Fight over N40b threatens re-opening of varsities

"We'll suspend strike if FG pays salaries, complete negotiations" — ASUU…Non-teaching varsity staff unions meet on Friday

…Disparity in sharing of Earned Allowances, unpaid minimum wage arrears top agenda

…NAAT writes govt, demands “percentage of N40bn”

…Issues 14-day strike notice, claims govt yet to clear N71bn arrears of allowances

…Says varsities’ labs, studios dilapidated

…SSANU decries non-payment of minimum wage arrears since April 2020

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru & Adesina Wahab

Hopes of academic activities re-starting  soon in the nation’s public universities appear threatened as the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT, has issued a 14-day strike notice to the Federal Government over disparity in sharing the N40 billion Earned Allowances that was recently released for the four university-based unions.

This came as Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU, expressed disappointment over government’s refusal to honor its promise to pay arrears of the new national minimum wage approved since April, 2020.

Meanwhile,  Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, has said that NAAT, or any other union should not use it as bait to get anything from the Federal Government, as it advised NAAT or any other staff union to fight their battles their own ways.

In another development,  non-teaching staff unions in the universities under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee, JAC, will hold a crucial meeting on Friday over the recent disparity in the sharing formula of the N40 billion Earned Allowances released by the Federal Government to the four university based unions.

Also part of the agenda at the meeting will be the problem associated with the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS, the non-implementation of the October 2020 Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, between the member unions and government, as well as the non-payment of outstanding allowances to members.

It will be recalled that FG had allocated 75 per cent of the total N40 billion Earned Allowances to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, leaving 25 per cent for the other three unions to share.

The three unions to share the 25 per cent are NAAT, SSANU and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU.

Anger over sharing formula

The development has drawn the ire of the unions and they had threatened to ensure that universities remain under lock and key till the government addresses the alleged imbalance in the sharing formula.

Apart from the disparity in the sharing formula of the N40 billion Earned Allowances, SSANU President, MrMohammed Ibrahim, lamented that nine months after the new minimum wage was approved, his members and other staff of tertiary institutions were yet to be paid arrears of the new wage.

NAAT, on its part is also demanding that the government release 50 per cent of the N71 billion accrued allowance being owed its members from the 2009 agreement reached between government and the union.

Speaking to journalists in Abuja, weekend, President of NAAT, Ibeji Nwokoma said that the association had written to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige to inform him of their planned industrial action.

NAAT writes FG

His words: “We have written to government that NAAT as a body ought to have been given a specified percentage of the N40 billion. You must define it. You can’t just say ASUU, 75 per cent and others 25 per cent. Let us know the specific percentage you are giving to NAAT as a union.

“In the MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) we entered with government on November 18, 2020, in item Number 2b, we demanded that in sharing of the N40bn released that government should clearly define what is going to be allocated to each union and government agreed to the genuineness of our demands and said NUC (National Universities Commission) and the Federal Ministry of Education will work it out in conjunction with the union. What they have done negates completely the spirit of that MoU.

“We have given government ultimatum of 14 days. We wrote to government December 30, 2020, and we have given government 14 working days, and if at the end of the 14 working days our demands are not met, we shall resume our suspended strike. Definitely we will shall close down the schools, definitely there will be no opening of schools. If anybody thinks that ASUU has called off strike and that schools will reopen, then let the person dare us. Let us know how effective or how possible it is for schools to reopen when technologists are on strike.

“If government in its wisdom has said ASUU should take N30 billion from the N40 billion released, it is not the business of my union. But we have also told government that arrears accruable to my union since 2009 to 2020 (they have paid up to 2012), is N71 billion and we have demanded for 50 per cent of that amount and we have also given government ultimatum of 14 days. If government fails to do that, we will call out our members on strike. Nobody has monopoly of closing or opening of universities by strike; we have said that repeatedly.”

He explained that by now the 2009 Agreement ought to have been renegotiated, but lamented that the agreement has not been fully implemented.

He said: “It was supposed to have been renegotiated after three years. But since 2009 it has not been renegotiated.”

The NAAT president explained that the Laboratories and studios in universities are in terrible conditions as government had abandoned technology.

He said: “We demanded that government should release N100 billion because if you go to all the universities, you will discover that the laboratories are dilapidated. We have asked government to release N100 billion to bring the laboratories to international standard and then release another N20 billion every year for the next five years to enable the laboratories to be revamped.

“We have also asked that government should do an audit of the equipment that had been sent to universities. Most are abandoned and not in use.”

On the delay in payment of the arrears of the minimum wage, SSANU President, Mohammed Ibrahim said, “My members and by extension all other categories of staff in Nigerian tertiary institutions are disappointed and disenchanted by this singular act of government’s refusal to honor its promise to pay the arrears of the new national minimum wage that was approved by government since April, 2020.”

He said that the delay was causing hardship to members as a result of the economic situation in the country.

Don’t use us as bait, ASUU warns

Chairman, University of Lagos, UNILAG chapter of ASUU, who is also a member of  National Executive Committee of the union, Dr Dele Ashiru, on NAAT’s threat, said, “Who pays the Earned Academic Allowances, is it ASUU or the government?  In the first instance, ASUU presented its demands to the government and we made our case and based on that, the government released some money. The money was not even up to what we demanded but we made the necessary concession in the interest of all.

“However, the National Universities Commission, NUC, also saw the need to carry other unions along and made request on their behalf. Nobody should use ASUU as a bait to get anything from the government. We do fight our own battles and we want other unions to also fight their battles themselves, ” he said.

Non-teaching varsity unions to meet Friday

JAC is comprised of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU and the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU.

General Secretary of NASU, Mr Peters Adeyemi told Vanguard in Abuja, yesterday that everything concerning the MoU the non teaching staff unions signed with FG would be discussed holistically and far reaching decisions to be taken.

Adeyemi said, “Part of the issues to be discussed are the MoU signed with us by the government on October 20, 2020. We are going to look at the issues one by one, and take them together.

“This issue of unpaid arrears, the IPPIS, the way the IPPIS has been bastardized, salaries of our members the unpaid allowances including the issue of Earned Allowances.

“Government promised that some of the items on the MoU will be implemented within two weeks but nothing has been done.”

He emphasized on the need for the non teaching staff unions in the universities to work together.

“In my opinion, all the non teaching staff union should work together and speak with one voice,” he said.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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