The tertiary education system in Nigeria is about to be threatened again with a massive industrial action by pressure groups.
Non-teaching staff of Nigerian universities, under the umbrella of SSANU, NASU and NAAT, on Thursday warned that they may be resuming their strike eight weeks after the industrial action was suspended.
The workers, who are angry over the failure of government to implement the agreement it reached with them during the strike, pleaded with Nigerians to prevail on the federal government to implement the agreement so as to avert the resumption of the suspended strike.
In a statement issued on Thursday and signed by the national chairman of the Joint Action Committee, JAC, of the three unions, Samson Ugwuoke, and the spokesperson of SSANU, Abdussobur Salaam, the non-teaching staffers warned that Nigerians should not blame them if they resume the nationwide industrial action.
They decried the reluctance of the federal government to implement the Memorandum of Understanding seven weeks after it was signed by the two parties.
The non-teaching staffers said they were unhappy with the rate at which government was giving approvals for the establishment of new universities, stressing that resources should be concentrated on raising standard of existing ones.
According to the statement, SSANU at its 33rd Regular Meeting on May 10 and May 11 at Bayero University Kano, deliberated extensively on critical issues affecting the union, the educational sector, university sub-sector, and the nation as a whole.
The unions, as represented by JAC, expressed disappointment that government had not implemented some aspects of the 2009 Agreement and other MoUs it entered into with university-based non-teaching staff unions, insisting that the situation was an invitation to anarchy.
They also condemned the continued disobedience of government to the National Industrial Court judgment of December 5, 2016 on university staff schools.
“NEC notes that this development is unbecoming of a democratic government supposedly run under the rule of law. It has become the penchant of Government to choose which court judgments to obey and which to disregard. In cases where an attempt is made to obey court judgments, implementation is done selectively and at whim,” the union said in the statement.
While decrying the rate of approvals for establishments of universities by the government, the union said establishment of universities has “almost become like constituency projects, as almost every senator seems to be sponsoring a bill for the establishment or upgrade of an institution to a university in his or her constituency.”
The union urged the federal government to improve the funding and infrastructures of existing universities so as to increase their carrying capacities, noting that though the universities on ground may have challenges meeting up with the increasing admission needs of the country, “the solution is not the proliferation of universities.”
The union said the two owner states of LAUTECH (Oyo and Osun) are yet to reinstate the monthly personnel allocations to the Ogbomoso-based institution.
“This development has caused workers of the university to be owed upward of eleven months in arrears of salaries. We urged the governors of the two states to take a step further in the resolution of the crises in LAUTECH by promptly reinstating the monthly personnel emoluments of the university,” the statement said.
The union also urged the governing council of Niger Delta University (NDU) to reinstate the disengaged staff or face industrial action from SSANU and review its unpopular policy of disengaging the workforce.
It said it is important for university councils and managements to be creative in generating funds and innovate means to connect with industry.
The union also called for monitoring of the general payment of fees in universities across the country so as to ensure that students are not exploited by all manners of fees.
“We support the directive barring federal universities from charging tuition fees. Government may have directed the stoppage of tuition fees, university managements may spread the costs of the stopped tuition fees on other ancillary fees such as Acceptance Fees, Caution Fees, Medical Fees, among others,” the statement read.