By Michael Oche, Abuja
Outgoing national president of the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (SSANU) Samson Ugwoke has said the biggest challenge being faced by SSANU is the lack of respect of agreements duly and freely entered into by either at State or Federal governments.
Ugwoke while speaking at the 2nd Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities SSANU) in Abuja, said this is one of the reasons for incessant strike in the university system.
He said, “In 2001, an agreement was duly reached with the Federal Government which was left largely unimplemented before 2009 when another agreement was yet reached. The 2009 FGN/ SSANU agreement is a case in point of how agreements freely entered into are not implemented and even when some aspects are implemented, they are done in breach.
“As we speak today, salient aspects of the 2009 agreement with respect to Earned Allowances, career structure and progression of our members, encroachment into nonteaching units by Academic Staff among others, are yet to be implemented. This is despite the fact that we had embarked on series of strikes between 2009 to date, in order to drive home our demands for Government to respect the agreements. The outcomes of those strikes were. Further Memoranda of Understanding or Terms of Settlement between the Union and the Federal Government which have not been actualized beyond the paper and the ink with which they were written.”
In his address, Secretary of the National Universities Commission NUC, Professor Abubakar Rasheed said the Federal Government has said it is considering bringing all unions within the university system under one single entity.
According to him, the polarization of the university system, where each of the Union comes up with their individual demands to the Federal Government was constituting bottlenecks for government to accede to their demands.
Rasheed also attributed the phenomenon to why university education in Nigeria can’t match up to their peers abroad, academically.
According to him, talks were on to convince the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress to invite all the various unions to a round table, to see reasons why they needed to come under one umbrella.
Among the unions expected to key into the new proposal includes the Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU, Non Academic Staff Union of Universities NASU, the National Association of Academic Technologists NAAT and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities SSANU.
He argued that there was need for the unions to enter into negotiations with the government with one accord, rather than a segmented approach.
While appealing to the conscience of the unions, the NUC Scribe said it is regrettable that most times government and individual unions lock horns negotiating for better welfare packages for the staff at the detriment of the students.
He said, “No university in the world can operate effectively insolation, it is frustrating that the University system in Nigeria have been polarized by various unions, you have NAAT, ASUU, SSANU all negotiating for different things.
“Most times, while one group is negotiating with government, others are warning up for strike unless their demands are met”.
Rasheed also disclosed that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu has secured the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to dispatch visitation panels to all public universities in Nigeria.
He explained that the need arose following the ugly incidents that trailed the University of Lagos, where the Pro-Chancellor, Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council ordered the sack of the former Vice Chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.
He said the respective panels which will soon be inaugurated are expected to tour the universities and bring back a ten year report, in two separate batches of five years each.
Also, following the resignation of Wale Babalakin as Chairman of the universities renegotiation committee, the Federal Government has reconstituted an eight man Committee to harmonise and finalise existing agreements between government and the unions.
The NUC scribe said letters of appointment will be handed to the appointees by Tuesday or Wednesday this week.
Recall that while issues of 2009 Joint renegotiated agreement and NEEDS Assessment programme is yet to be resolved in most of the public universities, the Academic Staff Union of Universities and the Federal Government have been engaged in a battle of wits over the controversial Integrated Personnel Payroll and Information System IPPIS, even before the lockdown necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic broke out globally.
On the other hand, SSANU, NASU have criticized the federal government for its alleged recalcitrance in implementing Earned Allowances and other special welfare packages for its teaming members.