The Nigerian government has approached the National Industrial Court (NICN) sitting in Abuja, requesting an order for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to resume while the dispute is being addressed.
A statement by the Head, Press and Public Relations at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Olajide Oshundun, said the matter was on Thursday, 8 September, referred to the Registrar of NICN by the Minister, Chris Ngige.
The new development, the ministry said, followed the failure to reach an agreement through dialogue over the ongoing seven-month-old strike.
ASUU embarked on an initial four weeks strike on 14 February, and has continued to extend it as talks with the government fail.
On 29 August, ASUU announced an indefinite extension of the strike, accusing the government of insincerity.
Unlike other university-based unions, ASUU refused the government’s plea to resume while the government worked on its demands.
The Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and other Associated Institutions (NASU), Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have all suspended the strike but with ultimatum issued to the government to meet their requests.
“Consequently, the Federal Government requested an order of the Court for ASUU members to resume work in their various universities while the issues in dispute are being addressed by the NICN in consonance with the provisions of Section 18 (I) (b) of the TDA Cap T8. LFN 2004,” the statement reads in part.
The statement added that the matter has been scheduled for mention on Monday, 12 September.
What govt wants
The Nigerian government said it wants the court to inquire into the legality or otherwise of the strike even after apprehension by the Minister of Labour and Employment.
It further said; “It asked the court to interpret in its entirety the provisions of Section 18 LFN 2004, especially as it applies to the cessation of strike once a trade dispute is apprehended by the Minister of Labour and Employment and conciliation is ongoing.”
The statement listed other requests to include the interpretation of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, Cap T8. LFN 2004, dealing with the rights of employees/workers during the period of any strike or lock-out.
The ministry also wants the court to determine whether ASUU members are entitled to emoluments for the period they have been on strike.
The statement further added; “Determine whether ASUU has the right to embark on strike over disputes as is the case in this instance by compelling the Federal Government to employ its own University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) in the payment of the wages of its members as against the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) universally used by the Federal Government in the nation for payment of wages of all her employees in the Federal Government Public Service of which university workers including ASUU members are part of or even where the government via NITDA subjected ASUU and their counterpart, Universities Peculiar Personnel Payroll Systems (UPPPS) software to integrity test (vulnerability and stress test) and they failed.
“The Federal Government further asked the court to determine the extent of fulfillment of ASUU’s demands since the 2020 Memorandum of Action (MOA) that the union signed with the government. The demands include the funding for revitalisation of public universities as per 2009 agreement, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) payments, state universities proliferation and constitution of visitation panels and release of white paper on the report of the visitation panels. The others are the reconstitution of the government renegotiation team for renegotiation of 2009 agreement, which was renegotiated 2013/2014, due for renegotiation 2018/2019 and the migration of ASUU members from IPPIS to its own UTAS, which is currently on test at NITDA.”
Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe