The Academic Staff of Universities (ASUU) in Nnamdi Azikwe University (UNIZIK) has tackled Chris Ngige over an attempt to exempt medical lecturers of the institution from the union’s 2022 nationwide strike.
In February last year, lecturers under ASUU embarked on an eight-month strike over the non-implementation of their demands by the federal government.
The strike ended in October.
Members of the union have been at loggerheads with the government since the strike ended over non-payment of their salaries for the period the industrial action lasted.
The federal government had insisted that the union members would not be paid for the period they were on strike, citing it’s ‘no work, no pay’ policy.
But members of the union had condemned the move. The matter has remained a subject of intense conversation since then.
In a recent twist, however, Ngige asked the minister of finance, budget and national planning to pay the withheld salaries of 204 medical lecturers at UNIZIK.
The minister had claimed the lecturers, who are from medical science, basic clinical sciences, and basic medical sciences faculties respectively performed their duties while the strike lasted.
But in a statement on Thursday by Stephen Ufoaroh, its chairman, and Peter Okoye, the secretary, the varsity’s ASUU faulted Ngige’s “claim.”
The union said contrary to Ngige’s *claim,” all lecturers at the institution “participated fully in the strike”.
“The claim by Dr. Chris Ngige, that lecturers in the aforementioned three faculties did not participate in the strike is totally false, misleading, dishonourable and unworthy of a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the statement reads.
“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 in an effort 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 period of 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.”
‘DIVIDE AND RULE’
The union described the action of Ngige as “divide and rule”. ASUU further accused the minister of pursuing “personal animus” against the union.
“This obvious action of ‘divide and rule’ bespeaks the usual (dis) honourable minister’s insensitivity to the plight of universities in a country where every institution and every household has become a municipality,” the statement adds.
Femi Falana, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), had earlier condemned the minister’s action.