Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has dismissed insinuations that he was responsible for the ongoing industrial action by the union.
Speaking on a television programme, yesterday, he said he successfully conciliated 1,683 industrial disputes since assumption of office in 2015, and has been taking extra measures beyond his statutory responsibilities, to forestall strikes and ensure action is promptly suspended when workers’ unions make it inevitable.
He also said the untiring efforts of his office towards peaceful national industrial milieu, the sleepless nights he endures as a parent whose children are also in public universities and who equally bear the brunt of ASUU strike, are being undermined by an erroneous impression by some Nigerians over his role as a conciliator, and by the uncooperative, anti-labour attitude of ASUU leadership
The minister insists that the role of the Minister of Labour is to conciliate disputes and that it does not include the implementation of agreements reached with parties.
“However, when conciliation fails, the minister is under obligation by section 9 and 14 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8 , Laws of the Federation of Nigeria to transmit the results of the negotiation to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) or to National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).
“In the ongoing ASUU imbroglio, I’m the conciliator, I bring them to negotiate with their employers – the Ministry of Education and the National University Commission as well as IPPS, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, all under the Ministry of Finance. At the end of every negotiation, we put down what everybody has agreed on in writing and add timelines for implementation .
“But let me tell you. There is nothing new about ASUU strike. It has been a recurrent decimal. In the last 20 years, ASUU has gone on strike, 16 times. So , there is nothing new as such. What is new, however, is that I have done what Napoleon could not do . You can ask them , the ASUU leadership. I’m sure that in the innermost part of their hearts, they can’t sweep away my untiring efforts. I’m the only conciliator lately, who has conciliated and put timelines on agreements and pushed all the parties, the government side to implement and stick to the timelines. Such fidelity wasn’t there hitherto.
“Last year alone, based on the timelines I put on the 2020 agreement , they got N92.7 billion in terms of Revitalisation and Earned Academic/Earned Allowances for the university system. I went out of the schedule of my office, to the Ministry of Finance, to the Office of the Accountant General myself, on occasions, to ensure these monies were paid.”