The nation may be set for another season of strikes as the senior workers in Nigerian universities have indicated their intention to embark on an industrial action any time soon against the decision of the National Universities Commission (NUC) to stop the funding of federal universities staff schools in their budget.
The workers under the umbrella of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and other non-teaching staff in the universities yesterday notified President Muhammadu Buhari of their intention, seeking his intervention in the planned funding stoppage.
President of SSANU, Samson Ugwoke, told reporters in a press conference at the headquarters of the association within the University of Abuja that the union has already mobilised all its members across board to prepare for a prolonged strike.
The NUC reportedly issued a circular directing the management of all universities to stop the funding of staff schools from their budgets. NUC in this regard classified them as private schools.
It also said that SSANU and other university-based unions were aware of the decision taken on the issue and should know where to direct their grievances, adding that their grouse should be directed to the Salaries and Wages Commission.
But Ugwoke alleged that NUC Executive Secretary, Prof. Julius Okojie, was not factual in his presentation of the issue of the staff schools which he said are demonstration schools.
He noted that with the position of the NUC and the offending circular, if President Buhari fails to stop the NUC, the strike would go on considering that all varsity workers have been mobilised on same.
“SSANU has a way of handling its matter, we have started from the branches, to the zones, the strategising and campaign is going on all over the country, calling the attention of government to one thing, that is to do the needful and what is right.
“This press conference may be the end, you will not hear from us until we take action. So, strike is imminent,” Ugwoke said.
He further explained: “I don’t understand anyone that says SSANU was there when the decision was taken. All we know about staff schools is the agreement of 2009.
“We negotiated the 2001 agreement and the issue of staff schools funding was there, we renegotiated same agreement in 2009 and in that agreement, we all agreed that status quo should remain. That government should continue to fund staff school both recurrent and capital expenditures. That is all we know.”
“At the Implementation Monitoring Committee (IMC), I have a document signed by Dr. B.O. Babalakin, the then Chairman of IMC, written to universities, pointing out that staff schools are part of 2009 agreement and should not be tampered with.
It is disturbing for an institution or an agency of government like NUC, with an man like Prof. Okojie as Executive Secretary to lie. At which forum did we remove staff schools from being funded by the government, let him point it out.
The only forum should be to call for a renegotiation and we have written letters to the federal government calling for renegotiation,” he added.
He stated that SSANU was not the only union in the struggle, adding that both the National Association of Academic Technology (NAAT) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and other Tertiary Institution (NASU) were in the struggle and had jointly written to government.
SSANU explained that over 2,000 teachers will lose their jobs if the federal government scrap the staff schools across the country. Ugwoke in this regard stated that the plan to scrap staff schools is a flagrant disregard of the 2009 agreement reached between the government and the union.
“These schools were established by statutes and the workers were duly employed by the universities councils. The NUC claimed that it was the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission that recommended the withdrawal of institutional funding for the schools.
“What role did NUC play in advising the National Salaries Incomes and Wages Commission against unilaterally recommending the breach of an item in an executed agreement which the NUC not only provided the platform for its negotiation that lasted three years but of which it’s executive secretary effectively and fully participated in, all through,” he said.
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