By Dayo Adesulu
PRESIDENT of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, Comrade Samson Ugwoke has warned vice chancellors, Nigeria Police Force, NPF, and the DSS to desist from harassing their members, adding that no amount of intimidation would take them back to their duty posts unless their earned allowances are paid.
Rising from an emergency meeting in Abuja, Tuesday, the unions have also directed their members to shut down water system and electricity on campuses, stressing that any attempt of the universities’ authorities to hire labour to do their job would be resisted.
Moreover, the unions also lambasted ASUU for not following due process in the sharing of the N23 billion released by the Federal Government.
Speaking exclusively with Vanguard, Ugwoke said that of the N23 billion earned allowances, ASUU took N19 billion and gave N4 billion to the non-academic staff.
No light and water in the universities
He said: “The sister union, ASUU, hijacked the committee, converted and shared the money among their members. Our concern is that as universities, we must live to do things correctly. The sharing of the money did not follow laid down procedures.
“The money in question was part of our salary which are supposed to be paid by the bursary department. It is not the union that would decide who should be given and who should not be given. Universities of Ilorin and Nsukka that have issues with ASUU were left out of the disbursement.
“Meanwhile, their lecturers worked between 2009 and 2012 and they are supposed to get the earned allowances. The money was given to ASUU and it decided not to pay these institutions that have issues with them. Government is for all and all that work must earn the allowances.
“As we leave the meeting here in Abuja, we will ensure that we bring in new strategy. We pity the vice chancellors who want to break the strike. We will ensure that there will be no light and water in the universities as our members will shut down water and light.
“Our directives to our members is that all services will be withdrawn without concession whatsoever. The vice chancellors are already taking sides to coerce our members to go back to work.
“ASUU was on strike for six months, our members never raised an eyebrow. We are just on strike for one month and some vice chancellors are using the Police and DSS to intimidate our members. We have written letters to DSS and the Inspector-General of Police to warn their members to keep off our universities. Our members are not destructive, our members are not disturbing the peace and nobody should do our services.
No vice chancellor should hire anybody to do our job for us, our members will resist it. When ASUU was on strike, our members who have Ph.D and Master’s did not go to the classroom to teach. Everybody has his specific responsibility and assignment in the university. The strike continues and will go on across the nation.”
On his part, LASU-NAAT chairman, Dr. Isiaka Olabadamosi, also reiterated the stand of the union, adding that the strike continues until their earned allowances are paid.
According to him, in the last agreement they had with the Federal Government, all the 12 pressing issues were discussed. He, however, noted that the crucial aspect of it was the release of the N23 billion by the Federal Government for the earned allowances.
Olabadamosi said, “Earned allowances of N23 billion was shared among all universities and about N19 billion went to ASUU alone, leaving members of other unions with just N4 billion. So, that disparity in the payment of allowances is a big problem. It was like ASUU alone is the owner of the university.
Disparity in the payment of allowances
“Non-teaching staff are classified as support staff. But, let me ask you this question: if you are operating a systematic firm where we have sub systems, these sub systems have to cooperatively work together to ensure that objectives are adequately achieved, the moment you make a sub system unhappy, that sub system will disrupt the whole system and nothing will work.”
Talking on the way forward, he said if the government wants to be very pragmatic, they should call or arrange for a meeting that will discuss pragmatic issues in a pragmatic way, “otherwise, this question of divide and rule may not work anywhere.”
Meanwhile, since the commencement of the strike a month ago, the non-academic staff unions have ensured total compliance by its members. Nevertheless, carrying this mandate was not without resistance by some vice chancellors.
Last week at the University of Ibadan, it was disclosed that the vice chancellor wrote a petition to the Police commissioner that the non- teaching staff who are on strike threatened his life. The fallout led to the police detaining a member of the union and three chairmen who were released the next day.
The same scenario also played out at the University of Lagos. The serious protest by non-teaching staff disrupted the on-going registration of students. According to reports, the unions were opposed to the resumption of students who were supposed to have resumed on Monday.
Members of the unions were dissatisfied when the vice chancellor told them that it was purely an academic affair.
It was alleged that after they left the meeting, they got text messages and calls inviting them to Sabo, which they declined. Our source also added that another call came from the Commissioner of Police in Lagos inviting them and they also didn’t honour the invitation.
They insisted that if the Police commissioner wants them, he should write official letter to them and they will go with their lawyers this week.
ASUU president, Prof. Biodun Ogunyemi, was called severally for his reaction but he declined to pick the calls