By Adesina Wahab
AFTER the prolonged shut down of the nation’s universities due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease and the industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the university system is again reeling under the weight of another strike courtesy of members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, and Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU.
The two unions, acting under the aegis of the SSANU, NASU Joint Action Committee, JAC, have embarked on an industrial action since last Friday, threatening the smooth operations of federal universities in the country. Some of their demands are in line with what ASUU also went on a nine-month strike for, while some are even against ASUU as a union.
Among the issues that tally with ASUU’s agitation is the call to discard the use of the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System, IPPIS, to pay them and the call for better funding of education, while SSANU and NASU are accusing ASUU members of usurping their roles by heading some departments meant to be headed by non-teaching staff.
However, the most contentious of the issues raised by the non-teaching staff is how the N40 billion earmarked for the payment of Earned Allowance would be shared among university workers. SSANU and NASU are accusing ASUU of shortchanging them in the sharing formula. Teaching staff are reportedly collecting 75 per cent of the sum with the rest for the non-teaching staff.
The JAC, led by the National President of SSANU, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim and the National Secretary of NASU, Comrade Peters Adeyemi, is expected to meet the Federal Government delegation led by the Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, today, as their previous meeting ended in a deadlock.
However, critical stakeholders in the system, namely: the students and their parents/guardians, are strongly opposed to another shutdown of the university system, saying the consequences would be too dire on education as a sector.
What students want: The South-West Zonal Coordinator of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, Comrade Kappo Samuel Olawale, chastised the government for playing with the education of Nigerian youths and inadvertently toying with their future.
“The Federal Government should know that education is the bedrock of the country and its economy. In that wise, the government should know how to placate workers in the sector and make them play their roles with joy in their hearts.
“When we have a situation like this, when academic session has become unstable and unpredictable because of incessant strike actions, it is the students that bear the brunt and the loss. Students should be seen as critical in the sector and should be treated as such. As a country, if we see education as important and vital, we will treat it as such. And until we begin to do this, we have a very long way to go.
“The unions too should be considerate. What they do affect their children too. I know it is not all of them that have their wards in foreign schools. They should look for a common ground, a midpoint to meet with the government.
“For the unions to think they can get all they are demanding is raising a false hope. They must consider the economic situation in the country and what everybody, government inclusive, are passing through,” he said.
Parents’ view: The National President of the National Parent Teacher Association of Nigeria, NAPTAN, Mr Haruna Danjuma, expressed sadness at the new wave of strike after all everybody went through last year.
“It is like our universities are not happy with our children and do not want to help them. To me, it seems they delight in wasting the precious time of our children by embarking on endless and needless strike actions.
“There is no justification for this strike. To me, it is an act of sabotage. It is a way to sabotage the government and the educational system as a whole. Why didn’t they make their demands when ASUU was making their own? If they did that then, the government would have looked into all the cases at once.
“The non-teaching staff did not make their demands then because of the needless rivalry the unions are involved in. That is the same thing we see occasionally too in the health sector. This must stop. It is an act of sabotage,” he stated.
The ongoing strike may affect the post-UTME test being planned by some universities beginning from this month. Already, the plan by the management of the University of Lagos, UNILAG, to hold its postponed 51st convocation later in the month is being threatened as well.