President Muhammadu Buhari has directed his Chief of Staff, Professor Ibrahim Gambari; the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige and other relevant stakeholders to find a way out of the logjam with the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) to end the current strike action.
Briefing correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa, Abuja, Ngige disclosed that he presented the demands of various striking unions to the president for his intervention.
He said: “I have to brief him on the labour industrial situation in the country. You know that we are like in a season of strike.
“We have the strike baton by the resident doctors actively supported by the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA). And we held certain meetings at which we reached some agreements in a conciliation.
“And I had to brief him ahead of the efforts we are making in those areas, like we agreed that the hazard allowance should be reviewed. And as a matter of fact, before they embarked on the strike, my ministry and the Presidential Committee on Salaries had initiated what we can call a pre-emptive arrangement to make for further discussion by all the stakeholders and other people working in the health sector under the big umbrella of Medical and Health Workers Union.
“So, that meeting has kick-started. And we know from our initial meetings and the data we have, we have an idea of what amount of money that will be consumed or utilised to effect this change, which is going to be a permanent change, unlike what we had last year when we did a special COVID-19 allowance, which all of you know the government budgeted N20 billion for.
“And when we started the payment, it gulped a whopping N32 billion. So, we are working now to make the health workers feel that they are appreciated, and that the efforts are appreciated by government. So, I have briefed him on that.
“We have some fallouts from the ASUU discussion on the agreements reached then, a Memorandum of Action so that we can meet up the timeline on certain things promised. For example, the Revitalization Fund, which ASUU has called my attention to that they have not been done for the university system.
“So, we discussed it and necessary arrangements have to be made now for us to pay that amount to the NEEDS Committee accounts with the Central Bank.”
The minister also revealed that he discussed the issue of the financial autonomy for the judiciary and the legislature with the President, saying: “We reviewed what have been done.
“The Chief of Staff did what we call in labour palance tripartite plus arrangement by engaging them, both parties conceded; Nigeria Governors’ Forum, NGF, the heads of courts, state judges, the unions and the Presidential Implementation Committee for Executive Order 10 led by the Attorney General, but standing in for him by the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary.
“So, we reviewed where they are. We had a twist two days ago because the arrangement they had with the Chief of Staff had to be altered when the governors got back to their forum.
“As the conciliator, when they presented the two papers, one from the Solicitor General and another one from the Director General (DG) of the NGF, I had to tell them that we have to reconcile those papers, because the areas that they differ are very fundamental areas in terms of the execution of Sections 83 and 162.
“We need the governors to touch this among themselves and come back, because in consultation, I receive documents, issues from the unions, and the NBA, and even the representative of the heads of courts on one side, and then from these government people of NGF, and the Solicitor General of the Federation representing Attorney General,” he said.