26 November 2012

Nigeria: Non-Teaching Staff Threaten to Shut Down Varsities

The non-teaching staff in the university system, under the auspices of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), is to begin a one-week strike from December 10, 2012 over unpaid entitlements.

Ahead of the strike, the workers have fixed a crucial meeting for December 3, in Abuja with plans to declare a one-week warning strike to commence December 10, with a seven-day grace in line with the extant labour law.

SSANU President, Comrade Samson Ugwoke, who spoke with journalists, said the workers could no longer guarantee peace in the university system in 2013 if the earned allowance of university workers, as spelt out in the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and the three non-teaching staff unions in the universities, is not included in the 2013 budget, and paid.

He warned that any attempt by the government to accept any recommendation that would lead to reduction in the workforce of non-teaching staff in the universities as advised in the universities NEEDS Assessement Committee report will be resisted and could plunge the university sector into a major crisis.

According to him, "Anybody talking of touching the numbers of our members in the universities is playing with fire; we will not condone that. This is a warning to the government, any committee recommending reduction in the workforce of non-teaching staff in universities should be resisted by SSANU and other unions. It is a warning to the Federal Government; they should allow the status quo to remain to ensure peace in the university system."

"This time around, we are giving a warning early enough. I made it clear that until a provision is made in the 2013 Budget for the payment of Earned Allowance, nobody can and will guarantee peace in the university sector come 2013.

"I am appealing to the Federal Government to hear us very well, if that money is not included in the budget and paid, there will be no peace in the university system. We will close down the universities for one week in December as a warning (strike) to the government".

Comrade Ugwoke said following the outcome of the SSANU National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held at the weekend at the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, the union was given the mandate of the members to join hands and work with the other unions to embark on a nationwide strike and close down the universities for a week in December, as a warning to the government.

"NEC-in-session gives a seven-day ultimatum to the Federal Government of Nigeria to attend to all the demands of the Union on the Report of the Universities Needs Committee and SSANU Earned Allowances effective December 3, 2012 or the Union would be forced to embark on a seven-day warning strike December 10, 2012."The Communique signed by Comrade Ugwoke and the SSANU Public Relations Officers (PRO), Comrade NAD Aboribo added.

"NEC-in-session critically examined the Universities Needs Assessment Committee Report presented to President Goodluck Jonathan (GCFR) for approval and observed that all the stakeholders were not involved in the activities that brought about the report.

"Thus, NEC viewed the absent of relevant stakeholders like SSANU as a serious procedural defect and a lapse which has led to the inequities that the report represent. NEC wondered how retrenchment and deployment of some non-teaching staff from the Universities to Federal Ministries would address the perennial problems that are bedeviling the Nigerian University system.

"NEC-in-session, therefore, called on the Federal Government to disregard the report for the sustenance of the comparative peace being enjoyed by the Universities and in the alternative, set up another Committee with membership drawn from all stakeholders including staff Unions to assess the needs of the Universities, and come up with a broad-based assessment to the Federal Government.

On the issue of 2009 FGN/SSANU Agreement and Earned Allowances, the communique reads: "Contrary to the understanding reached between SSANU and the Federal Government on SSANU Earned Allowances, the Union discovered with utter dismay the non budgeting of fund for the payment of the Earned Allowances in the 2013 Federal Government Budget Proposal currently before the National Assembly - a development SSANU seriously frowned at and would not fold its arms and watch helplessly."

To avert a crisis in the Education Sector that could lead to indefinite closure of Nigerian Universities in 2013 therefore, SSANU calls on well meaning Nigerians especially stakeholder in the Education Sector to prevail on the Federal Government to amend the 2013 Budget to include fund for the payment of SSANU Earned Allowances before it is passed by the National Assembly.

"SSANU also observed with great concern and condemned the dilapidated state of Nigerian roads, particularly in the South-East and South-South geo-political Zones, and the "orchestrated fuel scarcity and arbitrary increase in pump price of petroleum products ranging from N120:00 to N180:00 for premium median spirit and N120:00 for DPK in most parts of the Country where the products are available".

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