The House of Representatives has berated the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, over his claim that the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, deceived the university lecturers into calling off their eight-month strike.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, stated that at no time did Gbajabiamila agree with ASUU that lecturers would be paid for the period they were on strike.
In the statement titled ‘House of Representatives response to Osodeke’s allegations of deception against Mr Speaker,’ Kalu pointed out that the Federal Government legitimately withheld the salaries for the period universities were shut down.
But Osodeke, in an interview with The PUNCH, insisted that ASUU called off its strike on October 14, 2022, due to a promissory letter signed by Gbajabiamila stating that a part of the union’s salary would be paid.
A copy of the promissory letter made available to The PUNCH and signed by Gbajabiamila, read partly, “After exhaustive deliberations, which necessitated several visits by Mr Speaker to the President, and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the Honourable Speaker called for another meeting with officials of ASUU, on Monday, October 10, 2022.
“The meeting came to the following resolutions: the no-work-no-pay policy of the government remains a subsisting policy for all industrial actions, but the government will on the special ground concede ASUU to pay a part of its salaries during the strike period.”
In addition, Osodeke explained that the government made a special concession when they met with them, saying FG promised to pay part of our backlogs. He added, “When Gbajabiamila wrote to us, he said the government would pay part of the money and it was based on the information that we called off the strike. And we have called off the strike for over two months now, yet, we have not received anything.
“How do you want our members to feel after we told them and showed them evidence that the Speaker promised to pay partly?’’ However, defending the speaker, Kalu faulted some of the claims made by the ASUU president in his recent media interview.
The statement read, “For the record, at no point did the Speaker of the House of Representatives commit to offset the arrears of salaries owed to union members for the time they were on strike. “The House of Representatives helped resolve the strike 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 are reflected in the 2023 Appropriation Bill, which includes N170,000,000,000.00) to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers and an additional N300,000,000,000.00 in revitalisation funds.”
NANS weighs in
Meanwhile, weighing in on the situation, the National Association of Nigerian Students Zone C has urged the Federal Government to honour its agreement with ASUU to prevent another industrial action.
The association also urged the government to place more emphasis on proper funding of the education sector.
It made the call in a communiqué issued at the end of its convention/election to elect new leadership that will spearhead its activities for one year, held at the College of Agriculture Science and Technology, Lafia, Nasarawa State.
The communique, which was signed by Kayode Adebayo and Muhammed Saba also urged federal and state governments to do more on funding security agencies to tackle security situations currently halting activities in the North Central and the nation at large.