Another round of crisis that may disrupt academic activities is looming in the universities following the decision of the the Federal Government to pay the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the four months withheld salaries in exclusion of other three University based unions.
Already, the Joint Action Committee, JAC, of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), has written to the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajiabiamila on the implications of the decision of the government to single out ASUU for the payment in exclusion of the other three unions.
In a leaked memo to the Chief of Staff dated February 13, 2024, SSANU and NASU warned that if the government goes ahead with the exclusion policy, the two unions should not be held liable for any disruption in the academic calendar “for the injustice done to our members by the Government as the peaceful atmosphere in our Universities and Inter-University Centres cannot be guaranteed if the Federal Government fails to do the needful by paying our members their 4 months outstanding salaries like Academic staff in the University Sector.”
The memo titled, “Protest letter over the exclusion of non-teaching staff from the payment of outstanding four months salaries was signed by Prince Peters Adeyemi, General Secretary, NASU and Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, President, SSANU.
The protest letter read: “We write to draw the attention of the Chief of Staff to the President to the privileged information at our disposal that directive has been given to the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to direct the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) Office to release four (4) months salaries out of the outstanding salaries owed the members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) excluding other staff who belong to other Unions in the Universities and Inter-University Centres.
“These other Unions are: Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
“Your Right Honourable will recall that in year 2022, all the Unions in the Universities and Inter-University Centres embarked on strike action at different time to draw the attention of Government to issues relating to the corporate governance of our Universities and welfare of our members.
“The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NASU and SSANU embarked on strike that lasted five (5) months from 27th March to 24th August, 2022 as a result of the lackadaisical and unwilling attitude of the then Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, to implement agreements collectively reached with the Joint Unions of NASU and SSANU.
“It is unfortunate that the then Government decided to bring hardship on our members in the University Sector by implementing ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy for four (4) months of May, June, July and August, 2022.
“The strike was foisted on the two Unions due to different unimplemented memoranda with the Government and it was suspended as a result of another Collective Agreement signed on 20th August, 2022, which has not also seen the light of the day. It also contained “no victimisation clause”.
“It is quite unfortunate that in spite of the high hope and aspiration of our members as a result of a press release by the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity on 20th October, 2023, after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting that the Federal Government under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has granted waiver to the ‘No Work, No Pay’ to ASUU and other Educational Sector Unions.
“This assurance of payment of the four months outstanding salaries was further guaranteed at the meeting held with the Honourable Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman SAN, OON; the Honourable Minister of State for Education, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu and the then Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Andrew Adejoh, OON on Saturday, 4th November, 2023 in Abuja where the Honourable Minister of Education promised equal and fair treatment of all Unions in the Sector and assured also that the Presidential pardon covers NASU and SSANU Members as no Union will be short changed.
“This was also emphasized by the Honourable Minister of Education at the high-level stakeholders’ engagement the Honourable Minister of Education had with Vice- Chancellors of Federal Universities and Directors/Chief Executives of Inter-University Centres including Unions in the Universities Sector at the National Universities Commission (NUC) Secretariat, Abuja on Thursday, 11th January, 2024.
“It is in this respect therefore that we write to immediately call the attention of your exalted office to this impending unfair treatment of Non-Teaching staff in the Universities and Inter-University Centre against their Academic counterpart and to say unequivocally that being an Academic or Non-Teaching staff in a University or Inter-University Centres is a matter of choice of vocation and as such this indiscriminate and undue favouritism tilted toward the Academic staff against the Non-Teaching staff should be halted by this Government in the interest of justice, fairness and equity.
“We therefore call the attention of this Government to the fact that the leadership of NASU and SSANU should not be held liable for any disruption in the academic calendar for the injustice done to our members by the Government as the peaceful atmosphere in our Universities and Inter-University Centres cannot be guaranteed if the Federal Government fails to do the needful by paying our members their 4 months outstanding salaries like Academic staff in the University Sector.”