The lingering crisis in public universities in the country may have taken a new dimension.
The controversy surrounding the formulae adopted by the Federal Ministry of Education in the sharing of the N23 billion earmarked for earned allowances has thrown the unions into a collision course.
Because of the disaffection caused by the sharing pattern and other unresolved issues raised by the unions in the 2009 agreement, the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of non-teaching staff has resolved to resume its earlier suspended strike indefinitely.
The group include the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT).
The unions, in a joint statement on Sunday, in Abuja, and signed by Samson Ugwoke, SSANU’s National President and Chairman of JAC of NAAT, NASU, and SSANU, challenged the rationale adopted by the Federal Ministry of Education in the sharing of the N23 billion jointly negotiated by all the unions.
According to the unions, the N23 billion approved by the Federal Government was meant for the payment of the second tranche of arrears of earned allowances among the teaching and non-teaching staff of various federal universities in the country.
The JAC, in the statement, indicted Sonny Echono, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, for complicity in the unexplained lopsided sharing formulae that favoured the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that received about 89 percent of the released funds.
Part of the statement reads: “As explained, an understanding was reached with the Federal Government that the N23 billion earmarked for earned allowances was for the payment of the second tranche of arrears of earned allowances for both teaching and non-teaching staff in the university system.
“As people of honour and considering that a document was signed to that effect, we had no reason to doubt the authenticity of their written commitment.
“Unfortunately, however, events have proven that we over assumed the sense of honour of these government officials, particularly Architect Sonny Echono, the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, as the outcome of their actions proved contrary to the understanding that was reached with the government through them.
“To our consternation and dismay, the N23 billion has clearly been shown to be a payment for the Academic Staff Union of Universities for their so-called ‘earned academic allowances’ while the three non-teaching staff unions were allocated a paltry N4.6 billion (11%).”
Ugwoke explained that two weeks after an explanation was sought by the unions, both the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, and the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education were yet to respond to their letter.
Resolving not to accept any negotiation short of the subsisting 2009 agreement, the JAC of the three non-teaching unions lamented that it was conned by the minister and the Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Education at the expense of ASUU, saying that the outcome of the sharing has since proven the insincerity of the government’s representatives.
The unions demanded the release of a separate amount being the second tranche of arrears for payment of earned allowances for non-teaching staff across federal universities in Nigeria.
Salaam Abdulssobur, National Spokesperson of SAANU, in an interview with newsmen, disclosed that the outcome of the meeting of JAC of SAANU, NASU and NAAT was final.
Abdulssobur said the injustice being done to the unions had shown the failure of the government to respect the contents of the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement it reached with the unions of September 20, 2019.