The Federal Government has been under fire from the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) for paying lecturers only half their regular wage in October.
ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke issued a statement on Tuesday in which the union denounced the “pro-rata” payment to its members and said that the government was trying to turn Nigerian scholars into temporary employees.
Recall that on October 14, 2022, ASUU had called off its eight-month strike after the National Industrial Court ordered the lecturers to go back to classes..
Osodeke in a statement said, “The action of the Union was a display of manifest trust in the judiciary and other institutions and organs of government to always put national interest above all other considerations. This we believe, as a union of thinkers, intellectuals, and patriots, will not only aid the process of amicable resolution of the crisis, but will also set the tone for smooth industrial relations between Government and Nigerian workers at large,”
“This is not only an aberration but a contravention of all-known rules of engagement in any contract of employment for academics the world over,” the union leader exclaimed.
However, he claimed that the government’s response, particularly its ‘pro-rata’ payment of professors’ salaries for October, painted them as hourly employees.
The President stated further that the union’s National Executive Committee (NEC) met on Monday to deliberate on the development and noted with dismay that “paying academics on pro-rata basis, like casual workers, is unprecedented in the history of university-oriented labour relations and therefore condemned this attempt to reduce Nigerian scholars to casual workers in its entirety”.
The Federal Government over the weekend had defended the pro-rata payment to ASUU members in October, saying they cannot be paid for work not done.
Through the ministry’s spokesman, Olajide Oshundun, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, also denied media accusations that the government was unfair in compensating university professors.
“They were paid in pro-rata to the number of days that they worked in October, counting from the day that they suspended their industrial action,” the statement partly read.
“Pro-rata was done because you cannot pay them for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied,” he said.
Additionally, Femi Gbajabiamila, the speaker of the House of Representatives, stated on Monday that the green chamber is preparing a N170 billion fund for ASUU in the 2023 budget.
“We are currently working on the 2023 Appropriations Bill, which includes the sum of one hundred and seventy billion naira (N170,000,000,000.00) to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers,” the statement read.
“The Bill also includes an additional three hundred billion naira (N300,000,000,000.00) in revitalization funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities.”
According to Gbajabiamila, the law serves as the foundation for the “no work, no pay” stance that the Federal Government implemented throughout the strike.
He said that the choice was made based on the government’s legal interest in averting moral hazard and deterring disruptive industrial operations.
“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,” he said.