The Federal Government has opted for judicial resolution to the prolonged industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), which has remained unresolved since it started on 14 February.
After filing a complaint at the National Industrial Court (NIC) a few days ago, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment has asked the court for accelerated hearing of the suit against ASUU.
ASUU demands included government’s implementation of the Memorandum of Action on funding for revitalisation of public universities, which was signed in December 2020.
Other demands are Earned Academic Allowances, renegotiation of the 2009 agreement and the deployment of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for staff payment, among others.
Several meetings between ASUU and the Federal Government ended in deadlock.In a letter dated 8 September and addressed to the NIC’s Chief Registrar, the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige asked that the suit be given accelerated hearing in order to resolve the dispute between the union and the government.
“Please find attached three original copies of a referral instrument regarding the trade dispute between the FG /Federal Ministry of Education and ASUU for adjudication by the National Industrial Court of Nigeria,” the letter reads in part.
“The referral instrument is raised in fine with powers vested on the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment by Trade Dispute Resolution Mechanisms and the provision of Section 17 of the Trade Dispute Act. CAP. T8 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004.
“In view of the fact that ASUU members have been on strike since 14 February 2022 and have refused to call off the action despite apprehension of same, it would be appreciated if this dispute is given an accelerated hearing in order to bring the dispute to an end”.
The case was filed by the ministry’s Trade Dispute Department.Last Tuesday, talks between the Federal Government and ASUU again hit the rocks after both sides met at the National University Commission’s office in Abuja.
The Federal Government said it would not sign any other agreement it could not implement.Education Minister, Mallam Adamu Adamu said the government had offered the union a 23.5 percent salary increase “for all categories of the workforce in federal universities, except for the professorial cadre which will enjoy a 35 per cent upward review”.
He said the government also promised that N150 billion “shall be provided for in the 2023 Budget as funds for the revitalisation of federal universities, to be disbursed to the Institutions in the First Quarter of the year”.
Also, the government said N50 billion would be provided “for in the 2023 Budget for the payment of outstanding arrears of earned academic allowances, to be paid in the first quarter of the year”.
However, ASUU and three other university unions have rejected the offer, describing it as “inadequate to meet their respective demands needed to tackle the challenges confronting the university system.”