The regime yesterday described as illegal and a pure act of corruption the warning strike, which the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) began on Monday.
The described the action as illegal because the union failed to notify it as it ought to do before embarking on the strike, adding that it is an act of corruption because the lecturers have already withdrawn their services and yet expect to be paid for the period.
Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment, while speaking to journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in the State House, Abuja, said he was shocked to read on Monday that the union had embarked on a warning strike.
The Minister described the industrial action as a pure strike and nothing like a warning strike as claimed by the lecturers.
He said a strike means withdrawal of services, what the lecturers have embarked upon is not different and should not be given a different name
Ngige faulted ASUU’s continued opposition to the federal government’s directive that lecturers should register on the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) platform, saying there is nowhere employees dictate to their employers how they should be paid.
While expressing hope that the matter would be resolved, he said he would meet with the union today along with the Minister of Education, Minister of Finance and the Accountant General of the Federation.
The minister, who also said he was aware that the National Assembly and the Ministry of Education met with ASUU yesterday, explained that the decision to bring university lecturers into IPPIS platform began two years ago.
He said the platform was designed generally to plug leakages in the system.
He said: “So, I was shocked on Monday when I read and saw some people coming out of the university that lecturers have gone on strike. I have my children in Nigerian universities and I saw them and it is not very cheery news. They didn’t give us the mandatory notice before going on strike. So for a start, this strike is illegal.
“They said it is a warning strike but there is nothing like warning strike. A strike is the withdrawal of services for which you are being paid. Then, the question will arise – if you don’t go to work, do you want to be paid? Is it not corruption? So, this is the dilemma.
“So, to solve the dilemma I have invited them to the meeting for tomorrow (Thursday). I have invited the minister of education, their principal employer, the finance ministry and the accountant general of the federation. So, we will meet and discuss the way forward because no employee is empowered to dictate to his employer on how he or she should be paid. There is an ILO convention on it. The important thing is that you receive your compensation for services rendered or work done as and when due.
“So, we hope to solve the problems. ASUU members are Nigerians. They are patriotic but tomorrow we hope to engage them.”
However, Ngige said ASUU had claimed it could not be brought into the IPPIS platform because it had unique characteristics because lecturers go on sabbatical and some of them teach in more than one university.
He said whereas bringing them into the IPPIS wouldn’t allow them to be paid twice along with the existence of the bank verification number (BVN), government decision is that those on sabbatical are only paid allowances just as their counterparts in medical departments receive clinical allowances for clinical duties and consultations.