The House of Representatives on Wednesday attacked Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, the president of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) over his comments that its speaker Femi Gbajabiamila deceived them into calling off their eight-month strike embarked upon in February 2022.
However, in a statement issued on Wednesday, the chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Benjamin Kalu, noted that there was never a time the speaker assured ASUU that government would pay salary arrears for eight months.
In the statement titled ‘House of Representatives response to Osodeke’s allegations of deception against Mr. Speaker,’ Kalu pointed out that the Federal Government legitimately withheld the salaries for the period universities were shut down.
Meanwhile, Osodeke, in an interview with pressmen, said that the body called off the strike on the 14th of October, 2022 due to a letter signed by the speaker, Gbajabiamila stating that the lecturers would get an eight month salary.
A copy of the letter and duly signed by the speaker was presented to pressmen and it reads partly: “After exhaustive deliberations, which necessitated several visits by Mr Speaker to the President, and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), the Honourable Speaker called for another meeting with officials of ASUU, on Monday, October 10, 2022.
“The meeting came to the following resolutions: the no-work-no-pay policy of the government remains a subsisting policy for all industrial actions, but the government will on the special ground concede ASUU to pay a part of its salaries during the strike period.”
Continuing, Osodeke revealed that the government agreed with the union to pay parts of the backlog of salaries.
He added, “When Gbajabiamila wrote to us, he said the government would pay part of the money and it was based on the information that we called off the strike. And we have called off the strike for over two months now, yet, we have not received anything.
“How do you want our members to feel after we told them and showed them evidence that the Speaker promised to pay partly?’’
However, defending the speaker, Kalu faulted some of the claims made by the ASUU president in his recent media interview.
The statement read, “For the record, at no point did the Speaker of the House of Representatives commit to offset the arrears of salaries owed to union members for the time they were on strike.
“The House of Representatives helped resolve the strike by making commitments to improve the welfare package of university lecturers and revitalization funds to improve the infrastructure and operations of federal universities.
“These commitments are reflected in the 2023 Appropriation Bill, which includes N170,000,000,000.00) to provide a level of increment in the welfare package of university lecturers and an additional N300,000,000,000.00 in revitalization funds.”
However, the effect of the eight months industrial action embarked upon by university lecturers have had negative effect on the University students.
Many universities are still conducting exams for students in the yuletide period while many others are still studying for their exams meant to start soon.