Details have emerged on the offers made by the Nigerian Government to the university non-teaching staff towards ending the indefinite strike they began on Monday.
The negotiating team the Joint Action Committee, JAC, of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT had Thursday night risen from a 9-hour, 13 minutes meeting with a delegation of government officials in Abuja and subsequently announced it had agreed to take the government offers to its members for further deliberations.
The head of the JAC, Samson Ugwoke, who led the negotiating team of the unions to the meeting, said the team would present the government’s proposals at their National Executive Council meeting for a decision and get back to the government in six days.
“Within the said period, the government has promised that a certain amount of cash will be paid and if the money is paid into the account of the University, then it is ours. I hope the minister does well with his promises,” he said.
Also, according to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, the meeting discussed the 12 items which constituted the demands of the three unions.
In trying to discourage the unions from going on strike, the minister had also subtly reminded them of section 43 of the Trade Union Act, which stipulates “No work, No pay.”
“I want to reiterate what I told the unions, the unions should operate within the ambits of the law. This is enshrined in the constitution. The security and the welfare of citizens is the cardinal job of any government. No government will go out and start maltreating her people, so if we have laws, it is for the big and the small (people), for the high, mighty and the lowly. It is for everybody.,” Mr. Ngige said.
Mr. Ngige then listed some of the demands and how the government will tackle each item.
On the provision of funds for the revitalisation of public universities, the minister said the government has decided to make some funds available for months of September and October.
However, he said this was ‘‘without prejudice to the Babalakin Committee set up on the re-negotiation of the agreement.’’
In respect of the 2009 MoU which its non-implementation was the core of the grievances of university lecturers, ASUU, Mr. Ngige said Mr. Babalakin’s committee had collected memoranda from the various unions and it was agreed that the committee should fast-track the re-negotiation process.
On earned allowances of the teaching and non-teaching staff, Mr. Ngige said: “N23 billion has been made available for teaching and non-teaching staff of federal universities in which the office of the Accountant General will effect payment for Monday.”
On shortfalls in payment of salaries, Mr. Ngige said the issues had been addressed as some universities have already been paid some amount of money for their shortfalls.
Speaking on the implementation of the National Industrial Court, NIC directive on the Universities’ staff schools, Mr. Ngige said the unions were informed that the government through the National Universities Commission, NUC, had issued circulars to implement the judgement of the court.
“Salaries, Income and Wages Commission has initiated the process of ensuring compliance with the NIC judgment and the process will be completed within four weeks,” the minister said.
Regarding registration of Universities’ Pension Management Company and Pension Matters, NUPEMCO, the minister said the process has been reviewed and that the government has reiterated her commitment that when the appropriate forms and particulars are submitted, the Federal Ministry of Education ”will bring out the certificate within one week.”
On the issue of inadequate infrastructure, poor funding as against UNESCO recommendation, Mr. Ngige said the federal ministry of education is in the process of inaugurating a 9-member committee to explore alternative means of sourcing of funds for the revitalisation of infrastructure in public universities. He said the committee ”will be inaugurated within a week of this meeting.”
“Two members of the Joint Action Committee will be incorporated into the membership of the committee,” Mr. Ngige promised.
On bad governance and corruption in the universities, the minister said the meeting jointly agreed that the government should intensify her efforts to checkmate the excesses of corrupt officials in the universities.
“The ministry of education and office of the accountant general should monitor the internally generated revenue of the universities to curb massive corruption and ensure transparency,” he said.
On the issue of Treasury Single Account, TSA which is also a point of conflict, he advised all universities to comply as ‘‘the government was serious about its implementation and would investigate cases of universities still operating multiple accounts.’’
“The meeting also agreed that government should expedite action and send visitation panels to federal universities that have not been visited and revisit the reports of previous visitation panels for the purpose of implementing their recommendations,” Mr. Ngige said.
On the whistle-blowing anti-corruption policy of the administration, he said both the government and the unions agreed that whistle-blowers should be protected.
On CONTISS 14 and 15 for technologists, the minister said that the technology union, NAAT, is to provide the federal ministry of education with information that will assist the ministry to develop an appropriate scheme of service for new cadres.
“The NAAT and federal ministry of education should work with Office of the Head of Civil Service of the federation to get the necessary approval for the National Council of Establishment within the year 2017,” he said.
Mr. Ngige said it was agreed that the union members would not be victimised on the account of the strike.
The three unions began a nationwide on September 11 to press their multiple demands that broadly centre on improved funding of universities and welfare of staff.
The meeting between the government team and unions started at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday and ended 10:13 p.m.
“We tended to agree on certain issues though the government is complaining of shortage of funds but said money would be made available,” Samson Ugwoke, chairman of JAC told PREMIUM TIMES.