Crisis facing the nation’s public universities took a turn for the worst as non-teaching staff unions of Nigerian public universities yesterday announced their decision to join the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in its indefinite strike by Monday, thereby grounding any form of activities at the universities.
The unions include the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
ASUU had embarked on indefinite strike two weeks ago to push for their demands and is billed to meet with the federal government negotiating team today.
But while expectations were getting high that the crisis would be resolved on the negotiation table today, the other three unions of universities across the country announced that they will also strike by embarking on their own indefinite strike on Monday.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, the chairman of the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the three unions, Comrade Samson Ugwoke, explained reasons for their decision.
Ugwoke who is also the President of SSANU said the nationwide 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.
He listed non-payment of earned allowances, lack of good governance, poor funding as against the UNESCO recommendation, inadequate infrastructure in universities, abandoned projects, irregular payment of salaries, implementation of CONTISS 14 and 15 for technologies and corruption in the university system as reasons for their decision to embark on the strike.
He also listed the terms that will make them reconsider their action to include registration of NUPEMCO (pension management scheme), showing more commitment and seriousness in the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/University unions agreements, ensuring the headship of non-teaching units are headed by non-teaching staff employed for the purpose of those units, among others.
Ugwoke said the issues have been lingering since 2009 after an agreement reached between the federal government and the university based unions.
He accused the government of reneging on the agreements reached with the union, while stressing that their patience was now at an end.
He said, “Members of the public would recall that the Non-teaching staff unions in the Nigerian university system had entered into agreement with the federal government in 2009 on a variety of issues affecting the system, and the welfare of their members. These agreements were feely entered into through the instrumentality of collective bargaining.
“Following the agreements, we had for eight years, patiently and understandingly awaited action from government to consummate the terms of the agreements. Unfortunately, government has not been responsive to these issues and where actions appear to have been taken on any of them, they have been implemented in breach.
“In between time, we had engaged in various consultations and dialogue with government on the issues at stake. Letters had been written, and protests had been made to no avail. Through various organs of government particularly the offices of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), ministry of education and ministry of labour and employment, we had made representations on our issues which have largely been ignored”.
The unions lamented that rather than heeding to their demands, matters have continued to worsen, with the universities deteriorating by the day.
Ugokwe continued: “The poor governance system in the universities which brought the universities to their knees has perpetrated itself to the point that our rankings amongst the comity of world-class universities are deplorable.
“If an agreement was signed in 2009 and now in 2017, we are still demanding for the implementation of such agreement, does it not show that we have been exceedingly patient?
“Our patience however seems to have run to an end, particularly when the federal government appears to be toeing the dangerous path of taking the non-teaching staff unions for granted”.