The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities said on Friday that it would resist moves by the Federal Government to stop the payment of salaries of teachers of University Demonstration Primary Schools.
The union’s National Vice-President, Eastern region, Leku Ador, led members in their hundreds to stage a protest at the University of Port Harcourt campus in Choba, Rivers.
Mr. Ador said the union was protesting a circular which directed Vice-Chancellors of federal universities to stop accommodating UDPS teachers in universities emolument structure.
“Recently, we received a circular from the Federal Ministry of Education with intent to disengage from the funding of UDPS in the country.
“National Salaries and Wages Commission together with the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) and the Ministry of Education were part of our negotiation in SSANU-Federal Government 2009 agreement.
“This agreement contained, among others, that government will continue to fund UDPS-Staff schools in our various federal universities,” he said.
Mr. Ador said the move by the Federal Government to stop funding of the schools would result to a hike in school fees and sack of teachers as private operators of the schools, might not retain them.
He said university lecturers, other staff members and indigenes from host communities send their children and wards to the UDPS as its fees are affordable.
The lecturers queried why government would withdraw funding for the UDPS and not extend same to Command schools of the Navy, Army, Air Force and Unity Schools.
“Teachers in Demonstration Primary Schools have the same appointment letters like other staff in the university, and so, why would government single them out and leave others?
“Command schools which take far more funding from the Federal Government are not in that report which only points to marginalisation of our teachers.
“It will be wrong for government to reduce cost of governance by retrenching workers, especially when salary and allowance of one parliamentarian is equivalent to salaries of 100 teachers combined,” he said.
Mr. Ador called on President Muhammadu Buhari to wade into the matter by directing the Federal Ministry of Education to rescind the circular.
He said that failure to do so would force the union’s National Executive Committee to convene a meeting that might lead to total withdrawal of their services from tertiary institutions.
“The industrial action which will be unprecedented, will not only affect students and the education sector, but will question President Buhari’s promise of creating employment for Nigerians,” the labour leader said.
Some teachers who spoke to a correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), expressed displeasure with the move by the Federal Ministry of Education.
The teachers (names withheld) who were emotionally shaken by the development, said life would be difficult if they were retrenched from work.
The National University Commission asked the leaders of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities to leave them out of the fracas and direct their grievances to the National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission.
Speaking to journalists on Friday, the NUC Director of Information and Public Relations office, Ibrahim Yakasai, said the NUC will not fold its arms and allow SSANU misrepresent “facts”.
Mr. Yakasai said the NUC would not join issues with a trade union which it regulates and said the Federal Ministry of Education was responsible for circulating a letter in the regard of stopping funding for University Demonstration Primary Schools.
“NUC does not stop circulars from getting to where it is meant to be, or interpret government policy; hence SSANU should make complains to Implementing Monitoring committee),” he said.
He explained that the monitoring committee is like a standing committee set by Federal government to monitor and regulate such grievances and that SSANU is aware of how IMC runs.
Mr. Yakasai said he was surprised that SSANU decided to directs its grievance to the NUC since the union has full details of the situation. Mr. Yakassi said SSANU conveniently chose to ignore the substantive issues or seek clarification from relevant government agencies.