Lawrence Nwimo, Awka
The Nnamdi Azikiwe University branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), has accused Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, of being insensitive to the plights of universities in the country.
The Union’s comments followed the move by the Minister to facilitate the payment of withheld salaries of some lecturers at the institution.
Recall that the minister had claimed that some Faculties in the institution did not participate in the eight months industrial action and had asked the Minister of Finance, Budget, and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, to pay the lecturers numbering 204 from medical faculties at UNIZIK their withheld salaries.
The Labour minister also specifically said that 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.
However, a statement signed by the Chairperson ASUU UNIZIK chapter, Comrade Stephen Ufoaroh; and Secretary, Comrade Peter Okoye; during a press conference in Awka, Thursday, said the minister’s claims were false and misleading, noting that the entire UNIZIK lecturers participated fully in the 2022 strike.
It read: “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.
“The claim by Dr. Chris Ngige, that lecturers in the aforementioned three faculties did not participate in the strike is false, misleading, dishonorable, and unworthy of a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It noted that the entire plan by the minister was to scuttle the existing peace and bring disharmony among the members of the union.
“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 to split the ranks of the union.
“Lecturers in these three faculties ought to realise 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 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)honorable 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 is concrete and verifiable evidence 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 needs to purge himself of personal animus towards ASUU.”