Nigerian university workers warn they may resume strike

Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi. [Photo credit: The Nation]

Eight weeks after they returned to work, non-teaching workers of Nigerian universities have warned they may resume their strike.

The workers are angry over the failure of government to implement the agreement it reached with them during the strike.

They are also unhappy with the rate government is giving approvals for establishment of new universities, saying resources should be concentrated on raising standard of existing ones.

In a statement on Thursday, the workers urged Nigerians to persuade the federal government to implement the agreement so as to avert the resumption of the suspended strike.

The workers, who are members of three unions, NASU, SSANU, and NAAT, suspended their strike on March 15, three month and 10 days after it began.

Their gesture was on the basis that the Nigerian government will immediately implement the agreement reached with them.

Before suspending the strike, Samson Ugwoke, the national chairman of the Joint Action Committee of the three unions, at a press briefing on March 13 had warned the unions would not hesitate to resume it if government reneged on the agreement.

But the statement on Thursday signed by Mr Ugwoke and spokesperson of SSANU, Abdussobur Salaam, the unions said said Nigerians should not blame them if they resumes the nationwide industrial action.

They decried the reluctance of the federal government to implement the Memorandum of Understanding seven weeks after it was signed by the two parties.

According to the statement, SSANU at its 33rd Regular Meeting on May 10 and May 11 at Bayero University Kano, deliberated extensively on critical issues affecting the union, the educational sector, university sub-sector, and the nation as a whole.

The unions expressed disappointment that government has not implemented some aspects of the 2009 Agreement and other MoUs it entered into with university-based non- teaching staff unions.

According to the unions, the situation is an invitation to anarchy.

They also noted the continued disobedience of government to the National Industrial Court judgment of December 5, 2016 on university staff schools.

“NEC notes that this development is unbecoming of a democratic government supposedly run under the rule of law. It has become the penchant of Government to choose which court judgments to obey and which to disregard. In cases where an attempt is made to obey court judgments, implementation is done selectively and at whim”, the union said in the statement.

It also decried the the rate of approvals for establishments of universities by the government.

The union said establishment of universities has “almost become like constituency projects, as almost every senator seems to be sponsoring a bill for the establishment or upgrade of an institution to a university in his or her constituency.”

The union urged the federal government to improve the funding and infrastructures of existing universities so as to increase their carrying capacities, noting that though the universities on ground may have challenges meeting up with the increasing admission needs of the country, “the solution is not the proliferation of universities.”

The union said the two owner states of LAUTECH (Oyo and Osun) are yet to reinstate the monthly personnel allocations to the Ogbomoso-based institution.

“This development has caused workers of the university to be owed upward of eleven months in arrears of salaries. We urged the governors of the two states to take a step further in the resolution of the crises in LAUTECH by promptly reinstating the monthly personnel emoluments of the university”, the statement said.

The union also urged the governing council of NIGER DELTA UNIVERSITY (NDU) to reinstate the disengaged staff or face industrial action from SSANU and review its unpopular policy of disengaging the workforce.

It said it is important for university councils and managements to be creative in generating funds and innovate means to connect with industry.

The union also called for monitoring of the general payment of fees in universities across the country so as to ensure that students are not exploited by all manners of fees.

“We supports the directive barring federal universities from charging tuition fees. Government may have directed the stoppage of tuition fees, university managements may spread the costs of the stopped tuition fees on other ancillary fees such as Acceptance Fees, Caution Fees, Medical Fees, among others”, the statement said.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the federal government on March 10,2018 said it will look for N8 billion withinfive weeks to pay the striking workers.

Spokespersons of the federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, Samuel Olowokere, and the Federal Ministry of Education, Chinyere Ihuoma, did not respond to calls and text messages sent to them for their comments.

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