University workers, under the aegis of the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), on Sunday threatened to ground activities on campuses.
It is in protest of alleged disparity in the allocation of the N40 billion Earned Academic Allowance (EAA) to be released by the Federal Government
The union gave the government 14-day strike notice to address concerns raised in the sharing formula or risk another round of industrial action in public universities.
NAAT and two other unions – the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) – are protesting the alleged allocation of 75 per cent to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and 25 per cent to them from the N40 billion allowance.
But Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, said he was yet to receive official communication from the union about the planned strike.
The minister, who spoke with The Nation, directed the leadership of NAAT, SSANU and NASU to the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education on the allocation of the N40 billion allowance.
He said: “I have not seen their notice of strike. When we see it, we will call the attention of their employers, which is the Federal Ministry of Education and the NUC.
“But before then, they should go to the NUC and the Federal Ministry of Education and find out the exact position of the N40 billion they are talking about.
“It is the NUC and FMoE that will determine what each union will get from the N40 billion because they also have the template as submitted by the various universities for those earned allowances.”
The university workers are protesting the disparity in sharing the N40 billion earned allowance released to the four university-based unions.
They are also demanding that the government releases 50 per cent of the N71 billion accrued allowance owed members of the union from the 2009 agreement reached with the government.
SSANU President Mohammed Ibrahim expressed displeasure over the government’s failure to honour agreements.
He said: “My members and, by extension, all other categories of workers in Nigerian tertiary institutions are disappointed and disenchanted by this singular act of government’s refusal to honour its promise to pay the arrears of the New National Minimum Wage that was approved by the government since April 2020.”
NAAT President Ibeji Nwokoma told reporters in Abuja that the union had written to Ngige about their planned industrial action.
He said: “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 per cent and others 25 per cent. Let us know the specific percentage you are giving to NAAT as a union.
“In the MoU we entered with the government on November 18, in item number 2b, we demanded that in sharing of the N40 billion 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 and Federal Ministry of Education would work it out in conjunction with the union. And what they have done negates completely the spirit of that MoU.
“We have given government 14 days. We wrote to the government on December 30. And we have given government 14 working days and if at the end of the 14 working days our demands are not met, we will resume our suspended strike.
“We will close down the schools; 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 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 government ultimatum of 14 days, if the government fails to do that, we will call out our members on strike. Nobody has a monopoly of closing or opening of universities with strike. We have said that repeatedly.”
He explained that by now, the 2009 agreement ought to have been renegotiated, but regretted that it has not been fully implemented by the government.
“It was supposed to have been renegotiated after three years. But since 2009 it has not been renegotiated,” Nwokoma said.
The NAAT president noted that the laboratories and studios in universities are in terrible condition as the government had 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 N100 billion to bring the laboratories to international standard and then release another N20 billion every year for the next five 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.”