29 November 2017

Nigerian Universities in Fresh Crisis as Non-Teaching Staff Commence Nationwide Strike Today, Give Reasons

Photo: Vanguard
(file photo).

The non-teaching staff of Nigerian universities will commence an indefinite strike today in public universities. The staff have also provided reasons for resuming their suspended strike.
The staff, members of three unions, NASU, SSANU, and NAAT, announced the commencement of the strike last Thursday in a press statement signed by the national presidents of the three unions.
They said the strike across all public universities will commence today, Monday.
The non-teaching staff went on a "comprehensive and indefinite strike" action on September 11 and suspended the strike on September 21 after an agreement with the federal government.

"In one month time, we shall be reviewing the level of compliance with the agreement and shall not hesitate to resume the strike action if government reneges on the agreements reached or delays in any aspects,"
Sam Ugwoke, the National Chairman of the Joint Action Committee, JAC of NASU, SSANU and NAAT said in a press statement on September 21 after the strike was suspended.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how the government and the staff reached an agreement and signed  a memorandum of understanding before the suspension of the strike. The federal government delegation was led by the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige.
Mr. Ngige said then that both parties produced "collective agreement of action" after the meeting in September.

The workers, however, said the government has failed to fulfil any of the agreements reached.
‎"It is therefore sad to report that over two (2) months after the MoU was signed, the situation that warranted the strike in September remains the same. Nothing has changed," they said in their statement on Sunday.
This new strike is believed to have been triggered by the sharing formula approved by the federal government for the recently released N23 billion to universities as earned allowance.

PREMIUM TIMES exclusively reported details of the sharing formula; with the lecturers, ASUU, receiving ‎about 75 per cent of the funds and the non-teaching staff, 25 per cent. Details, however, varied across the 24 universities that received the fund.
The  non-academic staff believe they were short-changed in the sharing formula.
The 'earned allowance'  was part of the N220 billion the government pledged to the schools, which is an integral part of a resolution reached to address the last strike embarked on by unions over the non-implementation of previous agreements.

The three non-academic unions have now issued a detailed statement explaining why they are resuming the suspended strike.

Read the full statement below.

PRESS CONFERENCE ON THE NON-IMPLEMENTATION OF MEMORANDUM OF TERMS OF SETTLEMENT SIGNED ON 20TH SEPTEMBER, 2017: RESUMPTION OF THE SUSPENDED STRIKE.

Our friends in the media would recall that the Joint Action Committee of NAAT, NASU and SSANU embarked on an indefinite strike on September 11, 2017.

The strike was embarked upon, to press home our demands for the actualization of the 2009 Agreements that the Federal Government signed with the three non-teaching University Staff  Unions. Salient among the issues were:-

The implementation of the December 5, 2016 judgement by the National Industrial Court on University Staff Schools.

Payment of Arrears of Earned Allowances being owed our members

Payment of arrears of Salary Shortfalls.

Funding of the University System, among others

After declaring strike, the Federal Government, through a Conciliatory meeting facilitated by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, a Memorandum of Terms of Settlement was signed by the representatives of the Federal Government through the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, and Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Minister of State for Labour and Employment and Minister of Labour and Employment, with the representatives of the three non-teaching unions of NAAT, NASU and SSANU under the auspices of the Joint Action Committee. The Memorandum of Terms of Settlement, which we have attached, had eleven (11) points among which are:-

That the Twenty-Three Billion Naira (N23Billion) approved by the Federal Government is for the payment of arrears of Earned Allowances and it cuts across both Teaching and Non-teaching Staff of the various Federal Universities in Nigeria.

Trade Unions under JAC are to update the templates already with the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC) and submit same to the Federal Ministry of Education by Thursday September 21, 2017.

As from 2018, efforts should be intensified to include the allowances in the Annual Budgets of the Universities to enable payments to be made as and when due.

The Government had commenced the payment of Salary Shortfalls, but the Universities are to provide the specific details of beneficiaries required by the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation to facilitate the payment. The Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) is to expedite action on the Universities that have not been verified. Mandate payments to some Universities were presented and sighted.

The Unions were informed that Government through the NUC, had issued a circular directing the Universities to implement the National Industrial Court (NIC) judgement in respect of University Staff Schools.
The National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission had initiated the process of ensuring compliance with the NIC judgement and it was hoped that the process would be concluded within four (4) weeks of the meeting. Thereafter, the Government would issue a Service Wide Circular in compliance with the NIC judgement.

The above three (3) were among the ten (10) points that were raised and agreement reached through an MoU signed on 20th September 2017.

You will recall that we addressed a Press Conference on 21st September 2017, where we informed you that in one (1) months' time, we shall be reviewing the level of compliance with the agreement and shall not hesitate to resume the strike action if government reneges on the agreements reached or delays in any aspects. It was following that Press Conference, that we directed our members to resume work on Monday September 25, 2017.

It is therefore sad to report that over two (2) months after the MoU was signed, the situation that warranted the strike in September remains the same. Nothing has changed. In line with our decision to review the position after a month, we note most painfully, that none of the matters that prompted the strike action has been addressed. Rather, it appears that Government through its officials have decided to orchestrate an evil plot to factionalize the University, cause disharmony and disaffection within the System, thereby destroying the emerging industrial peace we have been witnessing in recent times.
I shall go on to highlight the state of affairs with respect to the following:-

Non-Payment of Earned Allowances

As explained earlier, an Understanding was reached with the Federal Government that the Twenty Three Billion Naira (N23billion) earmarked for Earned Allowances was for the payment of the second tranche of arrears of Earned Allowances for both Teaching and Non-teaching staff in the University System. As people of honour and considering that a document was signed to that effect, we had no reason to doubt the authenticity of their written commitment. Unfortunately however, events have proven that we over assumed the sense of honour of these government officials, particularly, Architect Sonny Echono, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, as the outcome of their actions proved contrary to the Understanding that was reached with the Government through them. To our consternation and utter dismay, the N23billion Naira has clearly been shown to be a payment for the Academic Staff Union of Universities for their so called "Earned Academic Allowances", while the three (3) Non-teaching staff Unions were allocated a paltry N4.6billion (11%).

On sighting the allocation table, the obvious anomaly and lopsidedness was observed and a demand for explanation or justification of how the allocations came about was made via a letter to the Honourable Minister of Education dated 14thNovember 2017. In the letter, we drew the attention of the Honourable Minister to the disproportionate and skewed allocation of the Earned Allowances and demanded explanation. We went further to immediately reject the allocations as made, except we got a convincing and satisfactory explanations and justification for what we consider to be an irrational and subjective "sharing of booty". This letter was copied the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment and the Executive Secretary, National Universities Commission.

It is indeed sad and heart rending to inform you that over two (2) weeks after the said letter was delivered, there was not so much of an acknowledgement, talk less of an appropriate action to address the issues raised in the letter.
The allocation as presently done, has many fundamental flaws.
Firstly, it is unheard of, that allocations from the Federal Government to institutions would be split from the Ministry, according to Unions and Universities. The standard procedure has been to allocate funds to Universities and not Universities and Unions within the Universities. Extremely strange!

If the monies are indeed earned, how did the Federal Ministry of Education arrive at the calculation of what accrues to each University without input of the Bursary Department of the Universities? A cursory look at the allocation table reveals some unusual insights. How were Non-teaching staff allocations made?  What determinant would make the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) be allocated N328million, while University of Ibadan would be allocated N105million (less than one third of FUTA's). Or even more ridiculous, is University of Lagos, which was allocated N23million. Are we saying that there are three times the staff strength of non teaching staff in FUTA than in UI? Or that FUTA has fifteen times the number of non teaching staff than in University of Lagos? What indices led to these funny and unseemly allocations that would make the calculation of Earned Allowances for Non-teaching staff in those Universities to arrive at the outcomes as presented in the table? These are begging for answers.

While our colleagues have always argued that Universities that were established after 2009 got allocations in the first tranche issued in 2013, it is our contention that the staff in those universities established after 2009 are entitled to a pro-rated fraction to cater for the one or two years of their existence before the sum was released. To however totally exclude them because they were not in existence before 2009, smacks of mischief and ill-motive.

On the whole, it appears to us that the allocation as presently done is laced with a motive of destabilizing the University System and causing disaffection among members of the University community, and we make bold to say that the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Architect Sonny Echono is complicit in this regard. We see the recent development as a deliberate attempt to destabilise the Muhammadu Buhari administration and we call on the Federal Government to investigate this anomalous action by the Federal Ministry of Education, under Echono's watch. If not, why did the Federal Ministry of Education decide to calculate the payments for each University and Union in the University? Why didn't they go through the Governing Councils of the Universities in allocating the monies instead of a vague and blanket directive to Vice-Chancellors, sharing the money into two parts – ASUU and Non-teaching? We see corruption written in bold and capital letters and we demand for an investigation.

The Joint Action Committee of NAAT, NASU and SSANU hereby state for the avoidance of any doubt, our rejection of the so called allocation as it is obvious that we were conned by the Permanent Secretary, Architect Sonny Echono and the Minister of Labour and Employment, into believing that the N23billion released for Earned Allowances cut across both Teaching and Non-teaching staff as we have now discovered it not to be so. We therefore demand for a separate amount being the second tranche of arrears for payment of Earned Allowances to Non-teaching staff across the Federal Universities in Nigeria.

2. Non-Release of Call Circular in Compliance with NIC Judgement

In the MoU signed on the 20th September 2017, it was clearly stated that the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission would ensure that the process of issuing a Service Wide Circular in compliance with the NIC judgement would be completed within four (4) weeks from the date of that meeting.

As we speak today, the situation has not changed. We still have thousands of our members out in the cold, waiting to get their employments restored after getting reprieve from the Court. This is most unfortunate when in three days time, Tuesday, 5th December, it would be exactly a year that the Court ruled in favour of the Union and by extension, the teachers in the University Staff Schools.

We wonder why it is so difficult for a government which is purportedly run under the rule of law to vacillate and delay over a straightforward and unambiguous judgement of the Court? Why does it have to take so long to implementing the judgement of the Court?

The Joint Action Committee of NAAT, NASU and SSANU hereby state most categorically and very clearly, that we have had enough of waits on the issue of University Staff Schools. Our members have suffered enough. For us, we shall take nothing short of the 2009 Agreements on University Staff Schools as declared by the National Industrial Court (NIC) judgement. We reject any attempt to re-interprete the NIC judgement or implement in breach. The Court judgement states that the University Staff Schools are an integral part of the University System and the Government and University being the same in this case, the employees in the University Staff Schools remain employees of the University like every other staff and as such, employees of the Federal Government of Nigeria. Any other interpretation is unacceptable to us and shall be rejected flatly.

3. Shortfall in Salary Payments

We wish to state that as far as shortfalls in Salary payments are concerned, nothing has changed. It is true that during the negotiations and before the MoU was signed, we were given some mandates to sight. Two months after, it is clear to us that those mandates were dud and were products of smartness to con us into believing that the era of fractionalized salaries for our members were over. Till today, our members still experience payments in fractions of their salaries, while arrears have not been paid. Between September 2017 and now, nothing has changed.

The other issues which led to our strike were:-

Lack of good governance
    Poor funding of Education as against UNESCO's Recommendation
    Inadequate infrastructure and abandoned projects
    Non-registration of NUPEMCO
    Non-implementation of CONTISS 14 and 15 for Technologists, and
    Corruption in the Nigerian University system

After exhaustive deliberations on the above subject matters, it has dawned on us that the insincerity of Government through its officials is unabating. Indeed, the actions of the officers in the Federal Ministry of Education in concert with a group of stake holders within the system, to surreptitiously allocate allowances to one group of people to the exclusion of the others, smacks of corruption and the Federal Government must not fold its hands and allow it slide.

Having considered the sorry situation we find ourselves vis-a-vis the brazen injustice being meted out to us,and the refusal of Government to respect the contents of the Memorandum of Terms of Settlements reached with our Unions on the 20thSeptember 2017, we are constrained to inform you that effective 12.00 midnight of Sunday 3rd December 2017, the Joint Action Committee of NAAT, NASU and SSANU shall be resuming its earlier suspended strike. The strike action shall be comprehensive and total. There shall be no provision of services either skeletal or adhoc basis.

This strike, like others before it, is not our making or desire. No responsible Union goes on strike without considering its implications on the system. However, we find ourselves in a sorry plight where strike appears to be the only option.

We cannot continue to sit by, while we are humiliated and cheated out of allowances that we have earned, neither shall we sit back and allow our members who have been laid off owing to the infamous Budget Call Circular that directed that they should be removed from the payrolls of the universities. We have had enough and seek your assistance, our brothers of the press to join us in this war against oppression in the university system.

Thank you

Comrade Samson C. Ugwoke, fcpa
National President
Chairman JAC of NAAT, NASU and
SSANU

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