A FORMER chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Attahiru Jega, says the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, is creating more problems with how he is handling the protracted industrial strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Jega stated this when he featured on a programme on Arise Television on Tuesday, October 4.
In his bid to break ASUU, the minister yesterday issued certificates of registration to two more academic unions. The unions are the Nigerian Association of Medical and Dental Academics (NAMDA) and the Congress of Nigerian University Academics (CONUA).
“These associations will exist alongside ASUU in Nigerian universities,” said Ngige, citing the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention.
He advised the newly registered academic unions not to interfere with the activities of the management of universities and the governing councils.
According to him, ASUU was interfering with the rights of employers by insisting that the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (UTAS) be adopted as a payment platform for its members.
But Jega said Ngige was not helping matters, saying he had turned the industrial face-off into a personal quarrel with the ASUU and his counterpart in the Education Ministry, Adamu Adamu.
“He took the matter to the industrial court, and now, he has registered two new unions and is trying to proscribe ASUU.
“If this is allowed by this government, I think it is a recipe for disaster and it may really create more problems than it can solve on this matter of strike in the universities,” he said.
He said while concerted efforts were being made by relevant stakeholders to address and resolve the logjam so that students could go back to school and ASUU could go back to work, Ngige was “busy creating challenges.”
Meanwhile, the ASUU president, Emmanuel Osodeke, has described the newly registered associations as “an inconsequential collection of dissidents whose inordinate ambitions fed the labour minister’s hubris.”
Osodeke accused the minister of sabotaging the efforts of the National Assembly to deal with the root cause of the strike.
“We don’t have factions of ASUU. The minister is desperate, but they are inconsequential. Our union is intact and we will continue. When the National Assembly is trying to intercede on an issue and the Ministry of Labour is jumping from court, to the issue of salaries, registering other unions. I think Nigerians should ask him, ‘what is his interest?’
“We don’t have factions. Call them. Go to any of our branches, we do not have factions. What there are, the new group at OAU are dissidents and he (Ngige) encouraged them. But we don’t have factions. If we have factions, can we be on strike for eight months?” he asked.