As the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is set to call off its eight months old strike, another round of industrial action is brewing in the university system.
The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), has vowed to resist the payment of their salaries through UTAS, the platform developed by ASUU.
Besides, the N40 billion announced by the Federal Government to pay the earned allowance to all university-based unions is already tearing the university system apart.
SSANU has also warned against preferential treatment in the disbursement of the fund; saying that the money should not be released to ASUU but the university councils for effective distribution. At the meeting between the Federal Government and the leadership of ASUU on Friday, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige had announced that the earned allowances had been increased to N40 billion to be shared by the four university-based unions. SSANU warned the government to ensure that the money passed through the university councils which have the template of sharing formula.
Besides, the union warned the Federal Government to be wary of any group or union that would present any payment platform apart from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) which is the one recognised by government to curb corruption within the system. Addressing journalists at the weekend, President of SSANU, Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim, said the body would resist introduction of any payment platform aside from IPPIS except the one being conceived by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of SSANU and the Non-Academic Staff Union of University and Associated Institution (NASU).
According to Ibrahim, government has no business in sharing money to unions as universities were established through statute of law and each university has a governing council which is the employer of all workers and the highest policy making body of each university. He said the university administration through the registry and bursary units had the responsibility of knowing who should earn what and advised government to channel whatever amount they were given properly through the councils.
“The issue of earned allowances is a product of collective bargaining from the 2009 agreement of the Federal Government with SSANU and has been in contention since the agreement was signed.
“Ideally, the allowances should have been embedded into the salaries and implemented immediately but for government’s procrastination. The implication was a heavy accumulation of arrears of the earned allowances, where repayment became a big burden.
“After five years, 2014, the first tranche of earned allowances was paid. In line with the Acts of the Universities, the money was paid through the councils of the universities.
“Given the fact that earned allowances are not largesse, bonanza or freebie, the managements through the registrars and bursars, being custodian of all personnel and payroll records, were available to guide the councils in the disbursement of the funds to eligible and deserving staff who had earned the allowances. “By 2017 however, when the second tranche was paid, N23 billion was released on a directive from the Federal Ministry of Education which allocated its disbursement in clear breach of the laws, 89 per cent in favour of ASUU, leaving only 11 per cent to the three non-teaching unions.
“It took the strident intervention of the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment, before a supplementary (though inadequate) amount of N8 billion was released to cater for the shortfall granted to the Non-Teaching Unions
“Despite our protest over the surreptitious release of 2017, another release of N25 billion was made via a memo from the Federal Ministry of Education dated June 18, 2019, wherein it was expressly stated that ASUU be allocated 80 per cent of the funds while the other three unions of NAAT, NASU and SSANU be allocated 20 per cent.
“Similarly, the allocation formula which did not abide by any known or justifiable accounting practice was done without the inputs of the registries and bursaries of the universities who are custodians of personnel and payment records.
“Lastly, the Audit Reports of previous disbursements had not been released and as such, the N25 billion released was not the outcome of any audit report. “As a consequence of the above scenario, we had witnessed a disproportionate backlog of arrears in payments of earned allowances, compared with ASUU, which we had demanded for correction.
“That strike would have commenced at the inception of the COVID-19 pandemic but for appeals that a strike during a pandemic would have been the height of in- sensitivity.
“Our considered position was that the global health crises had thrown up serious challenges which a strike by SSANU and NASU would not help. Consequently, with the easing up of the pandemic, discussions had resumed with government albeit at a slow pace, culminating in a Memorandum of Understanding last month, where it was agreed that another tranche would be released to all universities for the payment of earned allowances to all deserving staff, academic and non-teaching.
“We are however not unaware of the prevailing industrial unrest in the university system and if allowing them a share out of the N30 billion promised by government to end the industrial action is the sacrifice we can make, we would be willing to do so.
“If however, we discover any attempt to allocate the disbursement through the Ministry of Education or any other government office and not through the councils as prescribed by law, we shall resist such attempt with all arsenals available. “We have had enough of illegalities, injustices and disproportionate disbursements of earned allowances and wish to state that enough is enough. Government must either do right and treat all unions equitably or be ready to face another round of industrial unrest in the University system.
“We are ready to take government head-on if an unjust disbursement of earned allowances is contemplated. Government should be ready to face the full wrath of SSANU and the outcome may be an eye-opener for those who have always underestimated SSANU and assume that the welfare of the non-teaching unions can be treated with levity at the expense of other categories of staff. I wish to tell people who think that way that they may be in for a shocker!”