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• Non-academic staff flex muscles over N23b allowance sharing formula
By Gabriel Dike
Industrial actions have continued to stalk Nigerian universities. And the pandemic moves from one shape, name and coloration to the other. By the time the government blocks one resentment from one labour union, another breaks the dam wall and causes another leakage of cohesion.
In the system right now, three of the four staff unions have shut federal and state universities in protest of the sharing formula of the N23 billion released by the federal government to settle outstanding earned allowances.
Their decision to resume their suspended strikes was taken at a crucial meeting of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) made of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) held in Abuja last week.
Following the suspension of an indefinite strike by the academic and non-academic staff of the universities, the federal government released N23billion to 24 federal universities to pay the Earned Academic Allowance (EEA) for 2009/2010.
Before the directive to proceed on an indefinite strike, like a dress rehearsal, SSANU, NASU and NAAT members in about three universities last week Monday disrupted academic and administrative activities over the sharing formula adopted by the government in payment of the outstanding earned allowance.
In formula adopted by the federal government, the non academic staffs were allocated 11 per cent of the N23billion as against 89 per cent, for academic staff, in the 24 universities that benefitted.
In a joint letter singed by president of SSANU, Samson Ugwuoke, NAAT, Sani Suleiman and NASU, Chris Ani, urged members to resume the suspended strike as from midnight, Sunday, December 3.
JAC disclosed a protest letter was sent to the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu rejecting the allocation made by the office of the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance and based on that, government was given seven days to explain criteria for the sharing formula. The deadline for the protest letter elapsed without any response from the federal government thus the directive for members to resume the suspended strike.
On Monday, December 4, branch chairmen of the three unions mobilized their members for congress and at the end, the universities turned war zone as aggrieved members of SSANU, NAAT and NASU with placards and leaf protested the skewed allocation and shut the universities.
Led by their chairmen, the angry non-academic workers called Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and Minister of Labour and Productivity, Senator Ngige unprintable names while insisting the strike is not against any university management.
Some Vice Chancellors, Registrar, Bursar and other principal officers were denied their drivers, staff in the office and use of certain facilities operated by the striking workers.
The first port of call after the congress was the cash offices as staffs found were chased out, then at the senate building of the University of Lagos for instance, those working with VC and principal officers were sent out of their duty posts. The train moved to the library and this time staff and students were asked to leave.
To ensure the strike was effective, the protesting working moved to the works department and switched of electricity and water supply, crippling administrative and academic activities on campuses. The main gate was put under locked up while university security personnel were chased away.
The workers’ protest came at a time most pof the universities are screening and registering new students. Candidates offered admission for 2017/2018 academic session on the merit list that came for screening were chased out along their parents. The striking workers took over venues and disrupted the screening as they warned their colleagues and forced them to pack and leave the venues to avert major crisis.
Some universities in anticipation of the industrial action put on hold the screening of candidates but many from far were caught unprepared as they hurried out wondering what they had to do with sharing formula on the earned allowance.
At the University of Lagos, members of the three unions after a joint congress, staged protest on campus and rejected the allocation of N23, 220,335.15m out of N958,000,000m received by the institution.
Immediately after the joint congress, the union leaders and members marched on the library, Senate building, Bursary and service area to chase out members found in the office.
SSANU, NAAT and NASU UNILAG chairmen, Mr. Olugbenga Adenaya, Mr. Kehinde Ajibade and Suleiman Lawal respectively, marched their members to the main gate, staged protest and condemned the sharing formula adopted by the federal government.
Adenaya wondered why the federal government allocated just N22million out of N958million to the three non academic unions in UNILAG and vowed that the strike would continue until the government address skewed allocation.
He disclosed that the strike is not against the university management nor the academic staff but a fight against injustice and demanded for an explanation from government on how the N23billion sharing formula was skewed.
Two national officers of SSANU and NASU told The Education Report that the cash offices of universities were shut to prevent members from processing and paying EAA to academic staff.
The Public Relations Officer of SSANU, Mr. Abdussobur Salaam, told Education Report that reports from universities revealed that members complied with Joint Action Committee (JAC) directive.
Salaam debunked the insinuations that state universities are not part of the strike adding that members at Olabisi Onabajo University and Lagos State University. SSANU LASU chairman, Saheed Oseni confirmed members have down tool and the strike monitoring went round to chase out staff from offices.
Salaam confirmed there was a template that government demanded from the four unions and was supposed to abide by it but did not.
He added: “As far as the template is concerned, if N23 billion was allocated, no less than N10 billion would have gone to non-teaching, while N13 billion would have gone to academic staff. That’s an approximation based on the fact that the first tranche of N30 billion was paid in 2013. In that first tranche, ASUU got about N18 billion while non teaching got about N12 billion.
“ASUU cannot claim monopoly of any money negotiated in a system simply because they discussed or negotiated it. In 2009, SSANU and other unions fought for arrears of monetization allowances. ASUU did not bat an eyelid. However, when the money was paid, the non-teaching unions did not claim monopoly of the money.
“Similarly, in 2013, the first tranche of N30 billion was paid owing to the struggle by the unions. At the end of the day, ASUU got the bigger share of 60 per cent while the non-teaching unions got 40 per cent. In fact, in 2013, in most universities, they pleaded that ASUU members should be paid Hazard Allowance, which was not part of what was initially negotiated for ASUU.”