By Gabriel Dike and Benjamin Babine, Abuja
Fresh crisis appear imminent in the nation’s tertiary institution few hours after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) called off its nine-month-old strike.
Daily Sun investigation revealed that if not nipped in the bud, the looming crisis could make the dream of return of academic activities in the foreseeable future a mirage.
The bone of contention is the decision by the three non-academic unions in the Nigerian University System (NUS) to oppose the allocation of 75 percent of the approved earned allowance to academic staff. They have insisted that all workers in the NUS must be treated equally by the Federal Government to avert another round of strike.
National President, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Mr. Muhammed Ibrahim, said if Federal Government truly wants the university system to work, all the workers must be treated equally.
“How can you rob Peter to pay Paul? How will the system work with this unfair treatment against non-academic staff? The system cannot operate without us. I have not seen any paper on the sharing formula for the earned allowance. If what we are hearing that ASUU got 75 percent and the three other unions got 25 percent is true, it is clear injustice and we’ll resist it.
“We discussed with the minister (Dr. Chris Ngige) and N30 billion was approved last year. It has not been released. We went on warning strike in September and we signed MoU with the Federal Government. We have waited till date.”
On IPPIS, Ibrahim said SSANU was the first to reject the new payment platform.
“We are working out our payment platform and we will soon present it to government. There are members of SSANU who have not been paid salaries.”
In separate interviews, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) also threatened to shut down the system over “unfair treatment.”
General Secretary of NASU, Mr Peter Adeyemi, told Daily Sun last night that they would unveil their position after consulting with government, relevant stakeholders and their members.
However, President of NAAT, Ibeji Nwokoma said his members would embark on “mother of all strikes” claiming Federal Government has breached an agreement it reached with university-based unions on the sharing formula after it allegedly allocated 75 per cent of the N40 billion to ASUU leaving the three other unions with 25 per cent.
“We reject this in totality. Nobody has the monopoly to close down universities. And unless the government reverses that decision, we will embark on the mother of all strikes,” he said.
He argued that the discrepancy in the sharing of the N40 billion contradicts the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Federal government and NAAT on November 18 during a conciliatory meeting called by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment was unacceptable.
He said the government had agreed that the sharing would be in accordance with the 2009 agreement reached between the Federal government and university based unions.
Regardless, the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and Prof. Charles Ayo, vice chancellor of Trinity University, Yaba, Lagos, commended the Federal Government and ASUU for reaching an agreement to end the union’s nine-month-old strike.
He said the suspension of the prolonged ASUU strike was a welcome development and good news for parents considering the percentage of students in public varsities.
He, however, cautioned Nigerians against quick condemnation of ASUU, saying they have genuine reason for embarking on the strike.
He said Nigerian universities needed quality research, well equipped laboratories and functional teaching facilities for better ranking among world class universities.
Ayo added that this would also enhance and make the country’s graduates employable in the labour market.
“Without quality education, there would never be national development. It is time for the Federal Government to find alternative ways and adopt a sustainable approach to make it extremely unnecessary for ASUU to embark on strike. The government cannot continue to neglect education, otherwise the future of the country will be bleak,” he said.
National President of NANS, Mr. Sunday Asefon, while reacting to the announcement called for the involvement of the students’ body in future negotiations.
He said students’ involvement in future negotiations between the Federal Government and ASUU would bring a sense of urgency to the table during such negotiations.
He said students’ involvement would also compel government and ASUU to understand the need for prompt settlement of disputes.
“At the same time, I feel elated that the ugly days are finally over for the Nigerian students, and we can all return to our different campuses.
“Going forward, government and ASUU must find a progressive ground and alternative conflict resolution process in resolving their differences on labour actions.
“Students who seek education must not be allowed to bear the brunt of labour related issues.
“Never again should we have a repeat of this strike and stakeholders must make commitment to ensure that this ugly scenario does not repeat itself.
“Government must be committed to fulfilling its agreement with ASUU at all times, while ASUU must be wary to go on strike.”
Meanwhile, Miss Eneh Edoh, a 300-level student of the Benue University, commended the efforts of both parties, saying it had shown that government had the interest of Nigerian youths at heart.
Miss Favour Rotimi, student of Mass Communication, Federal University Oye-Ekiti, said she was full of joy and only hoped that this would be the last ASUU strike before the completion of her academic programme.
Similarly, Mr Ayomide Adeyemi, a 200 level student of Political Science, Federal University, Maiduguri, praised government and the leadership of ASUU for reaching a compromise to end the strike.
Adeyemi, however, pleaded with the labour union to always put the interest of the students at heart, to forestall future recurrence.
ASUU National Chairman, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi called off the nine-month old strike in Abuja, yesterday.
The union had embarked on strike since March 23 to press home its demands which include funding for the revitalisation of public universities, payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA), salary shortfall, state universities.
Others are visitation panels, re-constitution of the 2009 FGN/ASUU re-negotiation committee, University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS), withheld salaries and non-remittance of check-off dues.
Ogunyemi said NEC resolves to conditionally suspend the strike action embarked upon on March 23, with effect from 12 a.m. on Thursday.
“However, should government fail to fulfil its own parts of the agreement, ASUU will resume its suspended strike as deemed necessary.
“NEC resolved to accept the agreement reached between ASUU and the Federal Government on Dec. 22 and to also consciously and diligently monitor the implementation of Federal Government ASUU agreements of Dec. 22, in all branches.
“NEC also resolved to ensure that no ASUU member suffered any loss of deserved benefits as a result of participation in the strike,” he said.
He said that NEC would pursue fervently the areas in the Federal Government-ASUU agreement of 2009 and Memorandum of Action (MoA) 2013 that require legislation.
He added that such as the mainstreaming of EAA into the annual budget and the Executive Bill in respect of the National Universities Commission (NUC) Act, 2004.
Ogunyemi also said that ASUU expectation from both state and Federal Government is that government should faithfully implement all the agreements reached and signed with the union.
“Therefore the implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC), which had already been constituted to the satisfaction of government and ASUU, will work diligently to ensure that funds released are used to meet genuine revitalisation needs of Nigerian public universities.
“This is with a strict and disciplined supervision of the implementation processes by the universities themselves. To this end the students and their parents would see the fruits of the struggles of ASUU in their lives.”