Barely two weeks after the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) suspended its eight-month strike there are clear indications that the union may begin a fresh one and return to the trenches following the decision of the Federal Government to pay half salaries to the lecturers.
The lecturers called off their eight-month-old strike on October 14, however, they were said to have been paid half salaries last Thursday for October. Some professors reportedly received salaries ranging from N71, 000 to N121, 000 for October.
Already, the decision by the government is causing fresh tension in the nation’s universities as ASUU local branches are meeting to decide whether to resume their strikes or not.
The University of Jos (UNIJOS) chapter of ASUU last Friday ordered a fresh ‘strike’ to protest the half salaries paid to its members for October. The chapter is also protesting the government’s refusal to pay the withheld eight months’ salaries over the prolonged strike by the union.
It was learnt yesterday that ASUU’s National Executive Council is set to meet today to deliberate on the matter and take appropriate action.
The union, however, said it has not declared a strike but that its members should stay away from work until the alleged injustice is remedied.
Its National Vice President, Chris Piwuna, who earlier described the government’s action as “humiliating, insulting and embarrassing”, is a member of the chapter, which is the first to react to what the lecturers described as mutilated salaries being paid by the government for October.
They equally fingered the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, for being responsible for the “embarrassing treatment.”
*CONUA protest ‘no-work, no-pay policy
Meanwhile, a splitter lecturers group that was recently recognised by the Federal Government, the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA), has lamented the “no-work, no-pay” policy being adopted by the federal government.
CONUA was granted official recognition via a certificate in September this year by the government.
The Federal Government has insisted on implementing the no-work, no-pay policy for the period the university workers were away from their duty posts.
CONUA’s National Coordinator, Dr Niyi Sunmomu however, said members of the association are not happy with the treatment from the government, adding that since its members did not join the ASUU strike they, therefore, deserve their pay.
“We (CONUA members) are not happy that the government treated us with the “No Work, No Pay” policy. The stand we have maintained has been and it is still that CONUA never declared any strike action and is not part of the strike action. We could not teach because students were asked to vacate the university,” he said.
He further stated that it was unfair to its members and urged the government to pay the backlog of salaries between March to September 2022, and the outstanding balance of 2022.
“It is unfair to our members, and we urge the government to pay the backlog of salaries (March – September 2022) and the balance of October 2022, as it did to NAMDA without further delay,” he said.
*Ignore Ngige, pay ASUU members full Feb to Oct salaries, Falana tells Buhari
Also, a human right activist and senior advocate, Femi Falana asked President Buhari to ignore Ngige and pay ASUU members their full salaries from February to October.
Falana, who was reacting to the development, said the position of the federal government on the matter is “factually faulty and legally misleading”.
He argued that since Buhari overruled the no-work-no-pay principle invoked on members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), it is logical to do the same for ASUU, adding that the federal government’s position was factually faulty and legally misleading”.
He said, “Since the industrial action was called off, the public universities have adjusted their calendars to ensure that the 2021/2022 academic session is not cancelled. Consequently, students are currently taking lectures or writing examinations that were disrupted during the strike of the ASUU.
“Therefore, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the ASUU strike the doctrine of ‘no work, no pay’ is inapplicable as students who were not taught during the strike are currently attending lectures and writing examinations.
“Furthermore, it is public knowledge that the members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on a strike that lasted two months last year. The federal government dragged the striking doctors to the national industrial court which ordered the NARD to call off the strike. As soon as the strike was called off, President Muhammadu Buhari jettisoned the ‘no work, no pay’ principle and ordered the payment of the salaries for the two months that the strike lasted.”
He added: “On that occasion, the President overruled Dr. Ngige in the interest of industrial harmony in the health sector.
“In the same vein, the ASUU recently called off its 8-month-old strike in compliance with the order of the national industrial court and the court of appeal. We are therefore compelled to call on President Buhari should ignore the advice of Dr Ngige and direct the public universities to pay the full salary of each lecturer from February to October 2022.”
The senior lawyer also said if the government fails to pay, it would be accused of engaging in the selective application of the “no work, no pay” principle which is discriminatory and illegal.