By Adesina Wahab

When university teachers went on strike from March to December last year and when non-teaching staff in the same sector also embarked on strike early this year, the issue of Earned Academic Allowance was prominent among their demands.

The teaching staff are under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, while the non-teaching staff operate under the auspices of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU; the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Allied Institutions, NASU, and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT.

Demand for the allowance has been a recurring decimal in the agitation by the unions, but how the money is shared is always a bone of contention.

The unions have been in the news lately over how to share N22.1 billion allowance promised them by the Federal Government. SSANU and NASU, which formed what is called the Joint Action Committee, JAC, are opposed to ASUU taking 75 per cent of the money and leaving the three other unions with 25 per cent.

A statement signed by Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, the National President of SSANU and Prince Peters Adeyemi, the National Secretary of NASU, read: “The attention of the leadership of the Joint Action Committee, JAC, of NASU and SSANU has been drawn to a document in circulation showing Federal Government’s approval disbursing the sum of N22.127bn to members of the four university-based unions namely: ASUU, NAAT, NASU and SSANU.

“Out of the total amount, ASUU was allocated 75 per cent, while the three other non-teaching unions were allocated only 25 per cent to share to their members.

“This is the third time this lopsided, skewed and unrealistic disbursement is being done to our members who are not only more in number but belonging to three different unions in the universities across Nigeria”.

Meanwhile, NAAT has insisted that the N22.1billion approved by the Federal Government as Earned Allowances should be disbursed fairly in line with the Memorandum of Understanding signed by all parties.

NAAT President, Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma, expressed disappointment in government over refusal to stick to the MOU dated February 4, 2021. Nwokoma said the 25 per cent allocated to the non-teaching staff unions should be clearly allocated to each union on the basis of signed FGN/ University-based unions 2009 agreement.

The situation has led to hot exchanges of words between ASUU and other unions, with ASUU accusing them of not being able to fight their own fight and waiting for ASUU to do all the agitation only to come and reap where they did not sow.

National President of ASUU, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said: “We don’t know why they won’t negotiate for their members.

“According to Trade Union Rules, a union cannot negotiate for members of another union. They just want to incubate eggs they did not lay.

“ASUU collects dues from members and it is our duty to defend such members and negotiate on their behalf. Let other unions go and do the same”.

On his part, Comrade Ibrahim of SSANU accused ASUU of behaving as if it can do everything all alone in the university system, and also accused the union of greed.

“We don’t need to attach ourselves to any other union to demand and get our dues and rights. In the first instance, we are all members of the university system.

“When the first tranche of allowance was paid, it was fairly shared and ASUU did not like that. 

“So, before the second payment was made, ASUU had gone to twist the arm of the government and from the government end, the sharing formula followed the funds.”

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The Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr Chris Ngige, had to come out to say he had no hands in how the fund is shared.

His defence came on the heels of allegations by the non-teaching staff unions that some government officials and agencies collaborated with ASUU to shortchange them. Specifically, the workers accused the National Universities Commission, NUC, of acting according to the dictates of ASUU.

The JAC accused the Deputy Executive Secretary of NUC of working in concert with ASUU to short-change them.

It based its allegation on a memo from the Deputy Executive Secretary, Academics, of the NUC, Mr Superman Rahman-Yusuf dated October 12, 2021, to the Executive Secretary.

The letter titled: Re-Request for the templates in payment of the Earned Academic Allowances, EAA, to the public universities, read in part: “Please find attached the proposed distribution of the allocated N22,127 billion to the federal universities based on weighted averages of appropriated salaries and wages.

“Also attached is the proposal from the ASUU, on the distribution of the aforementioned for Earned Allowances”.

The unions, after a three-day protest last week, are threatening to go on strike.

However, going by what the government did in the past when the non-teaching staff protested against such development, and it added more money to the share given the non-teaching staff, that could still be done to ward off another round of strike by them.

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