The House of Representatives has responded to Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), about what he said about Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker of the House.
Earlier, in an interview, Osodoke said that Gbajabiamila had tricked the varsity union into ending its eight-month strike.
He said that Gbajabiamila took advantage of the fact that he liked ASUU and gave the union a written promise that the government would pay all of the back salaries owed to its members as soon as the strike was over.
But in a statement to reporters in Abuja on Wednesday (today), Benjamin Okezie Kalu, the spokesman for the House of Representatives, said that the ASUU president’s claim about Gbajabiamila was not true.
He said that the Speaker of the House of Representatives never promised to pay union members their back pay for the time they were on strike.
He said that the House of Representatives helped end the strike by promising to improve university lecturers’ benefits and by giving money to help federal universities improve their infrastructure and how they work.
The statement said, “These promises are reflected in the 2023 Appropriation Bill, which includes one hundred and seventy billion naira (N170,000,000,000.00) to increase the welfare package for university professors and three hundred billion naira (N300,000,000.00) more for revitalization funds.
“Furthermore, the House of Representatives continues to work with stakeholders, like the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to make it easier for parts of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) to be added to the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS). Rep. Aminu Suleiman, who is the head of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, is in charge of this project.
Kalu said that ASUU should know that “the Federal Government of Nigeria is not required to pay the salaries of university professors while they were on strike.”
“The law is clear about this. See Trade Disputes Act, Cap. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, Section 43(1)(a) (LFN). The government has a legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions. This is why the Executive decided not to pay lecturers for the time they were on strike.
“However, the Speaker has asked for a break in this case, and Professor Osodeke is well aware of this. The public’s interest in making sure the tertiary education sector works well is of the utmost importance to anyone who knows how education can change a society.
“Because of this, the 9th House of Representatives has been working hard to find ways to change and improve the system of public education in the country, from elementary school to college.”
We can’t reach our goals by spreading false information.
He made it clear that the House’s goals in this area wouldn’t be met if people chose to ignore important issues and bold ideas in favor of cheap blackmail and immoral propaganda.
Kalu said that the House blamed the ASUU president’s alleged brinkmanship and lack of good faith in negotiations for the long strike in higher education.
“Professor Osodeke’s bad-faith approach to negotiations and his love of political brinkmanship are major reasons why the universities were on strike for so long,” the statement said.
“His continued actions keep putting at risk the progress that is being made to stop any more disruptions to the universities’ academic schedules.
“That’s why I’m asking him, in his role as President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), to stop making false claims about the House of Representatives and Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, the Speaker.
“In this important time, there is no room for fighting and stirring up trouble for one’s own sake. “Now is the time to keep your cool, keep your hands steady, and work together for the good of all,” the statement said.