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March 25, 2024

Withheld salaries: SSANU ends warning strike, to review situation

Withheld salaries: SSANU ends warning strike, to review situation

The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has announced the end of its seven-day warning strike to give more room for government to do the needful.

The president of the association, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, made the declaration at a virtual stakeholders forum, organised by the Education Writers Association of Nigeria (EWAN) on Sunday in Lagos.

The forum, which also had Mr Ibeji Nwokoma, President of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational And Associated Institutions (NASU), in attendance, was on “Withheld Salaries vs Labour Crisis.”

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of affected university labour unions had, on March 18, directed members to down tools, following their four-month withheld salaries and the non-implementation of the agreement they entered into with the Federal Government in 2009.

“We had a meeting with representatives of the Federal Government in Abuja on Wednesday, and nothing tangible came out concerning the issue.

“Yes, they acknowledged the fact that we were on strike and that the action had paralysed activities on campuses of federal universities.

“So, the meeting was nothing but an appeal to suspend the strike while they do something as soon as possible.

“Now, just imagine a situation where there is no water, no light, no mobilisation of graduates for NYSC, which are all responsibilities of our members in universities.

“The strike will end by midnight. We’ll go back to our various branches to review the outcome of the warning strike, as well as the recent meeting with the federal government, and from there agree on the next line of action.

“We have given a window to do the needful, and failure to meet their own side of the bargain will be met with drastic action, “ he warned.

He noted that it was no longer news that government would make promises only to renege on it, citing the 2009 renegotiation agreement as an instance.

“We have the right to go on strike once we follow the due process. It could be a warning strike, just like the one that is ending this night (Sunday).

“No one can stifle us, or stop us from voicing out our pains.

“We could picket our working places. We could also report to work without working, and so forth.

“All are lawful in the labour law. So, nobody can take them away from us.

“We are not asking for anything outside our rights. We cannot continue this way, because after all, we too are humans, we are also parents, with bills to pay and mouths to feed,” he said.

The union leader blamed the present state of things on the government’s attitude towards the education sector.

He said that members of unions were using strike as a last resort to drive home their demands, considering the impact it normally had on the students.

“It is not that the university workers, including SSANU, like to go on strike; it is the government that always pushes us to apply that sanction. It is unfortunate for the government to take serious matters with levity.

“Members of our various unions are very critical in the running of any given university system. We should be taken seriously whenever we make demands, like our counterpart union in the same system.

“We deserve to be treated equally. There should be no preferential treatment. For government not to have paid us the withheld salaries like our sister union, ASUU, is a great disservice to us.

“I want to say that we will continue to fight against this injustice until the right thing is done,” he said.

He said that the best way to prevent incessant strikes in the entire education sector was to fund it adequately.

“If you spend well on education, you spend less fighting insecurity, hunger, poverty, and others. The government should take a cue from other climes.

“So, the panacea to ending crisis in Nigerian universities, in fact, in the entire sector, is funding and more funding,” he stated.

He noted that since the struggle by members of the various unions to get government to do the needful, many of them had lost their lives in the last one and a half years due to a lack of funds to access good healthcare.

Mohammed also decried the issue of non-autonomy in the university system, adding that the situation was creating issues for the smooth operation of the system.

He also urged government to ensure that appointment of vice chancellors and principal officers of universities, especially the federal ones, should be based solely on merit rather than through what he described as ‘godfatherism’.

The SSANU leader said that same must be applied to appointment of members of governing councils across board. (NAN)