“I have three biological children in public schools” – Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige explains why he is more affected by ASUU Strike

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Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has restated the commitment of Federal Government to end the eight-month strike embarked on by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.

He described as untrue, comments that government officials have been foot-draggers in the ongoing negotiations with the university lecturers because their children school abroad.

Ngige said, “I have three biological children in public schools. They are in public schools; they are not in private universities. Unlike ASUU members who have most of their children in private universities, three of mine are here. So, I am a very big stakeholder in the public tertiary school system.”

The minister, who spoke on an Arise TV interview Monday, added, “So, when ASUU says politicians don’t care because they have taken their children abroad, Chris Ngige cares because my children are not abroad even though they have dual nationality – two of them have American citizenship; they can be in America but I choose them to be here with me.

“So, ASUU cannot accuse me of not being nationalistic enough. Anything that will help the university system here, I am in the forefront.”

The Federal Government had last Friday accepted the demand by ASUU that the lecturers be exempted from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System.

The government also offered to increase the Earned Allowances to university staff from N30 billion to N35b and the Revitalisation Fund from N20b to N25b.

In the meantime, over the weekend, the president of the union, Professor ‘Biodun Ogunyemi has said there are certain steps to be taken to reach a final conclusion on the issue.

Professor Ogunyemi told Sunday Tribune in an exclusive interview on Saturday that even though government had agreed to drop the controversial Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) in paying the lecturers’ outstanding salaries and continue with the test on their alternative University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), ASUU leadership would still need to table the offer before the congress for review and then take a position if satisfactory or not.

He said it was the congress and not the leadership that makes decision on behalf of the union, especially as regards the nature of the issue in focus. Asked how soon that would be, he said: “We are meeting government again next Friday, which means we must have met internally on our own and then present our position on the offers to government before we can then take final decision as regards our ongoing strike.”

He said he would not want to pre-empt the congress’s decision on the matter. But the ASUU chairman in charge of University of Lagos (UNILAG) branch, Akoka, Dr Dele Ashiru, said in an exclusive interview that the branch is yet to be contacted officially by the leadership of the union. He, however, noted that ASUU does not rely on media reports from the government’s side but from the leadership of the union.

“And I believe in the coming days, we shall consider the outcome of last meeting of our union with the government to know what next,” Ashiru said.

Meanwhile, most of the state chapters of ASUU in the 45 federal universities have said they are yet to be officially notified of the details of the resolution reached by their national leadership and the Federal Government.

The union chapters in Niger, Jigawa, Ogun, Benue, Ondo, Delta and other states, told Sunday Tribune that they would summon a congress of the union to discuss whatever is communicated to them by the national leadership. Chairman of ASUU in Federal University of Petroleum (FUPRE), Effurun, Delta State, Dr Ezekiel Agbalagba, said the branch would not be carried away by media publications of the resolutions.

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