By Adesina Wahab, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Joseph Erunke, Ozioruva Aliu and Demola Akinyemi
Non-aca- demic staff in the nation’s universities yesterday asked the Federal Government to sack Education Minister, Malam Adamu Adamu, and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Chris Ngige, for supporting the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, who they alleged of scheming to cheat them in the disbursement of the N40 billion released by the Federal Government as Earned Allowances.
They also accused the ministers of failing to address issues revolving around the controversial Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS.
These were part of the demands of the non-academic staff, operating under the aegis of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, and Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU, as they embarked on a 3-day warning protest at campuses nationwide.
From Abuja, Ilorin, Lagos, Ibadan, Calabar to Benin, the protesting non-academic staff noted that without their demands being met, the hope of reopening universities in the country after months of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nine months ASUU strike would not materialise.
Workers driven out of Senate Building in UNILAG
At the University of Lagos, UNILAG, the workers, who held a joint congress under their jointly-formed Joint Action Committee, JAC, in front of the Senate Building, were addressed by their chairmen, Comrade Olusola Sowunmi of SSANU and Comrade Kehinde Ajibade of NASU.
The leaders said the protest involved workers on grade level 1-14, insisting that any worker in that category found working in his/her office should be driven out.
They subsequently went into the Senate Building, which houses the office of the Vice Chancellor and chased out the workers.
However, the VC, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, was not in the office at the time the protesters stormed the Senate building. The workers then marched to the main gate of the institution which they blocked with their vehicles.
According to Sowunmi and Ajibade, the Federal Government deceived them into enrolling in the IPPIS. “No worker can say this is how much he or she earns a month. The inconsistencies are too many. Funny enough, the IPPIS has been turned to a warehouse of our legitimate funds, as deductions are not remitted. When did it become a Central Bank?
“We are staff and not slaves. As we speak, over 10 of our former members have died waiting for their entitlements. The government has not been sincere in its dealings with us,” Ajibade said.
On his part, Sowunmi said it was unfortunate that some people in government felt it would be better to pamper one union out of the four staff unions in the university system.
“How can we have four unions in the university system and the government releases N40 billion for allowances and one union is allowed to take 75 percent of the money? We won’t allow this to continue and with this our protest, we are putting an end to such an injustice,” he said.
The workers also called for the sack of the Ministers of Education and Labour, Malam Adamu Adamu and Dr Chris Ngige.
Their grouse against the ministers is that they are fuelling the discrimination against them by the teaching staff.
Protest paralyses UNIABUJA
At the University of Abuja, UNIABUJA, treasurer of NASU in the university, Sadiat Hassan, said the unions would proceed on indefinite industrial action if government failed to address the issues that compelled them to go on protest. “We are protesting against the irregularities in IPPIS payment and demanding the renegotiation of our 2009 agreement which has been long overdue.
“We are also protesting against the non-payment of our earned allowances and injustice that was done by the Federal Government in the distribution of the earned allowances because they gave a particular union 75 per cent and the other unions 25 per cent.
“This is against the agreement held in October (last year) that the money was for all the unions. So, we expect them to do justice to everybody because this is earned allowances,” she said.
UNIBEN, UNILORIN, not left out
At the University of Benin, UNIBEN, the Chairman of UNIBEN SSANU/Joint Association Committee, Comrade Bedrock Osewa, said: “They (government) want to strangulate us so that we will not perform our responsibilities to members. The protest is to sensitize the public and let government know that we can not be taken for a ride.
“You (government) cannot sign and will not obey agreements. Besides, the government has also failed to reconstitute panel for renegotiation of pending agreements.”
The branch chairman of SSANU, University of Ilorin, Comrade Olumayowa Oyedepo, while addressing journalists , on behalf of the protesters, condemned the attitude of the federal government towards the welfare of their members.
Protest is successful, SSANU
Speaking on the protest, President of Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim, said: “The three day protest organized by the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities is majorly to drive home a point and to attract the attention of government and the general public to the fact that there is a violation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between us and the government.
“Also there has been an Agreement signed between SSANU and the Federal Government way back in 2009. Now our major crux is that such MoU has been violated because there was a time line of two weeks from that October 20, 2020, when it was signed between us and government issues such as the irregularities in the payment of our salaries that is now through the IPPIS, and then the subversion of our jobs by the teaching staff and of course non payment of entitlement for our retired members.
“There are about seven items we have listed in the MoU. I can say that without any fear of contradiction that the protest is effective because we have started receiving calls and the attention is now shifted towards having these matters resolved, we are not averse to having these matters resolved because ours is not a union that will like to make things difficult for the populace especially parents.
“We also have our children in such universities so for us we are hoping and we are hopeful that government will do the needful before the end of the three days protest but if that is not done, which we are not praying for by Thursday we will be able to tell the whole world our next line of action.”
Asked if there was a monitoring mechanism to ensure compliance, he said: “We have also ensured that in every branch there are monitoring teams to ensure that the protest is effective and offices are closed for the next three days so that members of the university management will know that our rights are being trampled upon by the powers that be.
“If government remains adamant and the issues are not addressed, JAC will take action on Thursday.”