By Ikenna Nwokedi
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Nnamdi Azikiwe University (UNIZIK) Awka, Anambra State has lambasted Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige over what it called ‘divide and rule’ treatment of her members in payment of the eight months arrears of salaries from last year’s industrial action.
The Minister of Labour and Employment in a letter to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed dated March 30th, 2022 had asked the Minister to pay two hundred and four (204) teaching staff of three medical faculties of the institution their arrears of salaries.
Sen. Ngigie stated that documents signed by the Deans of the Faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Basic Clinical Sciences and Medicine at UNIZIK showed that the said lecturers carried out their statutory obligations during the eight-month old industrial action which the ASUU NAU Chapter described as misleading and a case of insensitivity to the plight of academic staff in Nigerian Universities.
In a Press briefing held at the ASUU NAU Secretariat on Thursday, 25th May 2023, Chairperson ASUU NAU Chapter, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh described the Minister’s claim as totally false, misleading, dishonourable and unworthy of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Comrade Ufoaroh described as unfortunate the actions of Chris Ngige aimed at cajoling his colleagues in the medical profession into the ignoble act of claiming that they were on duty during the period of the union’s industrial action in an effort to split the ranks of the union.
He said, “The attention of the ASUU NAU has been drawn to the false claims by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige that ASUU members in three faculties of the institution namely; Basic Medical Sciences, Basic Clinical Sciences and Medicine did not partake in the 2022 ASUU national strike.
“Recall that the 2022 ASUU national strike lasted between February 14 and October 17, 2022 and all the academic staff members of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka participated fully in the strike. The claim by Dr. Chris Ngige, that lecturers in the aforementioned three faculties did not participate in the strike is totally false, misleading, dishonourable and unworthy of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“Chris Ngige has cajoled his colleagues in the medical field into the ignoble act of claiming that they were on duty during the pendency of the strike in an effort to split the ranks of the union. Lecturers in these three faculties ought to realize that as intellectuals, they have a divine responsibility to defend the truth. The absolute truth is that there was no teaching and consequently no examination was conducted throughout the period of the struggle.
“Dr Ngige’s incurable phobia for ASUU has eclipsed his sense of decency and he has gone ahead to pay his colleagues and probably kinsmen the eight months arrears of salaries without any verifiable evidence of the work purportedly done during the period.
“The big question is, what is in it for NGIGE? This obvious action of ‘divide and rule’ bespeaks the usual (Dis) honourable Minister’s insensitivity to the plight of Universities in a country where every institution and every household has become a municipality.
“It is sad and most unfortunate that Dr. Chris Ngige and his collaborators have continued in their shameful and ignoble acts against the growth of public Universities even at the twilight of their administration. ALL LECTURERS at Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka participated in the 2022 ASUU National Strike, Period.
“For the records, there are concrete and verifiable evidences from memos and publications from the university that counter the false and trumped up claims of the minister, as evidenced in various memos of the university administration relating to the closing and re-opening of the University consequent upon the strike. Chris Ngige need to purge himself of personal animosity towards ASUU.
Ufoaroh also averred that the Union does not have any personal issues with Ngige, but his insistence that ASUU as a union should not fight for the right of her members have been the bone of contention. The Union leader opined that the struggle is not just about the welfare of the union but that of the entire Nigerian University system.
Ufoaroh also expressed optimism that the incoming administration will do the needful to quell further crisis in Nigerian Universities by ensuring that all academic staff are paid their arrears of salaries.