The Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, has disclosed that the Federal Government has begun the payment of salary arrears of the striking university teachers.
But the lecturers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) insisted that the Federal Government must remit N200 billion into the universities’ revitalisation fund before the ongoing strike can be suspended.
ASUU leaders, who came to the negotiation table with a former President of the union, Prof. Assisi Asobie and President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Abuba Wabba, explained that the payment of their salary arrears without getting a commitment to the payment of the N200 billion for the rehabilitation of the universities would portray the union as being only concerned with the welfare of its members and not the general improvement of the teaching conditions in the institutions. Issues in contention include the registration of Nigerian Universities Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO); fractionalisation of salaries in federal universities and gross under-funding/non-funding of state universities and arrears and the implementation of earned academic allowance; and the non-release of funds for the revitalisation of public universities as spelt out in the 2013 Memorandum of Understanding.
Other issues are guidelines for the retirement benefits of professors in line with the 2009 FGN/ASUU agreement; Treasury Single Account (TSA) and withdrawal of support for universities’ staff primary schools.
Similarly, the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) may call off their ongoing industrial action today after an emergency congress meeting.
The insistence of the doctors to have the evidence of the implementation of the agreement reached with them last Thursday was responsible for the 10-hour marathon meeting that ended yesterday morning.
The Guardian learnt that the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) insisted that the Federal Government should provide the evidence of implementation to avoid the situation which the academic and non-academic staff unions of universities found themselves.
NARD said it was no longer interested in signing a memorandum of understanding without physical and verifiable implementation of the agreement and would not suspend the ongoing action.
The agreement termed ‘Memorandum of Terms of Settlement’ addressed the six issues raised by NARD: shortfall in salaries; failure to rectify the salary shortfall from August 2017; failure to circularise house officers’ entry point; failure to correct the stagnation of promotion of NARD members and properly place them on their appropriate grade level; failure to enroll and capture NARD members on the Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS); and failure to budget, deduct and remit both the employer and employees’ contributions pension to NARD members’ Retirement Savings Account since 2013. On the non-payment of salaries, the meeting noted that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) did receive one Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) of the sum of N13.2billion to address the shortfalls in public sector, including the payment of the salaries of affected doctors in Federal Tertiary Health Institutions (FTHI).
It was agreed that payment would be made directly to the affected FTHI for doctors and other members of staff that have been authenticated, and a soft copy would be forwarded to the Ministries of Health and of Labour and Employment, chief medical directors, NARD and the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA).
And providing evidence before the NARD emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting slated for today, members of the association that have been authenticated must have received their payment on or before Friday morning.
The Federal Government noted that the shortfalls were basically experienced by those not on the IPPIS platform termed ‘non-regular allowances/payments’.
It was also noted that the Office of Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) is currently capturing the paramilitary staff on IPPIS platform and would be ready to deal with members of NARD by first week of October, precisely on October 4, 2017.
So, it is expected that the 100% payment would be implemented as from October 2017, as September salaries are already at an advanced stage of preparation. Any shortfall that occurs is to be treated together with that of August 2017.
The role of the Cash Management Department and PICA in the payment of the Non Regular Allowances (Non IPPIS), and in finding a permanent solution to the issue of salary shortfalls was acknowledged. The meeting resolved that the ministers of Labour and Employment, and Health, together with the Budget Office of the Federation, and one member each of NARD and NMA would soon discuss the matter with the ministers of Finance, and Budget and Planning.
NARD was assured that notwithstanding IPPIS coming into existence in October, 2017, the arrears accumulated in salary shortfalls on the Non Regular Platform would be paid based on the old payment regime and liquidated.
On the failure to circularise house officers’ entry point, it was noted that the Ministry of Health National Salaries Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) had made a computation of the financial implications for them amounting to approximately N422, 564,729.34 and that the monetary problem of their entry step would be captured in the 2018 budget.
On the failure to correct stagnation of promotion, it was concluded that while the appeal filed by the Ministry of Health in the Appeal Court against the judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on skipping is pending, skipping for doctors should, however, continue as it currently applies to other health workers, and that hospitals that are yet to implement skipping for doctors are to commence.
It was also resolved that there should be no “same scale” promotion except at the terminal grade level and in accordance with the Public Service Rules. Payment for skipping shall stop if the Appeal Court invalidates it.
The failure to enroll NARD members on the IPPIS was also tackled as the meeting concluded that based on the information given by members of NARD, it was noted that only 18 federal tertiary health institutions have so far submitted their nominal roll.
The meeting agreed that NARD members should be on the IPPIS platform and that the CMDs as well as the MDs should be requested by the Ministry of Health to submit their nominal roll to the Office of the Accountant General of The Federation (OAGF) and copy to the Ministry of Health and that of Labour and Employment on or before September 15, 2017.
The meeting admitted and considered a letter by the Federal Ministry of Finance on “Re: Stoppage of Budgetary Provision And Deduction at source For the Contributory Pension Scheme For Resident Doctors” which reaffirmed the earlier position taken that resident doctors are entitled to the Contributory Pension Scheme.
The Federal Government is to appeal to state governments and organisations that owe salary shortfalls/emoluments to health workers to make genuine efforts to liquidate them in the spirit of revamping the health care system in the country. It was, therefore, agreed that NARD national officers would present the outcome of the re-negotiated Memorandum of Terms of Settlement to an emergency meeting of its members by today with a view to suspending the strike once there is evidence of payment of the mandate as presented to the meeting.
Both parties agreed that members of NARD would not be victimised as a result of this strike if suspended, after the emergency meeting.
The agreement was signed by the NMA President, Prof. Mike Ogirima; NARD President, Dr Onyebueze John; Minister of State, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni; Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Dr. Chris Ngige, among others.
The Secretary General of NMA, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu, in a telephone interview with The Guardian yesterday said: “There were grey areas with the first MoU. We have reached agreement on a number of issues and have signed a new MoU. What is left is for the NARD executives to take the issues agreed on to their emergency congress scheduled for Friday (today). If their members are okay with the positions we have taken, then they may decide to suspend or call off the strike.”