President Muhammadu Buhari’s regime says it remains committed to renegotiating the conditions of service of all workers in public universities across the country.
Labour minister Chris Ngige announced this when he received members of the government side of the 2009 federal government/university-based unions agreement renegotiation committee led by its chairman, Nimi Briggs, on Monday in Abuja.
In a statement by Patience Onuobia, acting spokeswoman for the ministry, the minister spoke against the backdrop of the ongoing Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.
As the conciliator, he claimed to have been pushing to see that everything contained in the 2020 memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by Mr Buhari’s regime and the union was carried out, including implementing the renegotiated positions.
He recalled that the renegotiation commenced in 2017 when the regime inaugurated a committee headed by Wale Babalakin, later replaced by Munzali Jibril.
“I started pushing to see that things were done. What the Munzali committee came up with is a proposal. Both Munzali and ASUU did not sign. At our last meeting in February, before ASUU proceeded on strike, we said everyone should go back to his principal,” explained Mr Ngige.
He added, ”I asked (the) education (ministry) several times what they had done with the document. We later got information on areas of disagreement. There is nothing wrong with that. It is bound to happen. I told ASUU to put up a committee; they said (the) Munzali committee had expired.”
As a conciliator, the minister had to use the labour instruments at his disposal, Mr Ngige pointed out.
“The bosses in the Federal Ministry of Education do not feel the strike. There are things that are above me. I am not (the) minister of education. I cannot go to the education minister (Adamu Adamu) and dictate to him how to run his place,” admitted the labour minister. “But I told ASUU that you should be bombarding them at the Federal Ministry of Education for this to be moved forward. There are many ways to do so.”
He suggested picketing the education ministry.
“Picketing means that you can stay in the corridor, clapping or singing. Workers are permitted to do so. But every time there is a disagreement, it is strike,” lamented Mr Ngige. “I have my children in public universities, including those on my foundation’s scholarship and sponsorship. So, I am a parent. I feel it. I didn’t send my children to Igbinedion or Afe Babalola or Cambridge.”
He stressed he was proud to be a product of the Nigerian university system.
“Why won’t I support if ASUU and their unions now want a renegotiation of their conditions of service, which is the main thing in the proposal by (the) previous Munzali committee,” added the minister.