Femi Falana (SAN), a human rights lawyer, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to disregard the position of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Chris Ngige, and pay members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) their full salaries.
Some union members who recently ended their eight-month strike had grumbled about receiving half pay in October 2022. The Federal Government, through Ngige, defended the action, stating that the varsity professors could not be compensated for their absence from the classroom.
“They were paid in pro-rata to the number of days that they worked in October, counting from the day that they suspended their industrial action,” Ngige had said, adding that “pro-rata was done because you cannot pay them for work not done. Everybody’s hands are tied.”
However, in a statement on Sunday, Falana argued that the ‘no work, no pay’ policy does not apply to ASUU members.
He said, “The position of the Federal Government is factually faulty and legally misleading. Since the industrial action was called off the public universities have adjusted their calendars to ensure that the 2021/2022 academic session is not cancelled. Consequently, students are currently taking lectures or writing examinations that were disrupted during the strike of the ASUU. Therefore, having regard to the facts and circumstances of the ASUU strike the doctrine of ‘no work, no pay’ is totally inapplicable as students who were not taught during the strike are currently attending lectures and writing examinations.
“Furthermore, it is public knowledge that the members of the Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) embarked on a strike that lasted two months last year. The Federal Government dragged the striking doctors to the National Industrial Court which ordered the NARD to call off the strike. As soon as the strike was called off, President Muhammadu Buhari jettisoned the “no work, no pay” principle and ordered the payment of the salaries for the two months that the strike lasted. On that occasion, the President overruled Dr. Ngige in the interest of industrial harmony in the health sector.
“In the same vein, the ASUU recently called off its 8-month-old strike in compliance with the order of the National Industrial Court and the Court of Appeal. We are therefore compelled to call on President Buhari should ignore the advice of Dr. Ngige and direct the public universities to pay the full salary of each lecturer from February to October 2022. Otherwise, the Federal Government will be accused of engaging in the selective application of the “no work, no pay” principle which is discriminatory and illegal.
“It is pertinent to draw the attention of the Federal Government to section 42 (1) of the Constitution which provides that citizens of Nigeria shall not be subjected either expressly or in the practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which other citizens are not made subject; or be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to other citizens.
“In view of the foregoing, since the Federal Government is mandatorily required to treat all workers equally the members of ASUU are entitled to be treated like members of the NARD after they had called off their strike. In other words, as members of ASUU and NARD are entitled to equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law the lecturers should be paid their salaries withheld during the period of the recently suspended 8-month industrial action.
“However, in view of the undeniable fact that the members of the two newly registered unions in the universities were on strike like members of ASUU the
plan of the Ministry of Labour and Employment to pay the Congress of University Academics their withheld salaries and rectify the ‘half salaries’ paid to all lecturers under the newly registered union should be shelved. Otherwise, the provocative agenda will cause a fresh industrial action in public universities.”