The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the non-teaching staff unions in the universities has appealed to President Bola Tinubu to intervene on payment of withheld four months’ salaries. The non-teaching staff unions in the universities comprising the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), spoke during a one-day protest across the country, yesterday. The national body of JAC had on July 7, mandated all branches to hold a one-day nationwide protest, to express their grievances over the withheld salaries and other pending issues of the two unions. The protesters during the protest carried placards with inscriptions such as “Pay us our withheld months’ salaries,” and “Non-teaching staff are important stakeholders of universities.” Others were, “We are crying, our children are dying, pay us our salaries,” and “Where is our earned allowance,” among others.

The unions said the protest was to draw the attention of the government to issues bordering on the welfare and university education in general, most especially, the payment of the withheld four months’ salaries. Mr. Nurudeen Yusuf, chairman of SSANU, University of Abuja branch said the protest was to draw the attention of the government to issues bordering on the welfare and university education in general, most especially, the payment of the withheld four months salaries. According to him, this is most vexatious and provoking considering the fact that the same presidential directive was selectively implemented to the advantage of our teaching counterpart- the academics. “However, our hope was renewed when the present administration of President Bola Tinubu during the campaigns assured all Nigerians that there would be no more strikes in Nigerian universities. The President followed up with his campaign promises when in October 2023, directed that four months of our withheld salaries be paid. Also, universities should be excluded from the IPPIS. Nine months after this presidential directive, where is the money?! All we see is selective George Orwellian implementation; “all animals are equal but some are more equal than the others.” Today’s protest signals the beginning of a series of union actions which will culminate in the total shutdown of all universities in Nigeria,” he said.

He noted that the repeated reneging on agreements was eroding the trust of their members in government and its officials, and one wondered if they were truly committed to a qualitative education for the children of the masses. Yusuf, who said the action was preventable and avoidable, therefore called on the Minister of Education, to sit up and do the needful. He also called on the Minister of Labour and Employment to use her good office to prevent industrial disharmony and disaffection in the universities. At the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus (UNEC), the protesters, who turned out in large numbers, chanted solidarity songs and brandished placards with various inscriptions. Some of the placards read: “We reject injustice in the payment of withheld salaries; NASU/SSANU demand the implementation of 2009 agreement; No SSANU, no NASU, no university; JAC of NASSU and SANU call on Fed. Govt. to pay our four months withheld salaries; Join us now in this protest, we are Nigerian workers, we are university staff, we are members of SSANU and NASU.”

Led by the NASU chairman of the UNEC branch, Eric Ezeh, the protesters gathered to express their frustration over unfair treatment by the federal government, adding that the protest was in compliance with the directive of the national body. At the College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), Mr Tunde Aderibigbe, National Executive Council (NEC) member of NASU, said the workers were unhappy that their four months salaries were still being withheld despite many appeals to the Federal Government. “We entered into so many agreements with President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, including the issue of earned allowances, which are yet to be attended to. The one that is really disturbing the minds of our members is that all four unions in the universities embarked on strike in 2022, and at the end of the day, our (NASU/SSANU) salaries were withheld. We signed an agreement that after the strike, no member of our unions would be intimidated or victimized, but we were surprised that our salaries were withheld. We felt that was intimidation and victimization, we did not take them to court, our sister union did, and at the end of the day, they were paid after the presidential pardon, which covers all the four unions,” he said.

The Federal University, Birnin Kebbi, (FUBK) was shut down by the protesters. Malam Aliyu Turaki, the state Chairman of SSANU, told newsmen that their protest was in line with the directive of their national bodies. “We are shutting down the university, and we are protesting to show our grievances over the salary arrears owed our members by the Federal Government. This is just the beginning as the unions will appraise the impact of the strike by next week, Thursday. On July 18, we will be doing the national protest in Abuja and if nothing is done, we will get back to the table. The two unions will provide the next line of action,” he said. Responding, the Vice-Chancellor of FUBK, Prof. Muhammad Zaiyanu-Umar, expressed happiness over the peaceful conduct of the protest. He acknowledged that the strike was a directive from the national bodies and not from the state council. “I am fully aware that members of the unions are facing challenges and hardship over the unpaid salary arrears owed to them,” he said. Zaiyanu-Umar commended the mutual understanding existing between the unions and management of the university, urging them to maintain the tempo.

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