• NLC urges FG to pay withheld salaries


From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja, Lai Olarenwaju, Ilorin with agency reports



 Academic activities were paralysed in university campuses across the country, yesterday, following the seven-day warning strike embarked on by the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU).

The two unions began a nationwide strike over what they described as unfair treatment and disparity in the payment of withheld salaries by the Federal Government.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NASU and SSANU had issued a circular to its members to proceed on a seven-day warning strike over non-payment of the salaries as approved by President Bola Tinubu. The four months withheld salaries arose from the nationwide strike embarked upon by all unions in the public universities in the country.

The unions had embarked on an eight-month strike in 2022 to press home some of their demands, including a better welfare package. The administration of then president, Muhammadu Buhari, subsequently invoked a ‘No Work, No Pay policy’ against the unions, but Tinubu, last October, approved the release of four of the eight months withheld salaries for ASUU members.

The SSANU leader, Mohammed Ibrahim, had berated the Federal Government for paying withheld salaries to ASUU, while neglecting other unions like SSANU and NASU. He said his members including vice-chancellors, registrars, and bursars have not been paid the 2022 arrears.

“Shutting down the university is clearly beyond how it will affect the students because it’s everybody; there will be no electricity, there will be no water, there will be no security, there will be no hostels for students, and there will be no administration. Definitely, it (the strike) has already started.

“As of yesterday (Monday), all our workers in registry, bursary, works and maintenance, security, and students’ affairs have withdrawn their services, and nothing moves within the administration of any public university in Nigeria, and that will be the case for the next seven days until and unless the needful is done,” SSANU president declared.

Correspondents who monitored the situation confirmed that the strike affected some ongoing examinations in some campuses.

At the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, (UNN), and the Enugu campus students who were writing examinations earlier were allowed to finish, while those who started their afternoon papers were chased out of the classrooms and stopped from writing their exams.

The striking members also closed many offices, including Students Affairs and others.

Some of the students lamented the negative effects of the strike in their studies.

Miss Ijeoma Edeh, a 400 level student of the Faculty of Environmental Studies, said the strike, if allowed to go on, would  affect her seriously.

Another 400 level student of the Faculty of Architecture, Favour Obichili, appealed to the Federal Government to resolve their grievances and meet their demands.

Addressing members during an emergency congress in the UNN, Dr. Linus Akata, chairman of SSANU-UNN, flanked by Ekene Amu, said the emergency congress was to tell their members about the warning strike declared by JAC.

Akata said that the strike would be total and comprehensive in UNN, in total adherence and compliance to the directive of the national leadership.

He said all the administrative offices and essential service sections of the university were already under lock and key.

The leader warned that the unions would deal decisively with any member found defaulting or sabotaging the seven-day warning strike.

“Members are directed to go home immediately after this congress and stay away from work until the seven-day warning strike ends, as any defaulting member will be decisively dealt with.

“This warning strike is total and comprehensive, as the administrative block of UNN, offices, works department, University Medical Centre, and University Primary School among others have been shut down till the end of the strike.

“There will be no water and electricity supply from the university hostels. Also, internet facilities from the university have been shut down for the period, as we have directed our members working in these places to go home,” he said.

Akata said the unions had no apology over the  strike as their national leadership had done everything necessary to avert it by appealing to the government to do the needful.

“SSANU and NASU have written so many letters to the government, held several press conferences, led delegations to the government officials in a bid to resolve the issue, but all to no avail.

“So, at the end of this warning strike, if the government does not meet our demands, we will also take a directive from our national body on the next line of action,” he said.

Akata urged members to go home and relax until the end of the strike. He also urged them to report any threat or query for not coming to work from the management, head of department or faculty, to the union.

Activities were also paralysed at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Osun State, and the Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA), Ondo State.

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The institutions’ branches of SSANU and NASU in compliance with the directive of its national bodies locked the main gates preventing entry and exit of vehicles on the campuses.

The bodies had declared a nationwide warning strike to protest the Federal Government’s failure to pay arrears of four month salaries owed member of the unions in 2022

Our reporters, who monitored the strike in Ile-Ife and Akure, reported that lecture halls and offices were also locked, hindering academic activities by lecturers, who had earlier been paid their arrears.

In separate interviews, the Chairmen of SSANU in the institutions, Messrs Taiwo Arobadi and Felix Adubi, respectively, said that the unions’ action was in compliance with the directive of its national bodies.

The chairmen said that all their members in registry, bursary, works, maintenance, security and student affairs have withdrawn their services.

At the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State, theatres, lecture halls, libraries and laboratories, were under lock and key at Samaru and Kongo Campuses of the university.

Power supply and internet services had been off as many slated computer-based tests were cancelled.

Mr Mohammed Yunusa, chairman of SSANU, ABU chapter, said the union complied with the industrial action in the university.

He said workers at the Works, Registry, Student Affairs and Bursary Departments had down-tooled, adding that it achieved 90 percent compliance.

The chairman said members of the union would hold a peaceful protest and a press conference today.

The strike also paralysed academic activities at the Modibbo Adama University (MAU), Yola, Adamawa State.

Chairman of the union, Mr. Michael Omokoro, said the action was to press home their demands, including payment of four months withheld salaries, among others.

He said the shutdown would affect water supply, electricity, internet and all other services rendered by members of the association.

“Basically, it is about our four months withheld salaries, the 35 percent wage increment, the N35,000 palliative that stopped in January, and the reconstitution of Governing Councils, among others. During the seven days, there will be no light, no water supply, no clinic, no ICT and all other services because we have withdrawn our members,” Omokoro said.

At the Federal University of Lafia (FULafia), Nasarawa State, members of the union were seen with placards with inscriptions such as “Pay Us Our Salaries Now”, “We Are Not Slaves” in front of the main gate of the university to press home their demands.

SSANU branch Chairman, Daniel Dajen, said members would not return to work until they got alert of their four months’ salary arrears from 2022.

Also, chairman, Non-Teaching Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, OAU branch, Wole Odewumi, said the workers complied with the national directive on the strike.

“No union is superior to another, and since the Federal Government has paid ASUU, other unions should be paid as well,” Odewumi said.

The University of Ilorin (UNILORIN) also witnessed full compliance. It was gathered that members of the two unions first reported for duty and held a congress at the gate of the institution before departing for their homes. The chairman of NASU, Zuberu Ibrahim, said the strike was a success as members of the two unions complied totally with the directive of the national body.

But the Director of Corporate Affairs, Mr Kunle Akogun, said the strike did not affect ongoing examinations.

The management made a special arrangement so that the ongoing examination would continue, Akogun said.

“The compliance of our members to the strike is total. We held a congress at the gate of the university early yesterday before members dispersed to their respective homes, and this will continue in the next seven days”, Zuberu said.

Similarly, FUTA was deserted as there was no academic activity.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called for the immediate payment of the withheld salaries of NASU and SSANU.

Mr Joe Ajaero, NLC president, urged the Federal Government to pay the four months outstanding salaries to avoid drift in the academic sector.

In a statement issued in Abuja, Ajaero said at a time confidence was being restored to the public universities, the worst thing the government could do is to engineer another strike.

Ajaero said: “There has been no credible reason or explanation for withholding those salaries in the first place. We recall this singular act plunged the members into indescribable hardship.

“Much worse, it defies logic to try to subject members of these unions to discriminatory treatment. By so doing government is clearly courting avoidable industrial disputes.”

He stressed that the effects of the strike on the parties would be unacceptably high, especially for students and parents.

He, therefore, urged the government to expeditiously pay up the outstanding salaries

“We advise the government not to take for granted the maturity of these unions,” he said.