The dream of students in tertiary institutions to return to school may be stalled as university workers have threatened to embark on another strike action.
Workers under the aegis of National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have threatened issued 14-day ultimatum to the government threatening to ground activities on campuses to protest alleged disparity in the allocation of the N40 billion Earned Academic Allowance to be released by the Federal Government.
The union on Sunday gave the government 14 day strike notice to address concerns raised in the sharing formula adopted for the earned allowances or risk another round of industrial action in public universities.
NAAT and two other university – based unions – the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) are protesting the alleged allocation of 75 percent to the Academic Staff Union of Universities and 25 per cent to them from the N40bn allowance.
But Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige said he was yet to receive official communication from the union about the planned strike by NAAT members.
The minister, who spoke with The Nation on Sunday, directed the leaderships of NAAT; SSANU and NASU to the National Universities Commission and the Federal Ministry of Education on the allocation of the N40bn allowance.
He said: “I have not see their notice of strike. When we see it we will call the attention of their employers which is the Federal Ministry of Education and the National Universities Commission.
“But before then they should go to the NUC and Federal Ministry of Education and find out the exact position of the N40bn they are talking about. It is the NUC and FMoE that will determine what each union will get on the N40bn because they also have the template as submitted by the various universities for those earned allowances.”
The university workers are protesting the disparity in sharing of the N40 billion earned allowance released to the four university based unions.
They are also demanding that the government release 50 per cent of the N71 billion accrued allowance being owed members of the union from the 2009 agreement reached between government and the union.
President of SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim expressed displeasure over government’s failure to honour agreements.
He said: “My members and by extension all other category of staff in Nigerian Tertiary institutions are disappointed and disenchanted by this singular act of government’s refusal to honor it’s promise to pay the arrears of the New National Minimum Wage that was approved by the government since April, 2020.”
NAAT president, comrade Ibeji Nwokoma told journalists in Abuja that the union has written to the minister of Labour and Employment informing him of their planned industrial action.
He said: “We have written to government that NAAT as a body ought to have been given a specified percentage of the N40bn. You must define it. You can’t just say ASUU 75 percent and others 25 per cent. Let us know the specific percentage you are giving to NAAT as a union.
“In the MoU we entered with government on November 18, in item number 2b, we demanded that in sharing of the N40bn released; that government should clearly define what is going to be allocated to each Union and government agreed to the genuineness of our demands and said NUC and Federal Ministry of Education will work it out in conjunction with the union. And what they have done negates completely the spirit of that MoU.
“We have given government ultimatum of 14 days. We wrote to government 30th December. And we have given government 14 working days and if at the end of the 14 working days our demands are not met, we resume our suspended strike. Definitely we will close down the schools, definitely there will be no opening of schools. If anybody thinks that ASUU has called of strike and that schools will reopen, then let the person dare us. Let us know how effective or how possible it is for schools to reopen when Technologists are on strike.
“If government in its own wisdom has said ASUU should take N30 billion from the N40 billionreleased, it is not the business of my union. But we have also told government that the arrears accruable to my union since 2009 to 2020, they have paid up to 2012, is N71bn and we have demanded for 50 percent of that amount and we have also given government ultimatum of 14 days if government fails to do that, we will call out our members on strike. Nobody has monopoly of closing or opening of Universities by strike. We have said that repeatedly.”
He explained that by now, the 2009 ought to have been renegotiated, but lamented that the agreement has not been fully implemented by the government.
According to Nwokoma, “It was supposed to have been renegotiated after 3 years. But since 2009 it has not been renegotiated.”
The NAAT president noted that the laboratories and studios in universities are in terrible condition as government had abandoned technology
He said: “We demanded that government should release N100 billion because if you go to all the universities, you will discover that the laboratories are dilapidated. We have asked government to release N100bn to bring the laboratories to international standard and then release another N20bn every year for the next 5 years to enable the Laboratories to be revamped.
“We have also asked that government should do an audit of the equipment that have been sent to Universities. Most are abandoned and are not in use.”