76 universities may shut down if …
Mr Dele Durojaye, the Chairman of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), doubles as Chairman of the Joint Action Committee of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, Chapter. He speaks on the warning strike by his union and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU, junior staff members of universities).
The leadership of the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU at a meeting on September 6, 2017 in Abuja.
What exactly are your grievances?
You will recall that we entered into negotiations and signed an agreement with the Federal Government in 2009 on a number of issues which include payment of earned allowances, funding of recurrent & capital expenditures of university Staff Primary Schools, adequate funding of universities and renegotiation of the agreement every three years.
Agitations started in 2011 when the Federal Government refused to honour any part of the agreement two years down the line, which resulted in warning strikes and, eventually, a full-blown strike in 2012. The strike led to the release of part of earned allowances and intervention funds for the universities in 2012.
However, the Federal Government went to sleep on the release of the balances.
While agitations by unions continued, the Federal Government infringed on part of the agreement reached in 2009 through an obnoxious circular issued by the Planning & Budget Office in 2015 that teachers in Staff Primary Schools be removed from the payroll of universities in the 2016 budget. This created insincerity on the part of the government on the implementation of the 2009 agreement including the clause which says the agreement would be renegotiated every three years, which translates to the agreement of 2009 being reviewed in 2012 and that of 2012 is reviewed in 2015 and the one of 2015 being reviewed in 2018.
The circular became an issue when some Vice-Chancellors started to sack Staff Schools’ teachers in January 2016, leading to protests from unions and a warning strike with an ultimatum to the Federal Government for a trade dispute.
The government approached the National Industrial Court for the interpretation of the aspect of the Staff School in the 2009 agreement. On December 5, 2016, the National Industrial Court gave judgment that Staff School teachers are bonafide employees of the government. The judgment was never appealed even if the government has refused to comply with the verdict till date.
So where are we now?
In January 2017 when SSANU went on strike, the Federal Government, through the Labour Minister, Dr Chris Ngige, and his counterpart in Education Ministry, Mallam Adamu Adamu, called for a meeting and it was resolved that government should, within two months, implement the MoU but the government failed to act. Our union wrote several letters to the government without response after the expiration of the two months, leading to a full-blown strike by the three university unions, SSANU, NASU & NAAT, in September and October 2017. The strike was suspended after another agreement was signed with the government to implement the MoU. The Federal Government, on November 2017, released N22billion to the four university-based unions out of which the Permanent Secretary of the Education Ministry was said to have given N18billion to ASUU and N4billion to the three other non-teaching staff, which led to the resumption of strike on December 4, 2017. The strike went on till March 2018 when it was suspended after well-meaning Nigerians intervened and we signed another MoU with the government to be implemented within two weeks.