The Federal Government has said it is not correct for the Academic Staff Union of Universities to accuse it of failing to implement the agreement it signed with the union.
It said there was a process through which decisions on such issues were taken and that process had not been followed through as far as the agreement being referred to by ASUU was concerned.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, who disclosed this in an interview with one of our correspondents while reacting to the fresh ultimatum recently issued by ASUU, accused the union of causing panic.
The PUNCH had last week quoted ASUU as expressing its readiness to embark on another round of industrial action following what it called the failure of the Federal Government to implement an earlier agreement signed with the union.
The union gave the government till last Tuesday to implement the pact or it would activate the procedure of embarking on a strike.
The President, ASUU, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, told The PUNCH that the Federal Government must do what it agreed to.
He said, “The government has refused to reach out to us. Government officials have stopped. In fact, they don’t take our calls again. Nigerians should tell the government to do what it agreed to do.
“We signed an agreement and in May, we reached a final agreement; this is August and nothing has been implemented. Does it make any sense?”
But Ngige told The PUNCH that ASUU was referring to a meeting its leaders had with the Ministry of Education.
He said for the resolution at that meeting to become an agreement, there were laid down procedures that must be followed.
The minister said such an agreement must pass through his ministry and end up at the Federal Executive Council, where a final decision would be reached on it.
He explained, “ASUU was talking about a meeting it had at the Ministry of Education. I have not received any report on that meeting.
“When they mention the government, I get confused whether they mean the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning or the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages or my ministry.
“When they talk about the government, it is a bogus statement, which they use all the time to confuse the public.
“My ministry is the last point of call when negotiations with their employers fail. I have nothing to do with their initial negotiation. But that particular negotiation they are talking about has to do with wages again.
“They are asking for an increase in money. So, when they finish in the Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission, they have to bring it.
“If the Ministry of Education agrees, it will bring it to the Salaries and Wages Commission as well as the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages to look at. That is how the government works.
“It is the report of the meeting with the education ministry that they said has not been signed. They will not sign until it is looked critically at the ministry and they feel it is fit and proper to present to the government under the Presidential Committee on Salaries and Wages as well as the Salaries and Wages Commission.
“If we are satisfied at that level, we take it to the Federal Executive Council. These are the stages. Let them not be pretending as if they don’t know.”
The minister accused the union of always issuing strike threats to cause panic among the populace.
He added, “They just brandish these strike threats and cause panic among members of the public, which is not fair.
“The thing has a route. Babalakin was negotiating it before he was removed and the committee re-constituted with a new chairman.
“The committee has been working. People came into that committee as members and some others to observe. My ministry’s people are there to observe.”
When Oshodeke was contacted on the allegations made against ASUU by Ngige, he declined making further comments.
“I don’t want to respond to Ngige through the press. When I see him one on one, I will raise the issue with him. More so, I spoke with him at length yesterday (Sunday),” the ASUU President stated.