Total strike begins in Nigerian universities

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The crisis in Nigeria’s university system is about to get worse as all the non-teaching staff unions of Nigerian public universities have resolved to embark on an indefinite and total strike from 11 September.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) announced the strike on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja, the JAC chairman and president of SSANU, Samson Ugwoke, said the strike would be total and comprehensive.

“During the strike, there shall be no provision of services, no matter how skeletal. Concessions shall not be granted while all our members are to stay at home till further notice, unless as directed by JAC through their respective presidents,” he said.

Local chapters of the unions across the nation had been holding congresses lately on the federal government’s alleged refusal to renegotiate a 2009 agreement.

A letter jointly signed by the presidents of the three unions: Alhaji Sani Suleiman (NAAT), Comrade Chris Oni (NASU) and Samson Ugwoke (SSANU), dated 23 August, 2017, had requested the individual unions to hold their congresses to deliberate on the desirability of an industrial action and thereafter forward letters of mandate to their respective headquarters latest Tuesday 29 August, 2017.

The national executives of the unions met in Abuja to collate the ‘letters of mandate’ from the branches. An overwhelming majority voted in favour of a total and indefinite strike.

It would be recalled that a five-day warning strike by the three unions was suspended on 18 January, 2017 following an understanding reached with the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, who headed the federal government’s conciliation team.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the government and the unions before that strike was suspended. But more than seven months after, the unions said the federal government had not addressed any of the issues on the MoU.

NAAT, NASU and SSANU are protesting non-payment of earned allowances, lack of good governance in the system, poor funding, inadequate infrastructure and abandoned projects in the universities, as well as shortfall in payment of salaries.

Others are non-registration of the Nigerian University Pension Management Company (NUPEMCO) and lack of teaching and learning facilities in the universities.

Many of these demands are the same as those for which their Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) counterparts are currently on strike, but the unions are also protesting the non-implementation of CONTISS 14 and 15 for technologists and what they described as the usurpation of headship of non-teaching units by academic staff.

Most importantly, they also want the federal government to address endemic corruption in the university system, and are particularly irked by the government’s handling of the issue of the University Staff Schools on which the National Industrial Court (NIC) had ruled.

In its 23rd August letter to the unions’ branches, the JAC of the unions noted particularly that, instead of implementing the NIC judgement on the staff schools, the federal government issued a Call Circular on 5 May, 2017, signed by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, directing that the personnel and staff of the staff schools should not be included in the nominal rolls of the institutions and agencies.

© Nigerian Tribune

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