Varsity workers, under the auspices of Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NASU and SSANU have demanded immediate release of N30 billion for payment to the non-teaching staff or face a “mother of all strike,” in the University system.
The N30 billion, according to the National Vice President, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Univerdities (SSANU), Comrade Solomon Alfa, is to close the gap created by the discriminatory allocations of the previous fund released by the Federal Government between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the three non-teaching staff unions in the University.
Comrade Alfa said the on-going five days strike by the University workers is just a warning strik; and was embarked on, over the refusal of the Federal Government to implement the 2009 Agreements it signed with the Unions.
Among the issues that necessitated the strike, according to JAC, is the discriminatory payment of arrears of Earned Allowances being owed their members; the non-implementation of the December 5, 2016 judgment of the National Industrial Court on the University Staff Schools; and the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/University staff Unions Agreements
The unions lamented the lopsided manner in which the last two tranches of the fund released by the Federal Government to pay the arrears of Earned Allowances was disbursed to the Universities, which was described as totally alien to any known accounting principle and best practices.
According to Comrade Alfa, the second tranche of N23 billion was allocated in the ratio of 89% (N18.4 billion) to ASUU and a paltry 11% (N4.6 billion) to all the other three non-teaching staff unions- NASU, NAAT and SSANU.
He said: “This repeated discriminatory practice by government of the day in favour of ASUU and against the non-teaching staff is not only worrisome but has portrayed the present government as bias as well as causing divide and rule, capable of creating disharmony in the system as an avenue to crumble and/ or kill the University education system.
“Therefore, the JAC of SSANU and NASU is calling on all Nigerians to condemn this act of government with a view to correcting itself. Consequently, JAC is demanding the sum of N30Bn (Thirty Billion Naira) from the FG for payment to the non-teaching staff in order to close the gap it created by the discriminatory allocations.
“Thereafter, JAC expects that government will not allow such dichotomy to raise its ugly head in the system any longer as it defrays the balance.”
On the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/University staff Unions Agreements, he pointed out that when the 2009 Agreements were signed with the various unions in the University system, they were due for renegotiation after every three years.
He, however, regretted that it took the FGN over three years to commence the implementation of the 2009 Agreements, and till date have refused to fully implement it.
“The JAC of NASU and SSANU made series of communications with the FGN on the need to return to table to renegotiate the Agreement which was due since 2012 all to no avail until 2017 when it reluctantly set up the Renegotiation Committee. Two years down the line, no meaningful progress has been made.
“The most painful aspect of the renegotiation exercise is the unwillingness of the Federal Government to proceed with it. For instance, since the beginning of this year (2019) the Government Team has not deemed it necessary to call for a meeting to continue with the renegotiation, and no reason has been given.” He said.
He said the implication of this delay is that the University system has been pulled down by 10 years (2009-2019); adding that the progress that the universities would have made through the renegotiation of the Agreement, which also include university funding, university governance and improvement of standards, etc had been denied because the Federal Government wants to kill the public universities to promote their interests (private universities).
He said: “You may wish to know that since the beginning of the Warning Strike, Government has shown no concern to warrant any invitation or intervention.
“It is however important to state here that when the threat of the warning strike was issued, and the protests that preceded it in the various campuses began, the Senate President invited the National Leadership of the JAC of NASU and SSANU for discussion. But the protest by the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) on that fateful day prevented access to the National Assembly.
“We are still waiting for a re-invitation. The meeting with the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education about 2 weeks ago did not produce anything convincing to stop this warning strike.
“Government is hereby advised to expedite actions in addressing the issues raised and any other, in order to avoid the imminent mother of all strikes in the university sector.”