SSANU urges federal government to save University system

Helen Shok Jok, Abuja


As the five-day warning strike embarked upon by the Joint Action Committee of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities SSANU and the Non Academic Staff Union NASU winds down, the two Unions have urged the federal government to do the needful to save the University from total collapse.

The industrial action which began on the 18th of August, was to draw the government attention to its refusal to implement the 2009 agreements it signed with the Unions.

Addressing the media on Thursday in Abuja, National Vice President and Zonal Chairman, SSANU, Northern Zone, Comrade Solomon Alfa, called on the government to expedite actions in addressing the issues raised and any other in order to avoid what he called the imminent mother of all strikes in the University sector.

He said it was unfortunate and painful that since the five-day warning strike commenced, “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,” Comrade Alfa said.

He listed what he described as the discriminatory payment of arrears of Earned Allowances being owed members, the non-implementation of the December 5, 2016 judgment of the National Industrial Court on University Staff Schools and the Renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/University staff Unions Agreements as some of the issues that necessitated the warning strike.

“Today, Thursday, 22 August, 2019 marks the fourth day of the Warning strike, and we can authoritatively say that the strike has made a tremendous impact in informing the populace.

“However, it is imperative to shed more light on the issues that prompted the warning strike so that the public and the good people of our dear country Nigeria can be well informed and be able to prevail on the government to do the needful in order to avoid the mother of all strikes that would follow this,” he said.

In 2009 according to him, the federal government entered into agreements with all the University Staff Unions on Earned Allowances and in 2013, the Government released the first tranche of the arrears of Earned Allowances amounting to Thirty Billion Naira for payment to Federal Universities and Inter-University Centres workers.

The money he said was released to the various Governing Councils for disbursement to the workers however, “in 2017, the second tranche of #23Bn was disbursed to the Universities in a very strange manner that is totally alien to any known accounting principle and best practices.

“The sum of N18.4 billion (89%) was allocated to the teaching staff (ASUU), while the Non-teaching staff Unions were allocated a paltry N46 billion (11%). The Inter-University Centres and the recently established Federal Universities were excluded.

“This discriminatory practice by the Federal Government was strongly criticized by the non-teaching staff with protests and strikes,” the President said.

The government he said had promised that the action would never be repeated but has failed to keep that its promise as seen in the last release of 25 billion naira and subsequent disbursement.

The two Unions are also demanding the sum of Thirty Billion Naira from the Federal Government for payment to the non-teaching staff in order to close the gap they said it created by the discriminatory allocations.

On the non-implementation of the December 5, 2016 Judgment of The National Industrial Court of Nigeria on University Staff School, the President said that over 2000 members of SSANU and NASU have been sent out of their jobs via a circular released by the National Salaries Income and Wages Commission (NSIWC) since 2014 in violation of the provisions of the 2009 Agreement between FGN and SSANU and NASU respectively.

This gave rise to series of protests and strikes and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment sought for interpretation of the clause in the agreement at the National Industrial Court of Nigeria NICN to ascertain if the University is different from the Government for the purpose of funding of the University staff schools.

“The interpretation which was given in a landmark judgment by the NICN on 5th December, 2016 reads thus: “The University Staff Schools are an integral part of the University System and the government and University being the same in this case, the employees in the University Stair Schools remain employees of the University like any other staff and as such, employees of the Federal Government.

According to the JAC, almost 3 years after the NICN judgment, nothing has been done to facilitate the process of getting the employments of thousands of our members restored.”

“Therefore, JAC implores the good people of Nigeria to as a matter of urgency prevail on the FGN to: i. Issue a service wide circular to comply with the court order as well as counter the obnoxious one that removed the Staff Schools workers to all public universities without further delay, ii. Restore the jobs of the workers in the University Staff Schools and pay their salaries accordingly, iii. Pay the arrears owed this category of workers in the University sector,” Alfa said.

He said that while their members are expected to resume work after the five days warning strike, the JAC will review the strike, go back to its members and re-strategize on their next line of action.