University system may collapse as other unions join ASUU

Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is currently on strike
Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is currently on strike

A complete shutdown is imminent in public universities, as members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) have unanimously voted to embark on an indefinite strike.

The unions took the stand to protest the failure by the Federal Government to implement the 2009 agreement as well as the January 2017 Memorandum of understanding (MoU).

On Wednesday, August 23, leaders of the three unions met in Abuja under the Joint Action Committee (JAC) and directed its members to conduct referendum to know when to resume the January 2017 suspended industrial action. Reports from various universities indicated that the members voted for indefinite strike.

The planned industrial action coming two weeks after the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) downed tool would paralyse both academic and administrative activities and also stall ongoing admission process in the public varsities across the country.

SSANU chairmen including Saheed Oseni of the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Emmanuel Nyiyoneo (Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike-MOUAU), Ken Njoku and SSANU Vice President, South West Zone based in the University of Ibadan, Alfred Jimoh, who met at the Lagos State University, (LASU), confirmed that members voted for indefinite strike.

Oseni and Njoku said referendum in LASU and MOUAU recorded 100 per cent support while Nyiyoneo said the vote was 99.4 per cent for an indefinite strike. One of the national officers of SSANU disclosed that being the base of the national president, universities in the South East would back indefinite strike.

MOUAU SSANU chairman said members nationwide were not happy with the Federal Government and recalled that the strike will be a resumption of the January 2017 suspended industrial action.

Ekiti State University (EKSU) is the only institution in the South West that opted out of the referendum and the impending strike.

Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, did not conduct the referendum because of the local strike over unpaid salaries.

The ten issues in contention are non-payment of earned allowance, lack of good governance, poor funding as against UNESCO recommendation, inadequate infrastructure in universities and abandoned projects, shortfall in payment of salaries.

Others include university staff school: NIC judgment implementation, non registration of NUPEMCO, non-implementation of CONTISS 14 AND 15 for technologists, problem of lack of adequate teaching and learning facilities in the universities, corruption in the university system, lack of serious in the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/university unions agreements and usurpation of headship of non teaching units by academic staff.

ASUU, which resumed its strike to press for a long list of demand bordering on better welfare for staff and improved funding for Nigerian universities, yesterday, dashed hopes of early return to classrooms as it shunned a scheduled meeting with the Federal Government’s delegation.

The meeting was confirmed in a statement issued by the Deputy Director, Press, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Samuel Olowookere, late Monday.

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The statement said the government delegation at the meeting would include the Ministers of Education and Finance; Chairman, National Income Salaries, and Wages Commission; and the Executive Secretary, National Universities, Commission

But Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, had to call off the meeting, which had in attendance several members of the government delegation including representatives of Ministers of Education and Finance, Director-General, Budget Office of the Federation, Ben Akabueze and Secretary General of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, after waiting in vain for ASUU delegation.

Ngige, however, explained that relevant government officials were still meeting to consider the counter offer by the striking lecturers with a view to presenting it to the Federal Executive Council today.

“Today we are supposed to have a formal meeting of the Minister of Education, the stakeholders on the government side and ASUU, but we have some new developments which may be mandatory that we roll over this meeting to the next day because government, as you know, on 16th August gave ASUU an offer through the ministry of education.

“Yesterday, ASUU got back to us, that was late yesterday, and this meeting had been scheduled before then and ASUU got back to government to say they needed us to deliberate on their counter offer before we can have a formalised meeting and we acceded to that because we think we have to do a government side on their offer before we the have a consolation meeting to further discuss if there are further areas of disagreement or stamp an authority acquiesce to whatever the demands or their new demands would be,” Ngige stated.

But, a bulletin released by the president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi said ASUU was waiting for government’s action on their letter of August 28, 2017.

It read: “On Thursday, 17th August, 2017, we met with officials of the Ministries of Education and Labour and Employment where it was agreed that the union should consult and “revert back to government”. Following the due consultation, we have collated the views of our members on the offers from the government in dispute in the letter of 16th August 2017. These views were submitted to federal government vide our letter dated 28th August 2017.

“As we await the Federal Government’s action on our letter, we hope that it would not be long before we receive a positive response which will bring an end to the dispute.”

Going by what Ngige said, government’s next line of action may depend on the outcome of the probable presentation to the Federal Executive Council today.

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