Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State has flayed Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige over what it called ‘divide-and-rule’ treatment of its members in salary payment of last year’s 8-months industrial action.
Ngige, in a letter dated March 30, had asked the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to pay 204 lecturers of medical faculties at UNIZIK their withheld salaries.
Minister said records jointly signed by the deans of medical science, basic clinical sciences, and basic medical sciences faculties respectively at UNIZIK showed that the said lecturers performed their duties while the strike lasted.
But the Union said Ngige’s salary payment of its members in the said faculties, further demonstrated his insensitivity to the plight of universities.
Addressing reporters in Awka on Thursday, the Union Chairperson, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh described Ngige’s claims as false,
misleading and unworthy of a Minister, insisting that those who were paid participated in the impasse.
He also regretted alleged connivance of beneficiary lecturers with the Minister to betray their members, wondering why they chose to toe that path than defending the truth.
He said, “Our attention has been drawn to the false claims by the 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 realise that as intellectuals, they have a divine responbility to defend the truth. The absolute truth is that there was no teaching and consquently 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 shamefull 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 animus towards ASUU.
Asked if ASUU has any personal scores with the Minister, Ufoaroh said, “We have no personal issues with Ngige, but his insistence that we shouldn’t fight for our members rights has been the bone of contention. He’s always been on our neck because he feels that we’re asking for too much.
“Remember his intention was to proscribe our union through the courts but we didn’t allow him to succeed in the plot. This appears to be his last stroke to divide the union and pay some and leave others before he leaves office.
“It’s obvious that our struggle is not just about the Union welfare but that of the entire University system. We’ve always insisted that FG has enough resources to fund the university system and a labourer is worth his wages.
“We’re optimistic that the incoming administration will do the needful, to avert further crisis in our universities, especially having paid some of our colleagues with us in the struggle.”