A complete shutdown of the education sector looms, as the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has directed its members to commence a nationwide strike from Monday in protest over the federal government's refusal to pay workers' salaries.
This is just as the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has threatened to embark on an indefinite strike over their unresolved grievances and in solidarity with the members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
SSANU said it would join the strike next Monday to protest the non-payment of the August salaries of some of its members in federal universities by the government.
The notice for the strike was signed by the SSANU President, Comrade Promise Adewusi, and copied to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, vice-chancellors of some federal universities, Minister of Labour and Productivity, Emeka Wogu, the supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, and the Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Julius Okojie.
The union issued an ultimatum, which would expire today. Adewusi, in the letter, noted that the union had already directed all of its chapters to mobilise for the strike.
The letter reads in part: "The non-payment of our members' salaries in your universities, when some other federal universities had since paid the August salaries, is viewed by our members as an act of punishment against them for working and this has made them restive.
"Failure to pay by that day will be regarded as a conclusive act of aggression against the economic right and interest of our members.
"We shall then be at liberty to direct them on work stoppage as our members would no longer be in position to continue to transport themselves to work. We urge you to take immediate steps to remedy this anomaly."
He said the union had earlier warned government in a letter dated 23 September that if the salaries of staff for the month of August were not paid by the end of work today, the union would not hesitate to direct members to stop coming to work. He advised all stakeholders in the education sector to intervene and ensure that the salaries of workers are paid without further delay in the interest of industrial peace in the sector.
The affected universities are Federal University of Technology, Oweri (FUTO); University of Ilorin (UNILORIN); Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike (MOUAU); Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi (ATBU); Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife; University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN); University of Calabar (UNICAL); University of Uyo (UNIUYO); and Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria.
In the same vein, the NUT President, Dr. Michael Olukoya, said the lackadaisical attitude of the government to ASUU's demand is unfair. Speaking at a briefing in Abuja yesterday, Olukoya expressed the readiness of the union to join the strike in solidarity if the government does not accede to ASUU's request.
"The NUT will not hesitate to solidarise with ASUU if the federal government fails to honour the existing agreement reached with them in 2009. This constant posture of government not to honour agreements with various unions poses a great threat to the real development of the education sector. It also negates government's frequent talks of commitment to developing the education sector," he said. "We see the current struggle of ASUU as truly nationalistic, patriotic and self sacrificing. We commend our university teachers for remaining solid and immovable in the face of all threats," he added.
In another development, the supervising Minister of Education yesterday said all principals of Unity Colleges in Nigeria would henceforth be subjected to aptitude tests to prove their capacity for the job. He said this at a meeting with some principal officers of the ministry in Abuja, where he added that the test would be conducted to assess their knowledge of basic school management techniques.
This means that henceforth, directors and deputy directors of education, who have attained grade levels 16 and above would be required to write the aptitude test before being posted to schools.
"In a situation where so many people are qualified for a single position, what is the criteria for choosing those that should be principals when they are all qualified by being directors or deputy directors?" Wike asked.
"The best option in a situation like that is to give everybody the opportunity to compete and then you get the best out of them before sending them to various schools," he added.
Wike said the new policy was not aimed at downsizing, adding that existing principals of the school would also be subjected to the same tests to determine their level of competence.