By Terngu Sylvanus Nomishan
Ensuing from the activities of Chris Ngige regarding the current strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), there is need for us to interrogate his actions in several ways. I’m compelled to think about many things and in different dimensions. For now, I have the followings to say. A collation of several information from the ASUU leadership over the past few weeks indicates that Chris Ngige, the Minister of Labour and Employment, has been the one pinning down every effort made by ASUU and other interest groups towards resolving the current strike.
The ASUU president has revealed on several occasions that immediately the ASUU strike started, Ngige asked the minister of education, Adamu Adamu to allow him settle the issues presented by ASUU. He claimed that since he was the labour minister and the chief conciliator of the federation, he was the one qualified and/or saddled with the responsibility of negotiating with labour unions on behalf of the FG. This logic put forward by Ngige convinced Adamu Adamu, the Education Minister, to step aside and allow Ngige to proceed with negotiations to resolve the ASUU strike. Little did Adamu Adamu or ASUU know the intention of Ngige which was to create more complications for the education sector in the country. Ngige went on to do what I will refer to as conspiracy against ASUU.
Talking about conspiracy, it seems Ngige conspired with the former accountant-general of the federation, the former minister of state for education and the minister of digital economy to rubbish ASUU. His conspiracy with Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, the former minister of state for education saw their utterances on ASUU strike in a sentimental alignment. Even the media got to know that once there was interview with Ngige on ASUU matter, the former minister of state for education was also supposed to be granted an interview. They both were ready to say whatever pleased them concerning the strike at any time.
His conspiracy with the suspended accountant-general of the federation, Ahmed Idirs, also saw him successfully stopping the salaries of academics in the country at any given time. They did this on several occasions without informing the minister of education who Ngige claimed is ASUU’s direct employer. Their collaboration to deal with ASUU devilishly saw them hide many memos from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, directing the former accountant general to implement certain benefits for ASUU members. Recently, an overhaul of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, (IPPIS) platform revealed thousands of fake workers. Among them were over 1000 fake workers added to the payment system from the labour and employment ministry. Can this be considered as one of the fruits of Ngige’s devilish relationship with Idris? You already know the answer.
It is also obvious that the reason University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) (developed by ASUU at the request of the FG) has been subjected to series of tests for the past two years is because of a relationship Ngige has with Pantami, the Minister for Communications and Digital Economy. It seems they conspired to make sure UTAS is not accepted for the payment of salaries of the university staff. This they also do using propaganda and fake news concerning the results of the test being done on the UTAS payment system.
Chris Ngige has done enough disservice to the education sector, particularly the university system. Recent happenings indicate that progress in the renegotiation of the FG-ASUU 2009 agreement only began to surface when Ngige resigned from his duties to pursue a political ambition. Within just a month of his resignation, ASUU and the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, have been able to achieve tremendous progress that saw the renegotiation completed and submitted to the presidency for the approval of the president.
However, the very Ngige has resurfaced after failing to succeed in his political pursuit. He has since started his derogatory comments about the issue. If one studies the body language of this minister, one would see a clear intention to destroy public university system in Nigeria. Therefore, my advice to ASUU leadership is to avoid Ngige and concentrate on their interface with the minister of education. This same unfortunate man, having caused enough confusion in this matter, went to Channels Television to say that he is not the direct employer of ASUU. And directed ASUU to go and interface with the minister of education who is their direct employer. So, why is he back demanding to meet with ASUU? To harvest the proceeds of the progress ASUU has achieved through the minister of education right? Your guess is as good as mine.
If president Buhari is willing to resolve these issues and end ASUU strike for universities to be reopened to students, and academic activities resumed immediately, he should call Chris Ngige to order and speedily act on the document containing the renegotiated agreement submitted to him.
The author is of the Federal University, Lokoja in Kogi State of Nigeria