Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has blamed the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU for prolonging the industrial strike in the country, claiming that the union is making things difficult for both parties.
Ngige disclosed this in a statement issued by the Acting Head of Press and Public Relation in the Ministry, Patience Onuobia, on Tuesday in Abuja.
The minister dismissed insinuations that he was responsible for the ongoing strike by the Union, insisting that he has done what many could not do in efforts to forestall the strike, and that ongoing negotiation is being made impossible by ASUU.
He explained that as Labour minister, his duty was to conciliate disputes and not to implement agreements.
According to him, “For example, ASUU insists that the National Information and Technology Development Agency (NITDA) should take the payment platform, University Transparency Accountability Solution (UTAS) that it developed.
“That they should deploy it for payment in the university whether it is good or bad, whether it failed integrity and vulnerability test or not.
“ASUU members know that fraud committed on payment platforms can run into billions. If a hacker adds zeros to hundreds, it becomes billions,” he said.
The Minister added that NITDA brought out the report of its test on the UTAS, stating that it passed the user acceptability but failed vulnerability and integrity tests which were the two critical tests that prevented fraud, adding that NITDA stated it cannot take the platform at 99.9 per cent of vulnerability and integrity on a payment system.
“As a conciliator, I spoke to ASUU and NITDA to continue the test and see whether they could make up the lapses and arrive at 100 per cent because that is what NITDA insists on.
“These are the issues. So, if you hear someone saying Ngige is responsible, it is wrong. I’m not the one that implements. I’m the conciliator.”
He added that during negotiations, he also conciliates so that there will be no more warfare and “even in conciliation, once I apprehend, the parties go back to status quo ante- which means, you call off the strike.
“ASUU should have by now called off the strike because that’s what the law says.
“I have earlier, while we convened the National Labour Advisory Council in Lagos last month, urged the NLC to which ASUU is affiliated, to intervene in this respect,” Ngige added
However, he also added that the Labour Ministry successfully conciliated 1,683 industrial disputes since its assumption of office in 2015.
“However, when conciliation fails, the Minister is under obligation by section 9 and 14 of Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria to transmit the results of the negotiation to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) or to National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN).
“In the ongoing ASUU imbroglio, I’m the conciliator. I bring them to negotiate with their employers.
“That is the Ministry of Education and the National University Commission as well as IPPIS, the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, all under the Ministry of Finance.
“At the end of every negotiation, we put down what everybody has agreed on in writing and add timelines for implementation,” he said.