The decision by the Federal Government to pay the Academic Staff Union of Universities, or ASUU, the four months’ salaries withheld in exclusion of other three university-based unions has sparked another round of crises that could disrupt academic activities in universities.

The government’s decision to single out ASUU for payment in exclusion of the other three unions has already been discussed by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), in a letter to the President’s Chief of Staff, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajiabiamila.

The two unions, SSANU and NASU, issued a warning in a leaked memo dated February 13, 2024, to the Chief of Staff that if the government moves forward with the exclusion policy, they should not be held accountable for any disruptions to the academic calendar “because of the injustice done to our members by the Government as the peaceful atmosphere in our Universities and Inter-University Centres cannot be guaranteed if the Federal Government fails to do the needful by paying our members their four months outstanding salaries like Academic staff in the University Sector.”

Prince Peters Adeyemi, General Secretary, NASU, and Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, President, SSANU, signed the memo titled “Protest letter over the exclusion of non-teaching staff from the payment of outstanding four months salaries.”

“We write to draw the President’s attention, through the Chief of Staff, to the privileged information we possess, regarding the directive that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation has received to instruct the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) Office to release four (4) months’ worth of salaries from the outstanding balance owed to members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), excluding other staff members who are members of other unions in the Universities and Inter-University Centres.”

“The National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) are these other unions.

In 2022, all university and inter-university unions went on strike at various times to bring the government’s attention to matters concerning the welfare of their members and the corporate governance of their respective universities.

Your Honourable will remember this.Due to the then-Government of President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR’s lax and unwillingness to implement agreements reached collectively with the Joint Unions of NASU and SSANU, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NASU and SSANU went on strike, which lasted five (5) months, from 27 March to 24 August, 2022.

The regrettable decision was made by the previous government to subject university sector employees to hardship by enforcing a “No Work, No Pay” policy for the months of May, June, July, and August of 2022.

The strike was imposed on the two Unions as a result of various unexecuted memoranda with the Government, and it was put on hold because of a different Collective Agreement that was signed on August 20, 2022, but has not been implemented either.

“No victimisation clause” was another item in it.”It is regrettable that despite the great expectations and goals of our members following a press release issued by the Special Advisor to the President on Media and Publicity on October 20, 2023, following the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, the Federal Government, led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has waived the ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy for ASUU and fellow educational sector unions.

“On Saturday, November 4, 2023, in Abuja, the Honourable Minister of Education, Prof. Tahir Mamman SAN, OON, the Honourable Minister of State for Education, Dr. Yusuf Tanko Sununu, and the then-Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr. Andrew Adejoh, OON, met and made promises regarding the equal and fair treatment of all unions in the university sector.

They also assured that the Presidential pardon covers NASU and SSANU Members since no Union will be left behind. This further guaranteed the payment of the four months of overdue salaries.”

The Hon. Minister of Education also emphasised this during the high-level stakeholder engagement that took place on Thursday, January 11, 2024, at the National Universities Commission (NUC) Secretariat in Abuja. The engagement was with vice-chancellors of federal universities and directors/chief executives of inter-university centres, including unions in the universities sector.

Therefore, in this regard, we write to your esteemed office to draw your attention to the impending unfair treatment of non-teaching staff in universities and inter-university centres against their academic counterparts.

We also want to make it clear that being a non-teaching staff member in a university or an inter-university centre is a matter of choice when it comes to one’s vocation, and that this government should immediately put an end to the unfair treatment of non-teaching staff members against academic staff members in the name of justice, fairness, and equity.

“We thus draw this government’s attention to the fact that the leadership of SSANU and NASU should not be held accountable for any disruption in the academic calendar due to the injustice done to our members by the Government, as the peaceful environment in our universities and inter-university centres cannot be guaranteed if the Federal Government does not take the necessary action by paying our members their unpaid salaries for the past four months, just like academic staff in the university sector.”

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