Home News Education Reps, ASUU face-off over Gbajabiamila’s claim

Reps, ASUU face-off over Gbajabiamila’s claim

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The House of Representatives on Wednesday accused the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Emmanuel Osedeke of misleading the public on the intervention of Speaker, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila in the union’s faceoff with the Federal Government.

It said that Osedeke’s approach to negotiations and his penchant for political brinkmanship were the main reasons ASUU’s strike lingered for eight months.

The House was reacting to a statement credited to Osodeke that Gbajabiamila deceived the union into calling off its strike with a promise that the government would, without delay, offset university teachers’ eight-month withheld salaries.

He was also quoted as saying that the Speaker presented a document signed by him to ASUU leadership indicating the seriousness of the government to pay the arrears.

The House spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said that it was unfortunate that Osodeke resorted to  cheap blackmail and immoral propaganda to curry public sympathy.

Kalu claimed that at no time did the Speaker commit to the payment of the withheld salaries.

According to him, Gbajabiamila only assisted in resolving the strike by making commitments to improve the welfare package of university teachers and to ensure that funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of universities were made available.

Kalu’s statement reads: “On Tuesday, 27th December 2022, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof.Emmanuel Osodeke, granted an interview accusing the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, of using deception to convince the union to call off its strike action.

“He specifically alleged that the Speaker failed to deliver on his written commitment that the government would, without delay, offset the arrears of salaries owed to members of the union for the time they were on strike.

“For the record, at no point did the Speaker commit to offset the arrears of salaries owed to union members for the time they were on strike.

“The House of Representatives helped resolve the strike by making commitments to improve the welfare package of university lecturers and revitalisation funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities.

“These commitments are reflected in the 2023 Appropriation bill, which includes    N170 billion to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers and an additional N300 billion in revitalisation funds.

“Furthermore, the House continues to work with stakeholders; the Accountant General of the Federation and  ASUU to facilitate the adoption of elements of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

“Prof. Osodeke knows that the Federal Government is under no obligation to pay university lecturers’ salaries for the duration they were on strike.  This is a settled matter in law.

“The Executive decision not to pay salaries to lecturers for the time spent on strike is warranted by the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions.  Nonetheless, the Speaker has made interventions for an exemption in this regard, and Prof. Osodeke is well aware of this.

“The public interest in ensuring a well-functioning tertiary education sector is a matter of paramount concern for all who understand the transformational role of education in any society.

“For this reason, the 9th House of Representatives has been consistent in our efforts to explore avenues for reform and improvement to the framework of public education in the country from basic education through tertiary education.

“Our objectives in this regard will not be achieved when stakeholders choose to ignore substantive issues and the consideration of bold ideas in favour of cheap blackmail and immoral propaganda.

“Prof. Osodeke’s bad-faith approach to negotiations and his affinity for political brinkmanship are significant reasons the universities were on strike for so long. His ongoing interventions continue to threaten the progress being made to preclude the possibility of further disruptions to the academic calendar of the universities”.

The House, therefore, called on the ASUU president ”to desist from making further misleading statements against the House of Representatives and Speaker  Femi Gbajabiamila.”

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