By Christiana Onuoha
The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), has tongue lashed the recently held Education Summit organized by the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, describing the decision to exclude it from the event as ill-advised.
The labour union said; “National Executive Council (NEC) in session observes with serious concern the ill-advised decision of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representative on its refusal to invite SSANU, a distinguished Union and undeniably major and critical stakeholder in the University system to the recently held Education Summit organized by the Office of the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. This action is not only disrespectful; it is a recipe for instability in the University system.
“Consequently, NEC resolved that the resolutions reached at that Summit are a nullity and stands rejected by SSANU since there was no input from her.”
SSANU also frown at another issue it noted with dismay, saying; “the ugly emerging trend of incursion and seizing of the powers and functions of the University Governing Councils by some agencies and offices of government. Statutorily, Council is the highest and final decision making organ in any University. It has been observed with grave concern that some overzealous Government agents are trying to truncate this process.”
It explained, “For example, we now hear of circulars from the Office of the Head of Service (HOS) of the Federation, directing universities on how, when and the number of persons that should be promoted at any given time. It should be noted that at no time has the Head of Service been part of the promotion of staff of universities. Personnel decisions in the university system end with the Governing Councils, where a representative of the Federal Ministry of Education is also a member.
“NEC resolved that Councils of universities do their work devoid of interference by the Office of the HOS or any other agent for that matter. NEC clearly says no to the usurpation of the powers of Council in relation to the promotion of our members in universities and Inter-University Centres.”
Meanwhile, there are strong indications that some university based labour unions may hit the Federal government will fresh round of industrial action in no distance time owing to the lingering issue of the withheld salaries of their members and other burning issues.
Another factor that may trigger the hovering second round of industrial disharmony in the country’s tertiary education sector is the revelation that workers in Federal University Otuoke, Micheal Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Federal University, Dutsima, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, Federal University, Gashua, Yobe, Federal University Kashere, University of Maiduguri, Modibo Adama University, Yola, University of Benin, Benin, are still owed arrears of the 2019 new national minimum wage.
Information provided to journalists over the weekend in Abuja by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held in Calabar, Cross River State, declared this. The non-teaching university based union also hinted that the endless wait for the fulfillment of the N50 billion for Earned Allowances promised made by the Federal government to the unions, is another hot spot to the industrial harmony in the sector.
Urging the Federal government to prevent another round of protracted strike in the university education sector of the country by fulling its promises and part of agreements reach with workers’ unions, and also pay the withheld salaries of their members, the communique signed by SSANU’s National President, Comrade Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim, said that labour unions have always followed due process before embarking on any industrial action. He pointed out that government’s lackadaisical attitude in implementing agreements and programmes that ought to lift the education sector high is the bane of the tertiary education in the country.
In part, the communique conspicuously said; “NEC in session describes the action of FGN on the withheld four Month salary arrears during the nationwide strike embarked by the Union as insensitive and inconsiderate. It would be recalled that SSANU complied with all industrial legal protocol before embarking on strike when Government reneged on its part of the bargain. Inspite of the glaring legal compliance by SSANU on this industrial action, government still proceed to withhold salaries of her members, NEC therefore calls to urgently pay the said arrears in one installment without further delay.
“NEC in session deliberated on the promise of Government to release the sum of Fifty Billion Naira (N50b) for payment of outstanding Earned Allowances to University and Inter-University based unions. We urge government to keep to their word and not go their normal way of reneging on their promises to avoid industrial dispute in the system. NEC also urges Government to include our members working in University Health Centres in payment of the new Hazard Allowance like their counterparts in other health organizations.”
On the issue of IPPIS, the communique said; “The plethora of problems associated with the IPPIS payment platform has left many SSANU members devastated because of the recurrent disturbing haphazard salary payment, leaving many with inexplicable wages as monthly salaries. The quest for solution to these problems have remained elusive and difficult, while Federal Government has remained adamant in insisting that it would use only IPPIS in payment of staff salaries.
“It is on record that the payment platform is fraught with the same corruption that Federal Government claims it wants to fight. It is also on record that the platform developed by JAC of SSANU and NASU (U3PS) is capable of addressing the issues we regularly complain of. NEC in session therefore urges the Federal Government to utilize the U3PS platform since IPPIS has continually failed to address the payment issues of university workers.”
Furthermore, it said; “NEC in session is deeply peeved by the nonchalant and detached attitude of the Federal Government towards the long standing issue of renegotiating the 2009 Agreement. Renegotiation of the Agreement is overdue by 12 years. This is against the statutory three (3) years agreed for periodic review. It is most disheartening and appalling the way Federal Government is handling the issue. We are seriously disturbed by Government’s reluctance, despite SSANU’s readiness in ensuring that this matter is urgently concluded.
“Since the Prof. Nimi D. Brigg’s Committee was constituted, SSANU has earnestly offered itself for the renegotiation process. NEC therefore, demands the immediate resumption and conclusion of this exercise without any further delay as the content of the current Agreement has been eroded by the harsh economic situation occasioned by hyperinflation and its effect on workers.”