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Pay Rise: Ngige Creating Confusion for Tinubu’s Administration – ASUU President


Pay Rise: Ngige Creating Confusion for Tinubu’s Administration – ASUU President

Punch Newspaper

President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, talks to EMMANUEL OJO about the recent 40 per cent salary increment implemented by the Federal Government, among other issues.

What is your reaction to the implementation of the 40 per cent increment in salary for public servants under the Consolidated Public Service Salary Structure, which excluded lecturers and doctors who are not under that salary structure?

Although we have not got the details and we have not heard from the ministry about our own directly, what you are seeing is that the outgoing Minister of Labour (Dr Chris Ngige), is trying to create confusion in the system and for the next administration because I don’t see why you deliberately increased the salary of one sector by 40 per cent and left the others. I think that is just to create confusion or ensure that we, the workers, and the unions within the system fight one another but that will not happen. It’s just deliberate.

What do you mean?

Look! When there is a salary raise in the government service that is not a negotiated structure, it goes round for everybody, whether you are in the police, the military, or the civil service and what have you. The fund comes from the same source just as when you have a minimum wage review, everybody gets it but the quantity may not be the same because it’s a minimum wage and not a salary increase. Everybody got something. So, why will you create (an increase) for one sector and leave the others just to create confusion? That is the impression I have because this is the first time we are hearing of such. The non-negotiated salary is just to create confusion and maybe he (the minister) can explain.

We have been negotiating with the government for the past six years but they have not acceded to anything. Two times, we have reached an agreement with the government team. First, with the (Barau) Jibrin team. We reached an agreement, but they didn’t reply until we went on strike in 2022, then they came and set up the late Nimi Briggs committee and this same Minister of Labour truncated that agreement, went and told a lie to the President which the committee refuted. Later, one minister wakes up one morning and says they have raised the salary for one sector. It’s so funny.

They reached an agreement with us twice. They didn’t say no. They also didn’t give other suggestions of what they could do since they didn’t have funds. For six years, they have set up three committees: the Babalakin committee, the Barau Jibrin committee, and the late Nimi Briggs committee, where we had some agreements, and all of a sudden, he just threw them away, just woke up one morning and decided the raise the salary of one sector by 40 per cent and the administration has a few weeks to go. I don’t understand.

The government said the increase was to help cushion the economic hardship faced by the beneficiaries. Do you think there are other underlying motives?

The Minister of Labour and Employment and the Director of the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission need to explain to Nigerians what they have done and the motive behind it. Is it to create confusion for the next government? Is it to pretend that they have done the right thing? It’s not clear and everybody is agitated because it has not happened before, that the government will just say that they are increasing the salary of one sector alone by 40 per cent while those sectors you have been negotiating with, you have not done anything about it.

What percentage did you arrive at with the government during your negotiation?

Well, we arrived at a percentage. It’s when they have agreed to sign that it becomes a public document and I will keep on saying this.

A lot has been said about the brain drain in the health sector. Has it affected the tertiary level of the education sector of the nation in any way?

Well, thank you very much for that. You can go round the universities and see. The best brains we have in this country are, permit me to use this word, those who do not really have their commitment in this country and have all left, for two reasons. The first is what they are paying the lecturers today.

When we signed an agreement with the Federal Government in 2009, the salary of a professor was between $1,500 to $2,000 per month, when converted from naira, but today, if you convert what a professor earns, it’s about $500 to $600 which means that if a professor gets an offer to earn $2,000 and more outside the country, they will leave, especially for those who are not really committed to this country. Many are leaving. You can check, even the younger ones are leaving. They get funded training and they move because they have a better offer there. So, what are they staying here to do?

Secondly, to compound the problem, this so-called IPPIS (Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System) that they have introduced has actually created the biggest crisis in the Nigerian university system. How is that? All the foreign civil servants and lecturers we had from Cameroon, Ghana, and the likes have left because they were not paid for a year or two because they were told they were not on regular employment. Meanwhile, by our law, you cannot employ a foreigner and give them employment from which they can retire. So, they have left.

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