Fresh Strike Looms in Universities as Technologists Issue 14-day Ultimatum to FG

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Protests disparity in sharing of N40bn earned allowance

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

Hope of a peaceful reopening of universities after the suspension of strike by lecturers may be dashed following a 14-day strike notice issued by the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) to the federal government.

The university workers are protesting the alleged disparity in the sharing of the N40 billion earned allowances released to the four university-based unions.

They are also demanding that the government release 50 per cent of the N71 billion accrued allowances being owed members of the union from the 2009 agreement reached between the government and the union.

NAAT President, Ibeji Nwokoma, told journalists in Abuja that the association had written to the Minister of Labour and Employment informing him of its planned industrial action.

According to Nwokoma, “We have written to the government that NAAT as a body ought to have been given a specified percentage of the N40billion. You must define it. You can’t just say ASUU has 75 per cent and others have 25 per cent. Let us know the specific percentage you are giving to NAAT as a union.

“In the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) we entered with the government on November 18, 2020, in item number 2b, we demanded that in sharing of the N40billion released, the government should clearly define the percentage of allocation to each union, and the government agreed to the genuineness of our demands, and said the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Federal Ministry of Education would work it out in conjunction with the union. And what they have done has negated completely the spirit of that MoU.

“We have given the government an ultimatum of 14 days. We wrote to the government on December 30. And we have given the government 14 working days, and if at the end of the 14 working days, our demands are not met, we shall resume our suspended strike. Definitely we will close down the schools. If anybody thinks that ASUU has called off its strike and that schools will reopen, then let such 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 own 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 is N71billion, and we have demanded 50 percent of that amount and also given the government an ultimatum of 14 days, and if the government fails to do that, we will call out our members to resume strike. Nobody has the monopoly of closing or opening of universities with strike, and we have said that repeatedly.”

He explained that by now, the 2009 ought to have been renegotiated, but lamented that the agreement has not been fully implemented, adding: “It was supposed to have been renegotiated after three years, but since 2009, it has not been renegotiated.”

The NAAT president further stated that the laboratories and studios in universities are in terrible condition as government has abandoned technology, demanding that the government should release N100 billion for the rehabilitation of the laboratories.