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Universities association threatens to strike

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Non-teaching staff decries being left out, despite paying teaching staff.

The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Allied Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) are currently demonstrating against the delay in receiving their salaries that were not paid during the strike they participated in 2022. Former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is at the centre of the controversy over withholding five and a half months of salaries. However, President Bola Tinubu issued a directive to allocate four months’ salary to university staff in October, but recent reports have revealed that only teachers received their payments in February, while the non-teaching staff were left without compensation.

Therefore, the non-teaching staff responded by initiating a warning strike to pressure the government to meet their salary requirements. Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma, the National President of NAAT, has confirmed that the House of Representatives has stepped in to address the financial dispute, indicating that the issue is now receiving political attention. The House of Representatives Committee on Tertiary Education extended an invitation to the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Committee of Vice Chancellors, among others. They were mandated to proceed with a full-scale strike following a three-day warning strike.

Union initiates strikes over government 2009 agreement breach.

However, the committee insisted on delaying any decisions and taking a break. They are currently inactive and unable to make notable progress. They requested to resume discussions after the break and thoroughly explored the issue. Consequently, they will accommodate and observe the situation until the end of April. In March 2022, SSANU’s National President, Mohammed Ibrahim, disclosed that the union initiated a strike due to the government’s failure to honour the terms of the 2009 Agreement. Despite the agreement’s requirement for renegotiation every three years, it has yet to be revisited. The union has been experiencing a frustrating cycle of progress followed by setbacks for over 15 years.

Additionally, the government continuously passes the responsibility from one committee to the next. Five and a half months of pay are still owed from the strike, with teaching staff receiving only four months of their total salaries being withheld. Other employees were forgotten entirely in the process. This selfish behaviour is also evident when it comes to receiving earned allowances. Certain individuals feel entitled to take as much as they want from the funds, leaving only leftovers for everyone else. The university system’s management understood the value of every worker, regardless of their role in teaching or non-teaching positions. They recognised that without these individuals, one person would have been tasked with fulfilling the duties of multiple roles, such as teaching, driving, technology, and accounting.

Over 100 members have withdrawn due to insufficient funds.

Comrade Ibrahim of SSANU also questioned the lack of importance attributed to non-teaching staff within the system. They attended a meeting towards the end of last year following President Bola Tinubu’s promise to pay four months’ worth of salaries. The Minister of Education was also present and promised that everyone would receive their due. However, the situation has now changed. Although they are not typically inclined to strike, they feel increasingly cornered. Since 2022, more than 100 members have been lost because they could not care for themselves due to insufficient funds.

After receiving only four months’ salary, the teaching staff took action by sending a protest letter to the government. Despite receiving an acknowledgement of the receipt, it has now been five weeks without any further communication from the government. After the warning strike was suspended and the government did not take action, Ibrahim mentioned that the unions would convene the appropriate committees to discuss the next steps. The outcome of these discussions would be made known to the public on time.

Related Article: Public University strike approaches 5 months

He mentioned that union management can initiate a complete shutdown of the system and engage in a long ongoing strike. There is non-teaching staff oversee infrastructure and are also controlling the security posts. If they neglect their responsibilities, the consequences would be worth observing. Ibrahim believes that the key to overcoming the obstacles facing tertiary institutions in the country is ensuring that the government provides sufficient funding for the sector when prompted for a solution. He argued that by investing sufficiently in education, the government could decrease spending on security and healthcare, mitigating various social issues.

Related Link

SSANU: Website

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