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Rumbles in varsities as another strike looms

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Ugwoke

Once again, the familiar disruption of academic calendar of Nigerian universities is in the offing.

This time, the three non-academic unions in the universities – Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU), and National Association of Academic Technologist (NAAT), are beating the drums of industrial action.

As a teaser to the action, the unions declared three-day protests last week Monday, which may snowball into a full-scale industrial action.

The National President of SSANU, Samson Ugwoke, who spoke on behalf of the unions, cited the non-reinstatement of their members in universities’ staff schools, offering of 20 per cent of the earned allowance to non-teaching staff, and 80 per cent to the teaching staffers, exclusion from running the National University Pension Company (NUPENCO), as some of the vexed issues.

His words: “The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the two unions has approved protests at the branches and zonal levels of our unions, and mother of all protests in Abuja for three days. We shall communicate these steps to the Federal Government before a deadline is given for a mother of all strike that will follow.”

Ugwoke hinted that while the unions are at war with the Government over these issues, they are pleased to allow the implementation of the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) that will incorporate the nuances of the university system.

“At a meeting with the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, National Universities Commission (NUC), Salaries and Income Wages Commission, and the four university-based unions, we put into context the peculiarities of the university system, and the implementation of Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS).

“It was agreed upon that a new software system by the consultant should take care of all the peculiarities of the university system, JAC of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian University, and Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU), would partially support the implementation of IPPIS in the university system,” he stated.

On NUPENCO, a newly-registered pension manager, the National Executive Council of JAC considers the role of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) from the beginning of the Pension Fund Administrator (PFA) till date as inadequate.

Ugwoke alleged that the leaderships of both NASU and SSANU have not been carried along from registration of the firm to employment of staff that was unilaterally done by ASUU.

He further alleged that ASUU only wants the money of the non-teaching staff to fund the PFA.
He also alleged that the PFA would not be in a position to sustain the payment of retirement benefits to ASUU members, saying the teaching staff union had perfected a plan to ensure that professors retire with their salaries, which will be too high for the PFA to execute.

He added: “We in the system know the rate at which people become professors. There is no PFA that can pay the salaries of professors at the rate they are churned out now, where it is very easy for the teaching staffers to become professor. We cannot allow our members to fund a PFA that they were not a part of. The decision reached here is that as long as the national leadership of JAC is not involved in the PFA, no non-teaching staffer is allowed to enrol in the PFA.”

On earned allowances, he said: “The recent sharing of money collected from the Ministry of Education whereby 80% of the money was given to ASUU, while the non-teaching staffers got only 20% is not acceptable to JAC. We hereby reject the 20% allocation to the three unions in the system. We hereby demand the sum of N30billion as part of the earned allowance for non-teaching from 2009 to 2016.”

The two unions called on the Federal Government to hasten the audit of the federal universities’ earned allowance in order to determine how much was shared and how much is remaining.

JAC also urged the Federal Government to speed up action on the renegotiation of the 2009 agreement.
He added: “This agreement we are talking about ought to be renegotiated every three years. This agreement ought to have been renegotiated three times since 2009. But as we speak the committee is still dilly-dallying. We also call on the Federal Government to include the inter-university centres in the payment of earned allowances because they are part and parcel of the university system.”

Meanwhile, a ray of hope was beamed by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawal, at the weekend, as he scheduled a meeting where it is hoped that an acceptable intervention would be made.

This followed a resolution by the warring unions on Friday, to embark on full-scale strike if their grievances were not addressed.

A letter to the SSANU President dated, July 17th, entitled, ‘Invitation to meet with the President of the Senate’, said the upper legislative house resolved to invite NASU and SSANU to a parley, which is aimed at resolving the industrial crisis.

The letter read in part: “The Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria at its sitting on Tuesday, 16th July 2019, resolved to invite the President of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, (SSANU) to a meeting with the President of the Senate.”

The invitation signed by the Clerk of the Senate, Nelson Ayewoh, indicated that the meeting held yesterday.

Recall that the two university non-academic staff unions had threatened to commence series of actions to draw the attention of government to the alleged discrepancies in the disbursement of Earned Allowances in favour of ASUU.

A resolution by the JAC of NASU and SSANU signed by Chairman of JAC and National President of SSANU, Ugwoke, and the General Secretary of NASU, Comrade Peters Adeyemi had alleged that only 20 per cent of N25 billion released was given to the three unions, while ASUU alone took the huge chunk of it.

The communiqué at the end of the emergency NEC meeting on July 12th, read: “The meeting in Session rejected the sharing formula adopted by the Federal Ministry of Education in the allocation of the last tranche of N25 Billion which allocated 80% to ASUU and a paltry 20% to the Non-Teaching unions.”

It resolved that the national leadership must make a demand of N30 billion being part-payment of arrears of Earned Allowances owed members of NASU and SSANU between 2009 and 2016.

It also resolved that the demand must also include Inter- University Centres who have been denied Earned Allowances in previous tranches despite being members of the Unions covered by the 2009 agreements.


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