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University workers protest over four months withheld salaries

NUC, Universities

BY UKPONO UKPONG

Members of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), University of Abuja chapter, staged a protest yesterday against the Federal Government’s failure to pay their four months’ withheld salaries.

The protest marked the beginning of a series of actions by the union that could lead to a complete shutdown of universities across the country next week.

Comrade Nurndeen Yusuf, the SSANU chairman at the University of Abuja, and Comrade Sadiya Ibrahim Hassan, chairperson of NASU, voiced their frustration over the government’s broken promises and demanded the immediate release of their withheld salaries.

“The university workers also warned that they would no longer accept empty promises from the government over the non-payment of their hard-earned salaries,” said Comrade Yusuf. “Promises alone cannot feed their families or pay their children’s school fees.”

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The Joint Action Committee (JAC), representing NASU and SSANU, has long been grappling with issues related to welfare and the overall state of university education.

During the protests, the unions highlighted the non-payment of their salaries for four consecutive months, which they claim has been exacerbated by the government’s selective implementation of directives, favouring academic staff over non-teaching personnel.

In March 2022, the unions went on strike due to the government’s failure to honor multiple agreements. However, in 2023, President Bola Tinubu directed the payment of their withheld salaries and excluded universities from the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS).

Nine months after the presidential directive, the unions accused the Federal Government of “Orwellian implementation,” where “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.” They called on the Minister of Education to address these issues promptly and stop playing the role of an ostrich.

Additionally, they urged the Minister of Labour and Employment to prevent further disruptions to the academic calendar. SSANU and NASU also called on members of the National Assembly, royal leaders, and opinion influencers to intervene in their cause.

“This repeated reneging on agreements is eroding the trust of our members in government and its officials,” the unions stated. “One wonders if they are truly committed to a qualitative education for the children of the masses.”

The unions emphasized that their hope was renewed when President Bola Ahmed Tinubu assured Nigerians during his campaign that there would be no more strikes in Nigerian universities.

“Our hope was renewed when the present administration of President Bola Tinubu during the campaigns assured all Nigerians that there will be no more strikes in Nigerian universities,” the unions said.

Tuesday’s protest signals the beginning of a series of actions by the unions, which they warn will culminate in the shutdown of all universities in Nigeria. “This action is preventable and avoidable. We therefore call on the Minister of Education to sit up and stop playing the ostrich,” the unions said.

“We equally call on the Minister of Labour and Employment to use her good office to prevent industrial disharmony and disaffection in our universities, causing unnecessary disruption in our academic calendar and activities. We can no longer accept empty promises. They don’t put food on our table nor pay our children’s school fees,” the unions concluded.

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