By Bimbola Oyesola
It may not yet be Eldorado for the Nigerian universities as the nation’s Ivory Towers and research institutes may face another shut down from the members of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).
This is even as the union as an arm of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) has announced it is warming up for a total shut down any moment from now.
President of NASU, Dr. Makolo Hassan, who spoke, yesterday, at the opening of National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the union in Abuja said NASU has given Federal Government 14 days ultimatum to address the issue of anomalies in the research institutes and Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
He said for almost 10 years, the Federal Government has failed to honour the content of the agreement it freely entered into with the Joint Research and Allied Institutions Sector Unions (JORAISU) as contained in the 2010 JORAISU/FGN Agreement.
According to Hassan, the issues include payment of 12 months’ arrears of 53.37% salary increase, peculiar allowances/earned allowances, retirement age of 65 years for non-research staff as obtainable in the universities and withdrawal of circular on non-skipping of Salary Grade Level 10.
Others are the establishment of a central body to be known as National Research Institutes Commission (NARICOM), adequate funding of research institutes and release of conditions of service.
He lamented that the Federal Government has not matched words with action and the issues have not been attended to despite several reminders, several strikes and several Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered into on this matter.
“We, therefore, use the opportunity of this meeting to request the Federal Government to act speedily particularly on the issue of the 12 months’ arrears. Except some concrete steps are taken within the next 14 days, NASU members in all the research institutes will be compelled to commence strike action to press home their demand in this regard.”
On the IPPIS, the labour leader said government has failed to live up to its promise of a hitch-free migration as IPPIS has demonstrated high level incompetence and inefficiency.
“Our experience since we migrated to the platform has been a painful one and all our efforts to get government and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (AGF) to redress the noticeable shortcomings have not yielded positive result.”
He listed noticeable shortcomings to include non-payment of salaries to some staff, underpayment of salaries, non-payment of approved allowances as contained in the 2009 FGN/NASU agreement, failure to pay check-off dues to the union as and when due, non-payment of promotion arrears, non-deduction of welfare scheme, high taxation, non-release of pay slips to workers, delay in payment of salaries and non-release of schedule of payments made and others.
Hassan said all efforts by the union including a 14-day warning strike and an MoU signed on October 20, 2020 have equally failed to yield the desired result.
“In the face of these challenges and the lukewarm attitude of the Federal Government and the IPPIS office towards redressing these shortcomings, NASU may have no choice than to embark, as soon as possible, on a full blown strike in the universities and inter-universities centres, polytechnics and colleges of education except something is done very urgently to positively remedy the situation. A stitch in time saves nine,” he warned.
For JOHESU, he said the seven-day warning strike was successfully prosecuted, yet government did not seem it fit to act positively, hence the proposed total strike.
Warning that it will impact negatively on the health sector, Hassan called for President Muhammad Buhari’s intervention to avert the looming industrial action.