Nigeria: Senate Moves to Avert Looming Strike in Nigerian Universities

The Nigerian Senate has resolved to take quick measures to avert a looming strike in Nigerian universities.

The lawmakers on Tuesday resolved that the leadership of the Senate engage the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU).

Both groups are threatening to go on strike to demand N30 billion Earned Allowance and to protest the Federal Government's refusal to obey court judgment on staff school salaries.

A three-day protest to drive home their demands started at University of Ibadan branch on Monday.

Bringing the issue to the attention of the Senate in a motion on Tuesday, Barau Jibrin (Kano-APC) urged his colleagues to devise quick measures to avoid the industrial action.

He said, "The Senate notes with regrets that the issues over which the two unions have now given notice for industrial action are matters that concern their relationship with ASUU and alleged refusal of the federal government to execute agreement it had with them in 2006.

"The Senate further notes that their grievances also include the situation of their members on the national pension company which is now being operated by ASUU.

"The Senate observed from the allegation that ASUU is being accorded preferential treatment by the federal government because of allocation of 80 per cent of funds released as earned academic allowances while the remaining 20 per cent is allocated to non-academic staff.

"The Senate regrets that rather than accepting what they were given by the federal government, SSANU and NASU are asking a fresh demand of N20 billion to non-teaching staff as earned allowances for 2009 to 2016 period."

Mr Jibrin noted that the Senate intervention was important due to the fact that the current administration is yet to constitute its cabinet.

His position was supported by Ibrahim Oloriegebe (Kwara-APC) and Bamidele Opeyemi (Ekiti-APC)

Adamu Aliero (Kebbi-APC) urged his colleagues to consider the option of asking an ad-hoc committee to dialogue with the groups.

"It is important for the Senate to intervene to avert any crisis. The universities have faced so many crises leading to low standard of education. There is no Minister of Labour and Education to bring the two warring factions to dialogue. This being the situation, we should not allow this to degenerate. Perhaps an ad-hoc committee should be set up to intervene," he said.

Rochas Okorocha (Imo-APC), however, had other ideas. He urged his colleagues to support a resolution that lecturers be paid based on their output.

The former governor used his experience at the helms of affairs in Imo State, where labour unions irrespective of their contribution make claims, as a reference point.

"We should be thinking about long term plans. I think it is high time we bring to private spirit into public affairs and we try and socialise production. The amount of money spent on universities, if it's properly apportioned, if lecturers are meant to be paid according to their contribution, or the number of lectures, it will be cheaper for the federal government."

After debates, the Senate called on SSANU and NASU to explore a resolution of their grievances by instituting productive dialogue with ASUU.

The lawmaker also resolved that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, should invite the two unions, the NUC and the Ministry of education with a view to 'assuaging their feelings of alleged neglect and bring them to a clarification of all contending issues as they relate with their counterpart in ASUU.'

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