The House of Representatives has frowned at the claim by the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke that the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, used deception to convince the union to call off their eight-month strike.
Osodeke had in an interview on Tuesday, while accusing Gbajabiamila of deception, also alleged that the Speaker failed to deliver on his written commitment that the government would, without delay, offset the arrears of salaries owed to members of the union for the time they were on strike.
In reaction, the lawmakers in a statement signed by the House Spokesman, Hon. Benjamin Kalu said at no point did the Speaker commit to offset the arrears of salaries owed to union members for the time they were on strike.
He opined that Osodeke’s bad-faith approach to negotiations and his affinity for political brinkmanship were reasons the universities were on strike for so long.
Kalu said the House helped resolve the industrial action by making commitments to improve the welfare package of university lecturers and revitalisation funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities.
These commitments, according to him were reflected in the 2023 Appropriation Bill, which includes N170 billion to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers and additional N300 billion in revitalisation funds.
He also said the House would continue to work with the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) and ASUU to facilitate the adoption of elements of the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) into the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
While adding that the efforts were being supervised by the Chairman of the House Committee on Tertiary Education, Hon. Aminu Suleiman, he urged the ASUU president to desist from making further misleading statements.
The statement read: “Professor Emmanuel Osodeke knows that the federal government of Nigeria is under no obligation to pay university lecturers’ salaries for the duration they were on strike. This is a settled matter in law. See S. 43(1)(a) Trade Disputes Act, Cap T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN).
“The Executive decision not to pay salaries to lecturers for the time spent on strike is warranted by the government’s legitimate interest in preventing moral hazard and discouraging disruptive industrial actions.
“Nonetheless, the Speaker has made interventions for an exemption in this regard, and Prof. Osodeke is well aware of this. The public interest in ensuring a well-functioning tertiary education sector is a matter of paramount concern for all who understand the transformational role of education in any society.
“For this reason, the 9th House has been consistent in our efforts to explore avenues for reform and improvement to the framework of public education in the country from basic education through tertiary.
“Our objectives in this regard will not be achieved when stakeholders choose to ignore substantive issues and the consideration of bold ideas in favour of cheap blackmail and immoral propaganda.
“His ongoing interventions continue to threaten the progress being made to preclude the possibility of further disruptions to the academic calendar of the universities. Therefore, I call on him, in his capacity as President of ASUU to desist from making further misleading statements against the House of Representatives and the Speaker, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila. “There is no place for belligerence and selfish agitation in this critical moment. This is the time for calm heads and steady hands, working together for the common good.”
Meanwhile, members of the House of Representatives has urged the federal government, particularly the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) to suspend the planned auction and sale of the oil mining licence (OML) 11 asset until relevant issues are resolved with the host communities.
The House mandated its committee on petroleum upstream to urgently investigate the planned auction among other matters and report back within four weeks for further legislative action.
The resolutions of the lawmakers followed the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance sponsored by Hon. Victor Mela at the plenary, Wednesday.
In August, the NPDC, upstream subsidiary company of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) had resumed oil exploration activities at oil mining lease (OML) 11.
OML 11 host communities, comprising the Ogonis and Asa on the Imo-River axis and Abia states had warned the federal government against re-issuing the facility to any operator without wider consultation.
They had insisted on being carried along in the processes leading to the eventual re-issuance of the oil well to any operator. The communities had also called on the NPDC to dialogue with them before granting the operatorship licence.
Moving the motion, Mela noted that the oil field under oil mining license 11 was formerly operated by the Shell petroleum development company (SPDC) joint venture and have laid idle since they were forced out of Ogoniland in 1993.
Mela also noted a court of appeal judgement of 16th August, 2021, which the SPDC joint venture lost its right to renewal of the operating licence.
He expressed concern that there were unresolved issues between the government and the host communities of Ogoni, which is currently fueling resistance and restiveness amongst the people.
He expressed concerns over allegation that the government was involved in under the table arrangements to auction the OML 11 asset to Sahara Energy Limited for a paltry sum of $250 million as against the $1 billion offered by the SPDC.
He added that there was need to urgently clarify and resolve issues associated with the planned auction among other matters.