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No Hope Of Reopening Federal Universities As FG-ASUU Agreement Still At Proposal Stage – Ngige

There is no hope of reopening Nigeria’s federal universities as the Federal Government on Wednesday said there was no Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) between it and the Academic Staff Union of Universities(ASUU) which currently awaits signing by the President.

Senator Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, said in a statement signed by Mr Olajide Oshundun, Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations in the Ministry on Wednesday in Abuja that the clarification was necessary in view of the deluge of deliberated misinformation being dished out to Nigerians by the President of ASUU, Prof. Osodeke as well as his branch leaders.

They are calling on President Buhari to sign an agreement which they claimed to have reached with the federal government.

According to Ngige, when Collective Bargaining Agreement is produced between unions and the federal government, it is not the President that signs.

“But by the government side, the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) led by the direct employer with the concillliating Ministry witnessing.

“We wish therefore to inform Nigerians that there is no such CBA that has been reached between the federal government, ASUU and other university unions on the renegotiation of their salaries and allowances (wages).

“What is in existence is a proposal. Even when such CBA is made, it is not the president that signs it. From available records, no Nigerian President or sovereign signs such, ’’he said.

The minister added that the true position was that Nigerians were aware that ASUU had been on strike since Feb. 14, and locked in negotiations on their demand.

He said that their demand particularly include, their conditions of service – wages, salaries, allowances and other public service matters, that would be guided by relevant federal government ministries and agencies.

He said that those involved include the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Budget office of the Federation.

He noted that others were the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Office of Head of Service of the Federation, through the newly set up Prof. Nimi Briggs Committee.

“Note that that Prof Nimi Brigg Committee just like the Prof. Munzali Committee it replaced, is an internal committee of the Ministry of Education to receive ASUU demands and renegotiate areas of 2009 Agreement.

“This is while also receiving briefs from the MDAs mentioned above that act as advisers, before making any counter offer to ASUU and other unions.

“Unfortunately, ASUU insisted that these relevant advisory MDAs recue themselves from the sitting of the Briggs Committee accusing them of non-cooperation,’’ he said.

According to Ngige, due to exclusion engineered by ASUU, and the arising complaints to the Chief of Staff to the President and the Minister of labour and Employment by the concerned MDAs.

He said the Chief of Staff and the Minister of Labour set up an inter-Ministerial/Agency sub Committee comprising the affected MDA’s under the Minister of State Budget and Planning.

He added that they were to quickly look into Prof. Briggs Committee report which to all intents and purpose was still a proposal in June 2022 at the government side meeting.

The minister added that the assignment was to be completed with the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages and given two weeks to come up with their recommendation.

“Having rounded off its work, the committee returned as verdict; that with the Prof. Briggs Proposal of 109 -185 per cent increase in the university wage structure, the Federal Government will incur an additional N560 billion as salaries alone.

“On top of the present N412B, less all other allowances such as Earned Academic Allowances and fringe benefits , teaching allowance, field trip, responsibility and post graduate supervision, allowances, Hazard allowances which were to gulp another N170B.

“In all, the sum of N1.12 Trillion will be needed to pay the salaries and allowances of university lecturers and other staff in the university system.

“At present, the wage bill of the university staff and their colleagues in Teaching Health Systems gulp nearly 50 per cent of the total federal government staff personnel cost/wages,’’ he said.

The minister said that currently, the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages had finished the review of the Prof. Nimi Briggs proposal and will shortly submit same to the President.

He added that this cleared every doubt that there was an agreement before the President waiting for his signature. There is none!

Ngige, however, said that following the tripartite plus meeting of May 12, at the Presidential Villa, NITDA was directed to subject the three platforms of IPPIS, UTAS and UPPPS to test.

He said the fresh test on UTAS and on UPPPS has been concluded and results awaited while that of IPPIS is still in the works but all will be concluded in the next one week .

“We finally use this medium to once more appeal to ASUU and their sister university unions whose complaints except the Renegotiation of their 2013/2014 Agreement, to go back to school.

“This is knowing full well that these ceaseless strikes de-market our universities and certificates there from, while government labours with their leaders to produce a standard pay rise as soon as possible,’’ he said.

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