Another major setback looms in the nation’s education sector as the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) threaten a total and indefinite strike.
The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NASU and SSANU announced this in a communique on Wednesday, amid the ongoing warning strike by the unions.
They explained that the decision has become necessary following the government’s failure to address the issues that led to the warning strike.
“We had written no less than 10 letters or reminders to the government to no avail, not even an acknowledgement,” the communique read. “It was at the end of all these reminders with no acknowledgement by the government that we were left with no other resort but to embark on a two-week warning strike.
“Prior to the strike, due process was duly followed, and the notices were issued in line with the extant laws. Shamefully and painfully, there was no attempt by the Government to intercept or even invite the Unions to a meeting.
“This aloof and contemptuous attitude of Government further incensed our members who resolved that following the failure of Government to even invite the leaderships for a meeting, the strike should be extended by another two weeks before an indefinite and total strike is declared.
“As of today, the two weeks extension is getting to the middle and with no response insight from the government, we may be left with no resort but to embark on an indefinite and total strike. This is gradually becoming unavoidable and inevitable.”
Some of the issues that led to the industrial action, according to the unions, include problems of inconsistencies in payment with the Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system (IPPIS), non-payment of earned allowances, and non-payment of arrears of national minimum wage and consequential adjustment, among others.
NASU and SSANU faulted the government for failing to implement an agreement it freely entered into with the unions.
They also called on Nigerians and stakeholders in the university system to prevail on the government to honour the agreement to avoid a ‘total breakdown of industrial harmony in the universities and inter-university centres.
Read the full text of the communique below:
JOINT ACTION COMMITTEE OF NASU AND SSANU PRESS CONFERENCE HELD ON WEDNESDAY, 13TH APRIL, 2022 AT BOLTON WHITE HOTEL, ABUJA
Our friends from the Press, this meeting has been called to acquaint you with matters leading to and arising from the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
This strike, like others before it, was borne out of the insensitivity and non-responsive nature of the Government and its officials to matters affecting the members of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and by extension, the entire University System.
You will recall that the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU had embarked on an industrial action that started on Friday, February 5th, 2021, and culminated in a Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed on Thursday, February 20th, 2021. Prior to this, we had embarked on a fourteen-day warning strike which culminated in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on Tuesday, 20th October 2020.
It is pertinent to note that the issues that led to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) of October 2020 and the Memorandum of Action (MoA) of February 2021 are the same issues that have led to this strike action of March 2022. It needs to be said that these same issues had led to previous Collective Bargaining Agreements with the Government in 2017, and 2018 before the agreements reached in 2020 and 2021.
Going by this, therefore, it is easy to conclude that the recurring cause of industrial unrest in our Universities and Inter-University Centres, especially between the JAC of NASU and SSANU and the Federal Government, has been the total disrespect and contemptuous disregard for Collective Bargaining Agreements by the Government.
What are the issues that have led to these strike actions?
The problem of inconsistencies in Payment with IPPIS;
Non-Payment of Earned Allowances;
Non-Payment of Arrears of National Minimum Wage and its Consequential Adjustment;
Poor Funding of State Universities;
Delay in Renegotiation of the 2009 Agreements;
Non-RELEASE of White Papers of Visitation Panels;
Usurpation of Headship of Non-Teaching Units in clear violation of Conditions of Service and Establishment Procedures; and
Non-Payment of Retirement Benefits to Outgone Members.
The Problem Of Inconsistencies In Payment With IPPIS
As had been expressed previously, while other stakeholders had from ab-initio rejected the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, the Joint Action Committee had embraced the payment platform with the belief that it would stem the tide of corruption in the University system and with the understanding that the peculiarities of the University system would be taken into consideration in its operations.
Alas, having permitted our members to enrol into the platform, what we witnessed was the most haphazard and disorganised pattern of salary application as our members began to receive salaries haphazardly, salaries of clerks paid to Professors and vice-versa, unpredictable salaries, non-issuance of payment advice or payslips, unsubscribed deductions to unknown organizations, non-remittance of payments to third parties especially Cooperative Societies and Unions, etc. The anomalies exposed a new underbelly of centralised corruption in the IPPIS office as against the decentralised corruption perpetrated by some University and Inter-University Centre Managements, which we had fought hard against.
In view of the pains experienced from IPPIS, we had engaged the Government and at the October 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), agreed that a five-man Committee would carefully address all the concerns raised by the Unions on IPPIS. This did not happen and the Memorandum of Action (MoA) of February 2021 resolved that the committee must hand in its report within one month i.e. March 2021. To date, one year after, we await the outcome of the work of the 5-man committee.
It should be noted that the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) raised a challenge for the Joint Action Committee to come up with an alternative platform which we christened University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System (U3PS).
This U3PS accommodates all the peculiarities of the university system and is a multi-tenant system that includes employees’ salaries, bonuses, deductions, generation of pay advice and financial reports using accounting best practices. The U3PS is the solution to the problems encountered through IPPIS.
We have since communicated our desire to present the Payroll System to the Federal Government but to date, after two years of notifying the Government of the existence of the payment platform, we have not been invited for a presentation talk less of accrediting it with the relevant Government agencies.
Non-Payment of Earned Allowances
The Earned Allowances are products of the FGN/NASU and SSANU 2009 Agreements. Following our industrial action of October 2020 and the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) therefrom, the Government had accepted to pay a sum of N30 Billion Naira being part of the outstanding sum owed for Earned Allowances.
While the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had stated that the criteria for disbursement would be according to the computation from each University and Inter-University Centre in line with what is outstanding for each staff, sadly, when the said sum was released, it was evident that rather than adopt the submissions of Universities and Inter-University Centres, the Federal Ministry of Education in releasing N22 billion adopted a lopsided sharing formula of 75% for ASUU and 25% for other Unions.
Prior to the N22 Billion released late last year, previous disbursements had witnessed the same lopsided sharing formula without recourse to submissions from Universities and Inter-University Centres.
As responsible Unions, we have always demanded a forensic audit of all disbursements because we are convinced that the manner of disbursements and allocations are tainted with many irregularities which must be corrected going forward because the backlogs being owed our members continue to pile up. It is for this reason that we demand and insist that the N30 Billion originally agreed upon to be paid as part of what is being owed us, be released as a precondition for suspending the strike.
Non-Payment of Arrears of National Minimum Wage and Its Consequential Adjustment
It would shock Nigerians to hear that four years after the National Minimum Wage was signed into law, the arrears of the payment is being owed to workers in the University system. This has been a thorny issue that the 2020 Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) and 2021 Memorandum of Action (MoA) addressed.
Specifically, the 2021 Memorandum of Action (MoA) stated that the amount being owed to Tertiary Institutions including Inter-University Centres was N18,629,473,989.39 (N18.6 Billion) which would be captured in the 2021 supplementary Budget.
It was also agreed that the money would be processed for payment within a three months time frame. Three months from March 2021 would have been June 2021 and the money was not paid. We have had four three months since March 2021 and all efforts including follow-ups at the Budget Office and other relevant offices have yielded no results.
Poor Funding of State Universities
We have continually made a case for the strengthening of the supervisory roles of the National Universities Commission to sanction or even deny accreditation to proprietors of Universities who are not meeting up to the personnel obligations of paying their staff, most especially State Governments.
As of today, many of our members in State Universities are being owed salaries running into arrears of months because of insufficient or zero subventions by State Governors. We had addressed our concerns on this issue in the 2021 Memorandum of Action (MoA) but to date, no action was taken on this. Our request for a meeting with the governors’ forum on this matter has also not attracted any positive response.
Delay in Renegotiation of the 2009 Agreements
We must admit that perhaps out of all the issues raised in the two Memoranda under reference, only the issue of renegotiations of the 2009 Agreements of NASU and SSANU is under processing.
These are however too early to conclude because meetings of the renegotiation team chaired by eminent Professor Nimi Briggs have only started. We however hope that tangible results are gotten from the engagements and discussions are not stalled as was the case in the past.
Non-Release of White Papers of Visitation Panels and Constitution of Governing Councils
The health of our University system is predicated on the assignment of Visitation Panels to the Universities and Inter-University Centres. One year after the Visitation Panels completed their assignments and reports submitted, and despite our continued agitations for release of White Papers, nothing has been done.
We wish to further add that while the Federal Government had constituted Governing Councils for a number of Universities, Universities of Agriculture have been without Governing Councils for upward of a year now leading to dislocations in the Governance of those specialised Universities.
Usurpation of Headship of Non-Teaching Units in clear violation of Conditions of Service and Establishment Procedures
Usurpation of Non-Teaching staff positions by academic staff has been an issue that we are very passionate about because of its truncation of the careers of our members. This was assured to be addressed in the 2021 Memorandum of Action (MoA) but to date, nothing has been done.
Non-Payment of Retirement Benefits of Outgone Members
Concerted effort has not been put in the payment of retirement and death benefits to our retired and outgone members and the hardship caused by inexplicable delays in payment of retirement and death benefits to retired and departed staff is excruciating.
These anomalies were pointed out to the Government and in the signed Memorandum of Action (MoA) of February 2021, it was agreed that within three months-timeline, efforts will be made to correct the anomalies. To date, nothing concrete has been done on the matter.
The above issues among others represent the core of our disagreement with the Government. Arising from the last memorandum and following up on the issues, we had written no less than ten letters or reminders to the Government to no avail, not even an acknowledgement.
The letters of reminder included those dated 26th July 2021; 18th August 2021; 25th October 2021; 22nd November 2021; 24th February 2022; 1st March 2022 and 16th March 2022.
It was at the end of all these reminders with no acknowledgement by the Government that we were left with no other resort but to embark on a two-week warning strike. Prior to the strike, due process was duly followed, and the notice were issued in line with the extant laws.
Shamefully and painfully, there was no attempt by the Government to intercept or even invite the Unions to a meeting. This aloof and contemptuous attitude of the Government further incensed our members who resolved that following the failure of the Government to even invite the leadership for a meeting, the strike should be extended by another two weeks before an indefinite and total strike is declared.
As of today, the two weeks extension is getting to the middle and with no response in sight from Government, we may be left with no resort but to embark on an indefinite and total strike. This is gradually becoming unavoidable and inevitable.
To say we are saddened by the developments is putting it mildly; it is unbelievable that a Government cannot live up to its honour by implementing an agreement it freely entered into. It is a sorry path that we had avoided but being left with no choice, we have brought our agitation to you with a view to presenting them to the world.
We call on well-meaning Nigerians and stakeholders in the University System to prevail on Government to honour the agreement it freely entered into with the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU in order to avoid a total breakdown of industrial harmony in the Nigeria Universities and Inter-University Centres.