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Non Academic staff to shut down universities indefinitely

by Business News Report

Non-teaching staff in the nation’s public universities may soon shut down the institutions over the inability of the government to accede to their demands that led to the seven-day warning strike which they started last Monday. The non-academic staff gave the warning during a virtual meeting organised with their leaders on Sunday evening by the Education Writers’ Association of Nigeria, EWAN. The unions are the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, SSANU, the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and Allied Institutions, NASU. The unions said services such as electricity, water supply, mobilisation of students for the National Youth Service Corps NYSC, Scheme, even provision of health services in university clinics among others would be disrupted. At the meeting were the National President of SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, the NAAT National President, Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma as well as some stakeholders in the sector. 

The threat by the unions is a follow up to the warning strike which ended midnight Sunday.  Nwokoma, who expressed disgust with the manner the government has been handling the issue, added that some people were bent on fomenting crisis in the university system. “Our members went on strike in March 2022 and it was over the refusal of the government to fulfill the 2009 Agreement we had with the government. The agreement was to be renegotiated every three years but that was not done. Over 15 years now, what we have been having is taking a step forward and taking two backwards. Government keeps tossing us from one committee to another.  They are owing us five and a half months from that strike action, but they paid teaching staff four months withheld salaries and forgot others. The same attitude is what obtains when you have Earned Allowance to be paid. Some people would just arrogate to themselves the power to take whatever they like from the money and leave the crumbs for others. “Those who set up the university system knew the importance of all workers, whether teaching or non-teaching, if not, a single person would have been saddled with responsibility of being the teacher, driver, technologist, accountant and so on, ” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, Comrade Ibrahim of SSANU, wondered why non-teaching staff are seen as not important in the system. ” We were at a meeting late last year after the pronouncement by President Bola Tinubu that four months salaries would be paid and the Minister of Education was there and he gave the assurance that all would benefit, now the reverse is the case. We are not a strike happy union but we are being pushed to the wall. Between 2022 and now, we have lost over 100 members due to their inability to take care of themselves because of lack of fund. When they paid the teaching staff four months salaries, we wrote a protest letter to the government and the receipt of it was acknowledged, but could you believe it that this is the fifth week, we have not heard anything from the government, ” he said. On what the unions would do after the suspension of the warning strike and the government not doing the needful, Ibrahim said the necessary organs would meet and the decision would be made public as soon as possible.

“We have our own organs and the government have theirs. So, if our organs call for total and indefinite strike, which is one of the tools we use, the system would be shut down totally. Non-teaching staff are the ones in charge of power and water supply. They man security posts, if they all abandon such duties, let us see what would happen.” Asked what would be the solution to the challenges facing tertiary institutions in the country, Ibrahim said government should just adequately fund the sector. When education is funded adequately, the government would spend less on security, health and many vices would be reduced, ” he opined.  The Chairman of EWAN, Mr Mojeed Alabi, said the association would always bring topical issues to the attention of the public and would not shy away from discharging its duties. He, however, expressed sadness that the Minister of Education or his representative was not part of the meeting. Recall that Tinubu last October directed that four months salaries be paid to university workers who went on strike in 2022.  Academic staff were on strike for eight months, while non-academic went for between five and a half months to six months and their salaries stopped by the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

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