SSANU knocks nine states over non-payment of salaries

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University workers under the aegis of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities on Wednesday expressed dissatisfaction over the non-payment of university workers and poor funding in nine state owned universities across the country.

The association also commended its members over their resilience during the previous strike embarked by the union.

In a communique made available to our correspondent in Abuja, the association also cautioned the Federal Government and vice-chancellors on plans to proscribe trade unions in tertiary institutions.

The statement read, “The leadership of the Union appreciates and commends all members for their resilience in the midst of the hardship experienced during the last industrial action embarked upon by the Union.

“It is on record that despite the non-payment of four months’ salaries, members displayed maturity and loyalty to the union throughout the course of the strike and showed more faith by resuming to their offices based on the assurances by the leadership following the agreement reached with government. Members are urged to continue to have faith in the leadership of the union as no effort shall be spared in pursuing their welfare and rights in the university system.

“NEC similarly urges the Federal Government to expedite the process of upholding its part of the terms of agreement on which the strike action was suspended. NEC noted that the root cause of the recent industrial action embarked upon by the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU was the failure of the government in honouring previous Collective Bargaining Agreements entered into with the unions.

“NEC further observed that in embarking on the strike, all due consultations and deliberations were carried out with the relevant government offices. Due process was duly followed in line with extant labour laws.

“The action of the government to therefore withhold the salaries of members of the union is totally unnecessary and has brought about untold hardship to hapless Nigerian citizens. NEC therefore requests the government to rescind this decision of ‘No work, No pay’ and release the withheld salaries of members of the Joint Action Committee of SSANU and NASU.”

Speaking on the status of state universities, the association said, “NEC expressly rejects the current trend in most states in Nigeria, where state governments, that are unable to meet the financial, structural and capacity building needs of state-owned universities, neglect already established universities and approve the establishment of new ones.

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“Some state governments now own more tertiary institutions than the financial capacity of their states. This unfortunate situation has brought about the gross under funding of most state-owned institutions.

“Consequently, the resultant effect is the depreciation of the quality and standard of education that is acquired in such institutions. Service delivery in such institutions is constantly nose diving, because most staff are owed their legitimate payments for services rendered.The lack of financial capacity to adequately fund state-owned institutions has also resulted in inadequate provision of equipment and facilities in the various offices, laboratories and practical centres in the university.

“NEC expressed particular concern over the poor status of funding and non-payment of salaries of SSANU members working in these universities; Tai Solarin University of Education, Ijagun; Olusegun Agagu University of Science and Technology, Okitipupa; Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba Akoko; Kwara State University, Malete; Plateau State University Bokkos; Abia State University, Uturu; Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki; Cross River University of Technology, Calabar; Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti.

On the planned proscription of trade unions, the association said, “According to the Trade Unions Act (Chapter 437) as amended, the rights of citizens to freedom of association, collective bargaining and industrial relations are protected by law. Consequently, any proscription of trade unions is therefore an infringement on the fundamental rights of the group affected.

“NEC notes that it has become a trend for state governors or even vice chancellors to proscribe trade unions at the slightest provocation. The case of the proscription of trade unions at Bamidele Olumilua University of Education Science and Technology, Ikere, Ekiti and the actions of the Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki in the state-owned Ambrose Ali University, Ekpoma, are vivid examples.

“A situation where the state governor is owing staff their legitimate wages, but goes ahead to proscribe the unions is not only illegal, antidemocratic, wicked, but barbaric.

“NEC notes that proscriptions of trade unions do not lie within the powers of state governors or university authorities and as such any declaration of proscription is an illegality which cannot stand the face of the law.”