it is the mandate of my ministry to apprehend industrial disputes wherever they occur and we have apprehended this.
“From this negotiation, we are having today, ASUU will appreciate that government means no harm. This is because even if there are still lapses in the implementation of the agreement, they are not such that will lead to industrial action. To that extent, we have to do everything possible to resolve this.”
Ngige continued, “But I must tell you that on the government side, they were taken by surprise in that before then, NIREC met with you (ASUU) and reported to the President. Having met with you (ASUU) and having given the details of their meeting with you, we sincerely hoped we won’t again take this route of industrial action.
“So, the government side is taken by surprise – Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, and all are taken aback.”
Ngige, however, assured that the strike had been apprehended by his Ministry and that the ongoing conciliation would prepare the ground for an expanded meeting that would involve NIREC.
“It is my mandate to apprehend industrial disputes and this has been apprehended; so, we can discuss, and later expand to what is called tripartite plus meeting, involving members of NIREC who are top religious and traditional rulers we cannot push aside. And that is as soon as we are done and agree on issues here,” he added.