The Committee of Pro-Chancellors of State-Owned Universities in Nigeria (COPSUN) has faulted the threat of a strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The committee described the notice as “ill-advised and insensitive to the plight of the students and their sponsors who will have to bear the brunt.”
While appealing to the union to jettison the idea of embarking on a fresh strike action, it, however, appealed to the Nigerian government to ensure adherence to the extant laws guiding labour relations in the university, particularly the provision of “no work, no pay,” should the lecturers insist on its decision to down tools.
The lecturers’ union had, during the week, in statements issued by its various zones after their meetings, hinted of a possible shutdown of the university system nationwide, accusing the Nigerian government of insincerity and poor commitment to the various memoranda of understanding and actions reached with the union.
The strike threat was coming a few days after the Nigerian government confirmed the payment of N55.5 billion to the federal government-owned universities as part of revitalisation funds and the earned academic allowances owed the institutions.
But ASUU described the payment as a paltry sum compared to what it said it owed the university system, even as it demanded the replacement of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) with its own University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) for the payment of university workers’ salaries.
A statement issued by the committee of the pro-chancellors of the state-owned universities, after its 54th quarterly meeting held in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on Tuesday, suggested continued negotiation and dialogue to the aggrieved lecturers’ union, saying embarking on industrial actions “at the slightest provocation” is unacceptable.
The statement, which was signed by the committee’s chairman, who doubles as the chairman of the governing council of Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Osogbo, Yusuf Ali, said “a fresh strike is not a good omen for the future of tertiary education in Nigeria.”
It said Nigeria has hardly recovered from the negative impacts of the previous nine-month prolonged strike which was suspended by the union in December, 2020.
The committee noted that “…while the crave for reforms in the education sector is healthy and should persist, negotiations with the Federal Government on policy implementation is encouraged but the penchant to proceed on the total shutdown of the university system at the slightest provocation is ill-advised and quite insensitive to the plight of the students and their sponsors who will have to bear the brunt.”
As part of its intervention strategies, the committee disclosed that it has set up a “high-powered” committee to mediate between ASUU and the federal government for the growth and development of tertiary education in Nigeria, appealing to ASUU to rescind the strike decision and embrace dialogue.
The statement added; “As part of its efforts to promote national dialogue, peace and reconciliation on the lingering crisis between the Federal Government and ASUU, COPSUN has set up a high-powered committee to interface and mediate in the matter for the growth and development of tertiary education in Nigeria.”
The group, therefore, appealed to ASUU to reconsider its position on the planned strike and allow more opportunities for dialogue and negotiation, adding that “as stakeholders, we all stand to benefit better in a peaceful environment.”
Constitution review on wages law
Meanwhile, apart from seeking dialogue as a resolution strategy, the committee also called for the removal of labour and wages from the exclusive legislative list to the concurrent list “to enable state-owned universities operate and relate with their employees under the rules establishing the universities and not under the rules of the Federal Government-owned universities as is presently the case”.
It said the staff union should also allow each state the liberty to negotiate with its employees on its own terms and conditions and “avoid the tendency of regarding the country as operating a unitary system, rather than a federal system.”
It, therefore, appealed that its representatives during negotiations with labour be accorded authoritative mandate and not as mere observers.”
The group also appealed to the government to intensify its war against terrorism and banditry beyond the battlefield.
“There could be no meaningful development in (the) education system as long as the schools consistently remain the target of attack by terrorists,” the statement said.
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