Reps to consider N170bn for lecturers’ welfare, N300bn revitalisation funds in 2023 proposed budget
…Call for National Summit on Tertiary Education Reform
…Doctrine of ‘no-work-no-pay’ is inapplicable to lecturers — Falana
Fresh threats have sprung-up in the struggle of members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) against the Federal Government, over the discretionary action of the latter to pay the aggrieved lecturers half of their salaries for the month of October.
The decision displeasing the lecturers has attracted reactions, with the union constituting an emergency meeting of its National Executive Council (NEC) on the necessary action to take.
While fears have once again loomed over what the action of the union would be on the issue in protest against the Federal Government’s action, suspense over a possible strike has been the fear of many, while students who suffered an eight-month old strike appealed for truce, preferring any possible strike should only be considered after pending exams.
Lawmakers, Lawyers, sympathise with ASUU
As reactions trailed the grievance of the lecturers, there have been mixed reactions as some have knocked the Federal Government for taking a position that could open up fresh wounds.
Stakeholders, including lawmakers and lawyers, have expressed their support in sympathy for ASUU.
This is just as it has been gathered that Federal lawmakers in the National Assembly are more favourably disposed to give consideration to the sum of N170billion to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers, and an additional N300bn in revitalisation funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities provided for in the 2023 Appropriations Bill presented to the National Assembly.
…Doctrine of ‘no work no pay’ not applicable to lecturers — Falana
In his argument sympathising in defense of ASUU on salary cut, leading constitutional and human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) on his part has insisted that ‘no-work-no-pay’ doctrine is not applicable to members of ASUU.
Falana who made his assertion in an interview on Channels TV’s “Politics Today” programme on Tuesday, argued that “By virtue of Section 43 of the Trade Dispute Act, during strikes, workers are not suppose to be paid. But the law has to be interpreted having regards to the facts and circumstances of every strike.
“In this particular instance, the period of eight months of the strike of ASUU is being factored into the amendment of the calendars of all the public universities in a way that the lectures that the students missed are being covered now.
“The students are going to write their examinations at the end of the day. It’s very crystal clear that the 2021-2022 academic session has not been cancelled.
“In other words, the lecturers are working. The lecturers are trying to cover the period that was lost. So, the doctrine of no work no pay is inapplicable.”
Recall that Falana had earlier asked President Muhammadu Buhari to direct that members of ASUU be paid their full salaries after they were paid half salary for October.
The union had on October 14 called off its eight-month strike.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, had through its head of press and public relations, Olajide Oshundun, said ASUU members were paid their October salary pro-rata and not half salary as reported.
According to the Ministry, pro-rata was done because the union could not be paid for work not done.
In Falana’s argument, the position of the Federal government on the matter is “factually faulty and legally misleading.”
The legal luminary who is also ASUU’s legal representative, argued that since Buhari could overrule the ‘no-work-no-pay’ principle invoked on members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), it is logical to do same for ASUU.
Falana requesting that the president ignore the advice of Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige on the ‘no-work-no-pay’ principle, requested that ASUU members be paid their full salaries from February to October, during which the strike lasted.
“Since the industrial action was called off, the public universities have adjusted their calendars to ensure that the 2021/2022 academic session is not cancelled. Consequently, students are currently taking lectures or writing examinations that were disrupted during the strike of the ASUU.
“Therefore, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the ASUU strike the doctrine of ‘no-work-no-pay’ is totally inapplicable as students who were not taught during the strike are currently attending lectures and writing examinations.
“Furthermore, it is public knowledge that members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on a strike that lasted two months last year. The Federal Government dragged the striking doctors to the National Industrial Court which ordered the NARD to call off the strike.
“As soon as the strike was called off, President Muhammadu Buhari jettisoned the ‘no-work-no-pay’ principle and ordered the payment of the salaries for the two months that the strike lasted.
“On that occasion, the President overruled Dr. Ngige in the interest of industrial harmony in the health sector.
“In the same vein, the ASUU recently called off its 8-month old strike in compliance with the order of the national industrial court and the court of appeal.
“We are therefore compelled to call on President Buhari to ignore the advice of Dr. Ngige and direct the public universities to pay the full salary of each lecturer from February to October 2022,” he argued.
Falana argued that if the government fails to pay the sum, it would amount to nothing but selective application of the ‘no-work-no-pay’ principle which, according to him, is discriminatory and illegal.
…Interventions made to Buhari for partial payments – Gbajabiamila
Meanwhile, as mixed reactions trail the ‘no-work-no-pay’ principle, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, has said while the ‘no-work-no-pay’ principle was predicated on law, the house has made moves to explore the possibility of partial payments to the lecturers, expressing expectancies of positive consideration by President Buhari, who according to him “has manifested his desire to what is prudent and necessary to resolve all outstanding issues.”
In a statement issued by the Speaker on Monday, titled, “Statement by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila on the Resolution of Outstanding Issues between the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government of Nigeria,” Gbajabiamila who argued that “there is no more pressing objective than to preclude the possibility of further disruptions to the academic calendar of the universities,” said all must be done to prevent the possibility of further instability by all means, “as these disruptions risk the promise and potential of our nation’s youth.”
The statement reads partly: “When the Academic Staff Union of Universities called off their industrial action three weeks ago, it meant that academic activities could resume in our nation’s public universities, and students could return to their academic pursuits after the prolonged interruption. This decision was rightly heralded nationwide as the correct decision.
“Since then, the Executive and the House of Representatives have worked to address the issues that led to the strike. We are currently working on the 2023 Appropriations Bill, which includes the sum of N170,000,000,000 to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers. The bill also includes additional N300,000,000,000 in revitalisation funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities.
“Furthermore, the House of Representatives has convened the Accountant General of the Federation, the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other stakeholders to facilitate the adoption of elements of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System. This effort is being supervised by the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, Rep. Aminu Suleiman.
“The Executive position that it is not obligated to pay salaries to adoption of elements of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System. This effort is being supervised by the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, Rep. Aminu Suleiman.
“The Executive position that it is not obligated to pay salaries to lecturers for the time spent on strike is premised on the law and the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions.
“Nonetheless, interventions have been made to explore the possibility of partial payments to the lecturers. We look forward to a favourable consideration by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, who has manifested his desire to what is prudent and necessary to resolve all outstanding issues.
“Implementing meaningful change takes time, especially when appropriations and modifications to systems such as IPPIS are required. Therefore, I urge all parties to be patient and grant each other the presumption of goodwill to the extent necessary to achieve our shared objectives.
“This is not a time for political brinkmanship. There is no more pressing objective than to preclude the possibility of further disruptions to the academic calendar of the universities. We must prevent this possibility by all means, as these disruptions risk the promise and potential of our nation’s youth.”
Gbajabiamila recalled that three weeks ago, he called for a national conversation on the substantive reforms required to address the underlying issues bedevilling public tertiary education in Nigeria.
“To that end, the House of Representatives is convening a National Summit on Tertiary Education Reform. We have called for papers and memoranda from members of the public. The submissions we receive and expert presentations at the Summit will inform our policy recommendations and actions,” he disclosed.
The Speaker urged all citizens and stakeholders to participate in what he described as “crucial effort to reinvent our public tertiary institutions into respected citadels of learning.”
…No legislator is paid half salary for absence from chamber — Shehu Sani
Meanwhile, in the buildup of reactions in support of ASUU, Senator Shehu Sani, who represented Kaduna Central in the National Assembly from 2015 to 2019, said no lawmaker is paid half salary for absence from chamber during sessions, even without reasonable excuse.
His reaction came in reference to the position of Gbajabiamila explaining government’s decision on the salary cut of the lecturers.
Taking to his verified Twitter handle, Senator Sani said, “A system where no legislator is paid half salary for absence from the chamber during session, even for no valid reason, the Speaker is justifying half salary for the university lecturers.”
Few minutes after, he further tweeted again that a lecturer reached him, pointing out that he was paid N40,000 which is not even half of his salary.
“After my last tweet, a university lecturer called me to tell me that he was paid 40k (N40,000) and not ‘half salary.’
“No clerk or gardener in the Presidential Villa or National Assembly is being paid such a paltry sum,” the tweet read.
…ASUU awaits Reps interface with FG
Meanwhile, ASUU in displeasure has described the salary cut to its members as an aberration that reduces the lecturers to casual workers.
Following its NEC meeting, ASUU regretted that the response of government towards its demonstration of trust was the so-called ‘pro-rata’ payment for 18 days as the October salary of academics, thereby portraying them as daily paid workers.
Nonetheless, the lecturers rather than embarking on a spontaneous strike in protest opted to await the outcome of Gbajabiamila’s intervention to interface with the Federal Government.