Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja, Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City, Ibrahim Shuaibu in Kano, Hammed Shittu in Ilorin and Ibrahim Oyewale in Lokoja
University workers under the auspices of Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) of Educational and Associated Institutions and Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU) yesterday protested nationwide to press the federal government to address their grievances.
The workers said they were protesting against maltreatment and the injustice meted out on them by the federal government.
Among the grievances listed by the unions are irregularities in the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS), disbursement of the earned allowances and non-payment of arrears of minimum wage, non-payment of arrears of pension and gratuities.
At a protest held at the entrance gate of the University of Abuja, SSANU and NASU demanded that the government should pay them their minimum wage as promised and in conformity with what have been paid to other ministries since 2019.
Addressing the workers, NASU President, Hassan Mokolu, lamented the inability of the federal government to listen and consider the demands of the unions.
He also accused the government of refusing to carry the union along in the decisions over the issues in contention.
He said: “Ordinarily, as you are aware, as NASU and SSANU, we can lock this gate without allowing anybody in, but I want us to be civil this time around just to communicate to the government that we are law-abiding members of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The union members must be carried along; up till this time, no government functionary has called us into any meeting and painfully enough, we were invited by the Accountant General of the Federation into a meeting; we prepared and went for that meeting and the man never showed up. And there was no apology to that effect.
“Again we are looking at what we called earn allowance, everybody in the system is entitled to that allowance and government gave us N30 billion.
“Who and who are responsible? And they said all the unions on campus are qualified to enjoy it and we agreed and said all the unions must be called upon to see how the sharing formula will be done.
“And all of a sudden government then again added N10 billion and before you know it they said 75 per cent will go to one union while 25 per cent to the other three unions.
“This thing was done with impunity and we feel that we have to do protest for three days and we are going to appraise it and after the three days, and if nothing happens, we will decide the line of action”.
While speaking at the rally, branch Treasurer of NASU in the University of Abuja, Sadiat Hassan, said they would embark on a strike if the federal government does not address their grievances.
She said: “We are protesting against the irregularities in IPPIS payment and demanding the renegotiation of our 2009 agreement, which has been long overdue.
“We are also protesting against the non-payment of our earned allowances and injustice that was done by the federal government in the distribution of the earned allowances because they gave a particular union 75 per cent and the other unions 25 per cent.
“This is against the agreement held in October (last year) that the money was for all the unions. So, we expect them to do justice to everybody because these are earned allowances.
“We earn our allowances just like every other union. So, we want justice. We also want the government to pay us our minimum wage as promised as they have paid other ministries since 2019.”
On the alleged discrimination in payment of allowances, she said government should realise that universities or tertiary institutions in Nigeria do not comprise only the teaching staff alone.
“There are also other administrative staff that are doing very relevant jobs in various offices. So, we shouldn’t be taken for granted because without our services, the university system cannot perform because we know that we are also important.
“We are also law-abiding citizens; that is why we decided to go with them when they came for IPPIS. Now, we have enrolled, our problems continue; in fact, more than even what we are having before. That is why we are calling on them now to address these irregularities or else we will be ready to down tools in our various institutions.”
Hassan’s views resonated in some of the universities visited by THISDAY.
For instance, at the University of Benin, the NASU and SSANU members bemoaned irregularities in the payment of salaries by the federal government through IPPIS.
The Chairman of UNIBEN SSANU/Joint Association Committee (JAC), Osewa Brodricks, said: “The protest is to sensitise the public and let government know that we cannot be taken for a ride.”
Brodricks also alleged usurpation of positions made for non-teaching staff by academics as well as government failure to pay minimum wage arrears.
On his part, NASU Chairman, Andy Igninosa, said the protest would last between 8a.m. and 4p.m. daily.
At the Federal University Lokoja, the protesters as early as 8a.m., took over the gates and other areas of the Adankolo campus of the institution.
In a statement signed by the Chairman of SSANU/Joint Action Committee, Uche Onyedi, they threatened a complete shutdown of the university in the event of failure by the government to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into by the parties.
At the Bayero University, Kano, hundreds of NASU and SSANU members converged on the Senate building, chanting solidarity songs and calling on the government to honour its agreement and the MoU signed with the unions.
The Chairman of SSANU, Dr. Haruna Aliyu, who addressed the Vice Chancellor, Professor Sagir Adamu Abbas and other principal officers of the institution, said the JAC had on January 8, 2021 met in Abuja to review the MoU reached and signed with the federal government on October 20, 2020.
Aliyu said the issues on the MoU were inconsistencies in the IPPPS payment, non-payment of earned allowances, non-payment of arrears of minimum wage, delay in renegotiation of FG/NASU and SSANU 2009 agreements and non -payment of retirement benefits of retired members.
He noted that it was only yesterday, that the federal government fulfilled one of the demands, which is the constitution of visitation panels to universities.
On his part, the Chairman of NASU, Abdullahi Nasiru Rafi, said the non-teaching staff unions would not allow the government to treat their demands with levity, adding that if it continues to renege their agreements, they will embark on an indefinite strike.
At the University of Ilorin, members who came out in their large numbers, marched on the campus.
Speaking with journalists yesterday, the spokesperson of the union who is also the branch chairman of SSANU, Mr. Olumayowa Oyedepo, condemned the attitude of the federal government towards the welfare of their members.
He said: “We are totally against the inconsistency in the payment of IPPIS by the government, which has continued to affect the productivity of members of the union in the nation’s universities.”
Oyedepo also bemoaned the non-payment of earned allowances of members and non-payment of arrears of the new minimum wage.
The chairman added that the government has failed in the payment of benefits to staff who have retired from their various universities.
Oyedepo therefore called on the government to address the issue so as to return the universities to its past glory.