As SSANU fumes over 9 months non-payment of minimum wage arrears
By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The hope of academic activities kick-starting soon in the nation’s public universities appears threatened as the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT has issued a 14-day strike notice to the Federal Government over the disparity in sharing the N40 billion Earned Allowances that was recently released for the four university-based unions.
This is as the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU has expressed disappointment over the government’s refusal to honor its promise to pay the arrears of the new national minimum wage that was approved since April 2020.
Recall that the Federal Government had allocated 75 percent of the total N40 billion Earned Allowance to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, leaving 25 per cent for the other three unions to share.
The three unions to share the 25 per cent are NAAT, SSANU, and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU.
This development has drawn the ire of the unions and they have threatened to ensure that universities remain under lock and key till the government addresses the alleged imbalance in the sharing formula.
Apart from the disparity in the sharing formula of the N40 billion Earned Allowances, SSANU President, Comrade Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim has lamented that nine months after the new minimum wage was approved, his members and other staff of tertiary institutions were yet to collect arrears of the new wage.
NAAT on its part is also demanding that the government release 50 per cent of the N71 billion accrued allowance being owed its members from the 2009 Agreement reached between the government and the union.
Speaking to journalists in Abuja, weekend, the President of NAAT, Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma said that the association has written to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige to inform him of their planned industrial action.
According to him, “We have written to the government that NAAT as a body ought to have been given a specified percentage of the N40 billion. 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 (Memorandum of Understanding) we entered with the 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 (National Universities Commission) and the 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 the government on 30th December. And we have given the 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 off the 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 the government in its own wisdom has said ASUU should take N30 billion from the N40 billion released, it is not the business of my union. But we have also told the government that the arrears accruable to my union since 2009 to 2020, they have paid up to 2012, is N71 billion and we have demanded 50 per cent of that amount and we have also given the government an ultimatum of 14 days if the government fails to do that, we will call out our members on strike. Nobody has the monopoly of closing or opening of Universities by the strike. We have said that repeatedly.”
He explained that by now the 2009 Agreement ought to have been renegotiated, but lamented that the agreement has not been fully implemented.
He said “It was supposed to have been renegotiated after 3 years. But since 2009 it has not been renegotiated.”
The NAAT president explained that the Laboratories and studios in universities are in terrible condition as the government has abandoned technology
He said, “We demanded that the government should release N100 billion because if you go to all the universities, you will discover that the laboratories are dilapidated. We have asked the 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 the government should do an audit of the equipment that has been sent to Universities. Most are abandoned and are not in use.”
Speaking on the delay in payment of the arrears of the minimum wage, SSANU President, Mohammed Ibrahim said, “My members and by extension all other categories of staff in Nigerian tertiary institutions are disappointed and disenchanted by this singular act of government’s refusal to honor its promise to pay the arrears of the new national minimum wage that was approved by Government since April 2020.”
He said that the delay was causing hardship to members as a result of the economic situation in the country.