From Godwin Tsa, Abuja, Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has described Wednesday’s court judgment ordering lecturers to return to classrooms granted the Federal Government as declaration of war on its members.
Chairman of the Ebonyi State University chapter, of ASUU, Dr. Ikechuku Igwenyi, who spoke against the backdrop of the ruling by Nigeria Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) in the suit instituted by the Minister of Labour and Employment on behalf of governor, also pointed out that the “No work, no pay” policy of government showed that the authorities lacked the understanding of the nature of contract between lecturers and their employers.
“When a matter leaves the round and peaceful negotiation table to the court, it becomes difficult to predict the possible end of the imbroglio. It has, therefore, become obvious that the Federal Government has clearly declared a war against academic staff in federal universities using the weapons of forced labour, hunger and starvation through non-payment of outstanding seven months salaries.
“The “No work, No pay” policy of Federal Government implies government illiteracy on university administration or FGN does not take into cognisance, the peculiar nature of contract between university lecturers and their employers. It is, therefore, embarrassing that rather than confront the main issues with the urgency they demand, the Federal Government has been introducing obnoxious diversionary and distractive policies to divert the focus of ASUU from objective positions of the union to frivolities.” ASUU has said it would appeal the judgment.
Meanwhile, a new twist has crept into the dispute as a final year law student, Soohemba Agatha Aker, has approached the court to stop the salaries and allowances of President Mohammadu Buhari, the 36 state governors and all political office holders in the country pending the resolution and end of the strike.
The applicant, a student of Benue State University, Markudi, is seeking similar order against the Chief of Staff to the President, Secretary to the government, all the Senators and the Hon Members of House of Representative, all ministers, all the permanent secretaries, all heads of parastatals and extra ministerial bodies of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, all the Vice Chancellors and the members of Senate of striking Universities, as well as the salaries and allowance of of said striking Universities and all the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
In the fundamental right enforcement suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/1684/2022, the applicant who said she is affected by the strike, filed the action for herself on behalf of all students of public tertiary institutions affected by the nationwide ASUU strike.
In the suit filed by his counsel, Chukwuma-Machukwu Ume, the applicant listed the respondents to include the Federal Government, Registered Trustees of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, President of the Senate, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Governor of Abia State (also sued in his own official capacity and in representative capacity for all the other governors of the 35 states of the Federation).
The rest are Revenue Mobilization Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC); Federation of Account Allocation Committee (FAAC); Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF); the Attorney General of Abia State (also sued in representative capacity for all the other Hon Attorney-Generals of the 35 states of the Federation); the Vice Chancellor (VC) of the University of Abuja (also sued in representative capacity for all the other Vice Chancellors and the Members of the Senate of both Federal and State Universities currently participating in the ongoing ASUU strike) and Umar Faruk (President, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS).
The suit was filed pursuant to section 46(1), (2) and (3) of the 1999 constitution and Article 17(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Chapter A9 (Charter 10 LFN 1990) No. 2 of 1983.
The applicant is equally seeking an order of mandamus compelling the defendants including members of Senate of the striking Universities to return to the 1st Respondent their monthly salaries, allowances, and other benefits received individually or collectively from the day the industrial action of the second Respondent commenced till date, pending the hearing and determination of the originating motion.
She further asked for an order of interlocutory injunction suspending the activities of 6th and 7th Respondent (RMAFC and FAAC) including payment of the monthly allocation funds to the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 8th, 9th & 10th Respondents pending the hearing and determination of the applicant’s suit.
In a supporting affidavit, she deposed to the fact that the ASUU strike has and continue to affect her adversely as her plans of graduating this academic year 2022 and to apply for admissions into the Nigerian Law School have been thwarted; that her tuition fees paid for this academic year will go in vain as the academic year is almost lost if nothing is done.
Reps summon Mustapha, Ngige, others
House of Representatives has summoned the Secretary to the Government of the Federation ( SGF), Boss Mustapha, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, as well as the Head of Service (HoS), Mrs Folashade Yemi-Esan, to appear before it, over the prolonged strike.
Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, gave the summon, after a meeting between the leadership of the House and Salaries, Income and Wages Commission, as part of efforts to broker truce between the government and the striking lecturers. Also summoned are Accountant General of the Federation, Director General, salaries, income and wages commission, Director General Budget Office and ASUU.
The House’s leadership had met with ASUU and the Ministry of Education, represented by the Minister of State for Education, Goodluck Opiah, on Tuesday, after which it invited Yemi-Esan, and the chairman of the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, Mr. Ekpo Nta and the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) for a meeting, yesterday.
‘IPPIS, UTAS, U3PS failed intergrity test’
The NITDA, represented by Usman Abdulahi, director of information infrastructure, Usman Abdullahi, at yesterday’s meeting told the lawmakers that the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS), the University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS), as well as the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System (U3PS) all failed its integrity tests r conducted between March and June this year.
According to him, the government had in October, 2020 directed the agency to conduct an integrity test on UTAS. He explained that the platform failed the two integrity tests conducted on it.
Deputy Speaker, Idris Wase, in his intervention, said the IPPIS is a foreign platform while UTAS is a locally developed system, stating that the government should prioritize and appreciate local content.
Regardless, the Accountant General of the Federation, Okolieaboh Sylva, stated the database of UTAS is probably not a Nigerian product, adding that the government will not hand over its payroll system to any university.
the Department of State Security (DSS) has appealed to ASUU to call off the ongoing strike.
Director of the Service in charge of Yobe, Mr Yunusa Abdulkadir, who made the plea in Damaturu at the Third Quarterly Conference of the State Directors of Security in the North-East zone, noted that the strike, which has paralysed university education in the country since February 14 has security implications.
“In as much as we know that ASUU is pursuing a genuine cause, they should take a deeper look at the peculiarities of North-East region that has stayed for over a decade in the hands of insurgents,” Yunusa said.
The director also called for the establishment of psychiatric hospital in Yobe to check post traumatic disorder caused by insurgency.
He said failure to do so could lead to high victims of trauma, who could pose another security threat to the state other than that of the insurgents.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the Occasion, Mr Hassan Abdullahi said the conference would analyse security threats, share experiences and chat a way forward.
Abdullahi, who is also the DSS Director for Bauchi State, listed the security challenges in the zone to include insurgency, Kidnapping, banditry and cattle rustling.