By Dayo Adesulu
It is yet to dawn on students and parents what they stand to suffer as the strike embarked upon by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non- Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT)enters its fourth day today. Many stakeholders believe that the only industrial action that attracts urgent attention of the government is the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), forgetting that ASUU, NASU, SANU and NAAT work in tandem to keep both academic and non- academic activities alive on campus.
Thus in the past few days, academic activities have been placed on hold in many federal and state universities across the country.
This was just as the ongoing UTME screening in many universities have been suspended indefinitely. For example, owing to the industrial action, the University of Lagos, UNILAG, was on Tuesday forced to suspend its admission screening exercise that started on Monday. UNILAG’s authorities also admitted that it suspended academic activities due to disruption of normal academic and administrative activities by the on-going industrial action.
Speaking with Vanguard in this regards, the General Secretary, NASU and the Deputy President, NLC, Prince Peters Adeyemi agreed that all the unions on campus work together, adding that one union’s services complement the other.
He explained that though ASUU is not on strike, the effect of the strike by the non-academic staff will definitely affect others on campus including lecturing, as students will be left with the option of going home if their non- academic needs are not met.
Adeyemi who vowed that the ongoing strike that has paralysed academic and non- academic activities for four days, will continue indefinitely until the Federal Government accedes to their demands. He said the unions proceeded on strike when it was clear that the Federal Government has refused to honour the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it willingly signed with them.
Trouble started when the non- teaching staff unions in the universities under the umbrella of Joint Action Committee, JAC, had on Friday last week rejected the sum of N4.6 billion given to them from the N23 billion the Federal Government recently released to the four unions in the universities.
The three unions under JAC comprising SSANU, NASU and NAAT, described the N4.6 billion allocated to them as pittance and have directed all their members nationwide to resume strike on Monday.
Meanwhile, the three unions resumed indefinite strike since Monday, as the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, and the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige who mediated between government and the unions during the strike period appeared to be mum without commenting on the letters to them on the contentious sharing formula.
Chairman of JAC and National President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Chijioke Ugwoke said that the allocation as presently done, is laced with motive of destabilizing the university system and causing disaffection among members of the university community.
He said: “We make bold to say that the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Architect Sonny Echono is complicit in this regard.
“We see the recent development as a deliberate attempt to destabilize the Muhammadu Buhari administration and we call on the Federal Government to investigate this anomalous action by the Federal Ministry of Education, under Echono’s watch.
“If not, why did the Federal Ministry of Education decide to calculate the payments for each university and union in the university? Why didn’t they go through the governing councils of the universities in allocating the monies instead of a vague and blanket directive to vice-chancellors, sharing the money into two parts – teaching and non- teaching? We see corruption written in bold and capital letters and we demand for an investigation.”
Comrade Ugwoke explained that there was an understanding reached between the unions and the Federal Government during the conciliatory meeting that N23 billion earmarked from Earned Allowances was for the payment of the second tranche of arrears of Earned Allowances for both teaching and non-teaching staff in the university system.
He said: “As people of honour and considering that a document was signed to that effect, we had no reason to doubt the authenticity of their written commitment.
“Unfortunately, however, events have proven that we over-assumed the sense of honour of these government officials, particularly, Architect Sonny Echono, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, as the outcome proved contrary to the understanding that was reached with the government through them.
“To our consternation and utter dismay, the N23 billion has clearly been shown to be a payment for the Academic Staff Union of Universities for their so called ‘Earned Academic Allowances,’ while the three non-teaching staff unions were allocated a paltry N4.6 billion (11%).
“On sighting the allocation table, the obvious anomaly and lopsidedness was observed and a demand for explanation or justification of how the allocations came about was made via a letter to the Honourable Minister of Education dated 14th November, 2017.
“In the letter, we drew the attention of the Honourable Minister to the disproportionate and skewed allocation of the Earned Allowances and demanded explanation. We went further to immediately reject the allocations as made, except we got a convincing and satisfactory explanation and justification for what we consider to be an irrational and subjective ‘sharing of booty.
“It is indeed sad and heart- rending to inform you that over two weeks after the said letter was delivered, there was not so much of an acknowledgement, not to talk of appropriate action to address the issues raised in the letter.
“The allocation as presently done, has many fundamental flaws. Firstly, it is unheard of, that allocations from the Federal Government to institutions would be split from the Ministry, according to unions and universities. The standard procedure has been to send funds to universities and not unions within the universities. Extremely strange!
“If the monies are indeed earned, how did the Federal Ministry of Education arrive at the calculation of what accrues to each university without input of the Bursary Department of the universities?’’