“The Federal Government did not take the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to court over its prolonged strike” – Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has clarified.
Goldennewsng reports that in the same breath, Ngige claimed he would have failed in his duties if he did not refer the matter to the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations with the union.
He recalled that ASUU was at the stage of Collective Bargain Agreement negotiation with its employers , the Federal Ministry of Education, when it embarked on the industrial action.
The minister regretted that the union’s leadership “does not even understand the import of CBA negotiation because they lacked the nutrients of labour unionism.”
His words: “We have to counsel our brothers on negotiation. No negotiation is forced. You cannot say it is either you give me 200 per cent or I will continue my strike. There are laws guiding strike. There are ILO principles on right to strike. Nobody can take it away.
“But there are things that follow it when you embark on strike as a worker, and they are enshrined in the laws of our land. It is written in Trade Dispute Act. The ILO principles on strike talk about the right of a worker to withdraw services. There is also right to picket. These are things that are done.
“Nigeria is respected in ILO. Some people said Federal Government took ASUU to court. No. I referred the matter after seven months of protracted discussions and negotiations that failed.”
Ngige explained that he conciliated the dispute twice, first on February 22, one week after the commencement of the strike, adding some agreements were reached, even as he brought everybody back on March 1 for another conciliation.
According to him, the only thing left was going back to the Federal Ministry of Education for the renegotiation of the 2013 agreement.
“Some people are saying 2009 agreement. The 2009 agreement has been renegotiated in 2013/2014 with the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan. It is an anathema to use 2009 agreement,” he stated.
Ngige, however, said the transmission does not mean that the matter cannot be settled out of court.
In a related development, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, is meeting stakeholders today to find a lasting solution to the ASUU crisis.
He said the lower legislative chamber is deeply concerned about the renewed strike, which seems to have defied all efforts for amicable resolution.
In a statement by Clerk of the House, Yahaya Danzaria, yesterday, in Abuja, the Speaker asked the relevant stakeholders to submit a written presentation of ASUU’s perspective on the matter ahead of the meeting.
“The House is more worried on the negative consequences of the strike on the future and quality of education of our teeming youths, who have been kept at home for the past six months despite the intervention of the House and several well-meaning Nigerians overtime to see that the matter was resolved.
“In the light of the foregoing, the House hereby requests for another opportunity to come together with stakeholders and leadership of ASUU to seek an amicable resolution without prejudice to the fact that the matter is already in the industrial court”.