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ASUU strike won’t happen, Ngige assures

Ngige, labour

*Says funds for payment of varsity teachers are available

*Reps urge FG to do everything possible to stop ASUU’s impending industrial action

Tom Okpe, Abuja

The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, says the strike threatened by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) will not take place.

This is even as the House of Representatives on Tuesday called on the Federal Government to do everything within its powers to stop the impending Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.

Recall that on Monday, ASUU issued a three-week ultimatum to the Federal Government to implement the earlier agreement reached with the union.

ASUU national president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said the industrial action became necessary due to the failure of the federal government to implement the memorandum of action (MoA) it signed with the union upon which the last strike action was suspended.

“We are giving the federal government a three-week ultimatum. If after three weeks they don’t meet our demands, we will be going on strike,” he had said.

Speaking on Tuesday in an interview on Channels Television, Ngige said funds are available for universities.

“The strike will not happen. For one, I know that the funds to pay are there and the ministry of education has assured me that by tomorrow, they will emanate letters to make sure that the disbursement reaches the accounts of the various universities,” he said.

“We are not paying the unions directly, so it will get to the universities’ accounts.”

Speaking during the programme, the minister said the country’s standard of education is falling and that the government alone cannot fund the sector.

“The state of education here is not anything for anyone to cheer about. The standard has fallen. I agree, but education can’t be funded by the government alone,” he said.

“I know that because I schooled here in Nigeria. I did my primary education here, secondary school education here, university here in Nsukka, Enugu.

“I did my postgraduate outside the country but I can tell you very simply that in other climes, education is not only done by the government.

“In my university days, we had people who were on what they called indigent loans. If your parents can’t pay school fees, then you are called an indigent student and you get a loan —repayable loan from the loan board.

“Then you have those who are on bursary — 50-50. You also pay back something. You have people who are on scholarship.

“I enjoyed the federal government scholarship and I left it to go into my east central state scholarship which was bigger in quantum of money and was even paying for books for us.

“So, you could then see that we didn’t leave education only for the government. People were paying and they were paying a fee you can call appropriate fee at that time.”

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives on Tuesday called on the Federal Government to do everything within its powers to stop the impending Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike.

The Motion, moved during plenary, after the House observed a minute silence in respect of the murdered journalist, Tordue Henry Salem of the Vanguard Newspaper, covering the House, by Hon Julius Ihonvbere, noted with dismay that once again, ASUU in Nigeria is threatening to proceed on another industrial action on a matter that has been on the front burner for so long.

The motion also noted that the Federal Government has not been quite forthcoming, neither has it attached any consistent seriousness to the urgent need to reposition and refocus the education sector in line with the country’s developmental objectives.

The motion read in part: “Aware that ASUU President has threatened to call out his members across the nation, if all issues, including those of unpaid academically earned allowances and the universities revitalisation fund are not addressed within a period of three, (3) weeks.

“Further aware that the future of Nigerian Students once again, will be negatively impacted, if this impending strike by ASUU is not nipped in the bud by the Federal Government.”

The lawmaker stressed that incessant strikes disrupt academic calendar and contribute significantly to the poor quality of graduates in the country, with far-reaching implications for national development.

He expressed disappointment that the Federal Government has, since the last strike was called off in December 2020 continued to pass the buck, make excuses and engage in diversions and distractions rather than meet the terms of Agreement it signed with the union.

The House thereafter resolved to urge the Federal Government to urgently take all necessary measures to open a realistic negotiation with ASUU, “to stop the strike and implement the signed agreement in the interest of our students, their parents, education sector and country at large.”

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