The Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, has said the Federal Government will consider other options if the Academic Staff Union of Universities remains adamant on its strike action.
Ngige, who expressed optimism that the face-off between ASUU and the Federal Government will be resolved by next week when both parties meet again, spoke on a Channels Television programme, Politics Today, on Friday.
He said the union was not considering the several challenges it was going to create with its demands.
He said: “Even if countries go to war, at the end of the day, they come to the negotiation table.
“I’m inviting them (ASUU) next week.
“We are doing side meetings on our part and we are collating everything.
“I’m collating responses from the Accountant General of the Federation’s Office and everybody who has something to do with this matter.”
Asked if there was the hope of students returning to classes in a few weeks, Ngige said: “I’m not looking at that (long) period.
“I’m an optimist on this matter.
“By next week, we will conclude this matter.
“There are so many options left.
“We have the labour laws and I have options left to me in the labour laws.
“I have other channels.”
Ngige said the Federal Government had agreed to give a trial the University Transparency Academic Solution, the payment platform proposed by ASUU when it turned down the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, but that the National Information Technology Development Agency, which is working to affirm its workability, said it had just concluded the first phase and that the second phase to assess the functional requirement of UTAS had not been done.
He said: “UTAS has yet to be ready but government will not discourage them.
“And we have told them there is no need using the same old method of strike to make demands since such had been deployed since 2017.”
Ngige equally said that in meeting the needs of the ASUU, government must also be mindful of the demands of other unions within the university, especially those opposed to the adoption of UTAS.
The other major unions in the university system are the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and National Association of Academic Technologists.
Ngige said: “If we ignore those people and what they are saying, even if ASUU calls off the strike, they will close the lecture halls, they will close the laboratories, they will close even the gates.
“It has happened before, entry gates into the universities were shut.
“We don’t want that to happen.
“That is why we are taking them holistically and going in measure steps to be sure that we carry everybody along.”
The union had been on strike since March over Government’s failure to executive the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with it.
Among the key demands of the union, headed by Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, are the adoption of UTAS instead of IPPIS, revitalisation fund for universities and setting up Visitation Panels.