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FG/ASUU dispute: President not required to sign agreement

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Ngige says no agreement between ASUU, FG yet

Labour and Employment Minister, Dr Chris Ngige has explained that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that is expected to be produced between the Federal Government and the striking university lecturers does not require the signature of the President.

According to him, there is even no proposal ready for the President’s attention.

“Currently, the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages has finished the review of the Prof. Nimi Briggs proposal and will shortly submit the same to the President. This clears every doubt that there is an agreement before the President waiting for his signature. There is none!,” a statement on Wednesday by the Deputy Director Press and Public Relations in the Ministry, Olajide Oshundun noted.

The Minister said that even when such a CBA was produced between unions and the Federal Government, it was not the President that would sign but the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), led by the direct employer with the conciliating ministry witnessing.

Ngige accused Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of fixing its salaries and allowances through the Prof. Nimi Briggs committee to the exclusion of the statutory government ministries and agencies that manage the entire annual finances of government, budget and fiscal policies and the Office of the Head of Service in charge of ensuring that public service rules and regulations are not undermined in any condition of service offered to public officers in the universities.

According to the Minister, the Briggs committee’s proposal of 109 – 185 percent increase in the university wage structure, would cost the Federal Government N560 billion as salaries alone in addition to the current N412 billion.

He added that N1.12 trillion would be needed to pay the salaries and allowances of university lecturers and other staff in the university system.

The statement reads: “This clarification has become necessary in view of the deluge of deliberate misinformation being dished out to Nigerians by the President of ASUU, Prof. (Emmanuel) Osodeke as well as his branch leaders, calling on President (Muhammadu) Buhari to sign an agreement which they claimed to have reached with the Federal Government.

“We wish therefore to inform Nigerians that there is no such Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that has been reached between the Federal Government, ASUU and other university unions on the renegotiation of their salaries and allowances (wages). What is in existence is a proposal. Even when such a CBA is made , it is not the President that signs it. From available records, no Nigerian President or sovereign signs such.

“The true position is that Nigerians are aware that ASUU has been on strike since 14 February 2022 and locked in negotiations on their demand, especially of their conditions of service – wages , salaries, allowances and other public service matters, that should be guided by relevant Federal Government Ministries and agencies – Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Budget office of the Federation, National Salaries Income and Wages Commission, Office of Head of Service of the Federation, through the newly set up Prof. Nimi Briggs committee.

“Note that Prof Nimi Brigg committee just like the Prof. Munzali (Jibril) committee it replaced, is an internal committee of the Ministry of Education to receive ASUU demands and renegotiate areas of 2009 Agreement while also receiving briefs from the MDAs mentioned above that act as advisers, before making any counter offer to ASUU and other unions.

“Unfortunately, ASUU insisted that these relevant advisory MDAs recuse themselves from the sitting of the Briggs committee, accusing them of non-cooperation. All alone with the Prof Briggs committee, ASUU started fixing their salaries and allowances to the exclusion of the statutory government ministries and agencies that manage the entire annual finances of government, budget and fiscal policies and the Office of the Head of Service that is in charge of ensuring that public service rules and regulations are not undermined in any condition of service offered to public officers in the universities.

“Because of this exclusion engineered by ASUU, and the arising complaints to the Chief of Staff to the President and the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment by the concerned MDAs , the Chief of Staff and the Honourable Minister of Labour set up an inter-Ministerial/Agency sub-committee comprising the affected MDA’s under the Minister of State Budget and Planning to quickly look into Prof. Briggs committee report which, to all intents and purpose, was still a proposal in June 2022 at the government side meeting. This assignment was to be completed with the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages and given two weeks to come up with their recommendation.

“Having rounded off its work, the committee returned as verdict; that with the Prof. Briggs proposal of 109 – 185 percent increase in the university wage structure, the Federal Government will incur an additional N560 billion as salaries alone, on top of the present N412 billion, less all other allowances such as Earned Academic Allowances and fringe benefits, Teaching Allowance, Field trip, responsibility and Postgraduate supervision, allowances, Hazard allowances which were to gulp another N170 billion.

“In all, the sum of N1.12 trillion will be needed to pay the salaries and allowances of university lecturers and other staff in the university system. At present , the wage bill of the university staff and their colleagues in teaching health systems gulp nearly 50 percent of the total Federal Government staff personnel cost/wages. Recall that the staff of Polytechnics and Colleges of Education have also placed their wage review on the front burner since two months ago. This is just like the medical doctors and the JOHESU (Joint Health Sector Unions), who have placed before the Federal Government the need for wage review which the government agrees that even with the 10 percent review of salary, following the Minimum Wage and the Consequential review of 2019, her employees will need some salary enhancement for all sectors and just for education or health employees alone.

“Currently, the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages has finished the review of the Prof. Nimi Briggs proposal and will shortly submit the same to the President. This clears every doubt that there is an agreement before the President waiting for his signature. There is none!

“On UTAS (University Transparency and Accountability Solution), UPPPS (Universities Peculiar Personnel Payroll System) and IPPIS (Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System), Nigerians will recall that IPPIS was an inherited payment platform meant to run side by side the corrupt ridden defunct GIFMIS (Government Integrated Financial Management Information System) platform. However because of the issues of ghost workers, inflated personnel cost, non-payment of PAYE (Pay As You Earn) taxes by federal employees in the states to their respective states governments, who turn around to collect these tax and the differential from the Federal Government, through the Joint Tax Board, government decided to make IPPIS payment platform sole and compulsory to all Federal Government staff drawing their remunerations from the Federal Government treasury.

“However, ASUU and other staff of the universities complained that IPPIS did not capture the peculiarities of the university system; that their salaries and peculiarities like sabbatical were being amputated. ASUU had to come up with UTAS as an alternative platform.

“Subjected however to a critical integrity and vulnerability test – a bulwark against fraud during salary payment at NITDA, it failed. It also failed the stress test. Meanwhile, non-teaching staff of the universities also came up with UPPPS, each vowing not to submit to the other, proven successful or otherwise. But following the tripartite plus meeting of 12 May 2022, at the Presidential Villa, NITDA (National Information Technology Development Agency) was directed to subject the three platforms of IPPIS, UTAS and UPPPS to test. The fresh test on UTAS and on UPPPS has been concluded and results are awaited, while that of IPPIS is still in the works but all will be concluded in the next one week.

“We finally use this medium to once more appeal to ASUU and their sister university unions whose complaints, except for the Renegotiation of their 2013/2014 Agreement, to go back to school, knowing full well that these ceaseless strikes de-market our universities and certificates therefrom, while government labours with their leaders to produce a standard pay rise as soon as possible”.

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