The House of Representatives has said Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila did not deceive the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to end its eight-month-old strike embarked upon in February.
ASUU president, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, had in a national daily on Tuesday said Gbajabiamila deceived them to call the strike action off with a written promise that government would without delay offset in full their salary arrears.
But reacting to the allegation in a statement in Abuja, the spokesman of the House of Representatives, Benjamin Okezie Kalu, said at no point did the speaker commit to offset the arrears of salaries owed the union members for the time they were on strike.
Kalu said 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 N170,000,000,000 (one hundred and seventy billion naira) to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers and additional N300,000,000,000 (three hundred billion naira) in revitalisation funds.
https://8f76160afd2d316d7bd460ff5627874a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html“Furthermore, the House of Representatives continues to work with stakeholders, the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the ASUU to facilitate the adoption of elements of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
“This effort is being supervised by the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, Aminu Suleiman,” he said.
The House blamed the prolonged industrial action in tertiary education on alleged brinkmanship and a bad-faith approach to negotiations by the ASUU president.
“Professor 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.
Therefore, I call on him, in his capacity as president of ASUU to desist from making further misleading statements against the House of Representatives and the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila.
“There is no place for belligerence and selfish agitation in this critical moment. This is the time for calm heads and steady hands, working together for the common good,” the statement said.
The House reiterated that the federal government was under no obligation to pay the withheld salaries of the lecturers for the period they were on strike.
“This is a settled matter in law. See S. 43(1)(a) Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN).
“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 Professor 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.
https://8f76160afd2d316d7bd460ff5627874a.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-40/html/container.html“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.
“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,” the statement said.
But in a swift reaction, the union said it was shocked at the denial of the agreement by the House of Representatives.
The ASUU president in an interview with Daily Trust last night explained that the speaker even took the document which contained the agreements to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for his endorsement.
Osodeke accused the speaker and some other leaders of running the country with deceits, saying such style of governance would continue to dismantle the viability of the nation.
“This is how they run the country with lies and non-adherence to promises made based on trust,” he said.
He added that when Gbajabiamila intervened, he told the union that ASUU members should trust him and that at least half of all the resolutions reached would be implemented.