Labour and Employment Minister, Chris Ngige, has cautioned former Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega against exploiting the strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to frustrate the Federal Government.
In a statement in Abuja by his office, the minister urged Jega, who is the National Chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), to avail the ASUU leadership his (Jega’s) “depth in lessons of ruinous industrial action, whose ramparts shut the doors to reason.”
He said: “Trade unionism must exist for the good of the unions, their members, just as it must lead the vanguard of public good. It must protect the nation and her people just as it shelters union members.
“It is not a social club for the academics to act in detriment to the nation. This is the piece of advice we thought Jega would avail his former comrades from his presumed deep mine of experience and now a trustee and adviser to ASUU.”
The minister said it was wrong for Jega to state in a mid-news interview with the Arise Television that “the Minister of Labour and Employment turned the ASUU strike, into personal quarrel” as all his actions as the nation’s Labour Competent Authority and chief conciliator of disputes, especially as they relate to the ASUU strike fall within the ambit of the law.
The statement reads: “Senator Ngige will continue to discharge his responsibilities as the Minister of Labour and Employment without fear or favour just as we assume that Jega discharged his, as Chairman of the INEC.
“Or does it mean that when he sanctioned political parties or candidates including cancellations of nominations and election results, he discharged such duties in bad faith because of personal quarrels?
”We had thought of overlooking Jega’s darts as sheer exercise in Espirit de corps, but Jega is now the national chairman of one of the opposition political parties whose mission is to wrestle power from the APC.
“Should we then ignore him when it is obvious that he is hiding under the ASUU strike to egg Nigerians into rebellion against the ruling party? How can we stand akimbo when the President of ASUU, Prof. Osodeke had on national television (AIT and Arise ) urged Nigerians to vote out the APC? The video is circulation for all to access on Youtube.
“If the present ASUU leadership has turned Labour agitation into hooliganism, how does Jega define such unionism? Is abusing ministers and top government officials, and sometimes trying to physically assault them part of unionism that Jega is defending?
“When this strike was declared, ASUU also threatened the Minister of Communication and Digital Economy with withdrawal of his professorship from Federal University of Technology, Owerri, (FUTO) while the present Director-General of NITDA was equally threatened with the withdrawal of his Bachelor degree from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria.
The sin of these two government officials is that they discharged their function of testing UTAS as demanded by government and presented reports which showed the platform failed integrity tests in March 2022.
“Though the union does not have such powers to withdraw certificates or impose similar sanctions, why did this go unnoticed by Jega? Encouragement of mischief, you may say because he belongs to the same constituency.
Are all these part of decent unionism or sheer acts of intimidation deployed in negotiations? Prof Jega is now a full blown politician and part of the opposition that wants the APC out and would rather not see this. Prof, permit us to tell you this straight. You are not in a position to judge or offer any unbiased opinion in this matter.”
The minister urged the former INEC boss to counsel the union, which he once led.
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