FG And ASUU Meet, Workers To Start Protest Tomorrow

Why ASUU Strike May Be Suspended This Time For Real

In response to its unfulfilled demands, the Academic Staff Union of Universities announced that it will meet with the Federal Government on July 25, 2024.

This came as non-academic university employees said on Sunday that they planned to stage a one-day campus protest on Tuesday in response to their four-month salaries being withheld. The one-day demonstration would serve as a warm-up for a national demonstration scheduled for July 18. The National President of ASUU revealed this.

According to Osodeke, the timeline agreed upon with the Federal Government was set to go into effect on July 25. ASUU chapters around the nation have been holding protests for a few weeks now. The protesting academics, who were joined by students, threatened to embark on another round of industrial action if the government refused to fulfill the promises made to them.

The union also published an open letter to President Bola Tinubu, demanding the full implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed with the Federal Government in 2009. Osodeke emphasised that the protests yielded a positive result, saying it led to the Federal Government calling the union for a meeting and fixing a timeline to meet some of the promises.

He said, “We have met with the Minister of Education and reached a timeline. They made promises to us and we want to watch to see if it are done. We are meeting two weeks from today, July 25th, to see if they have done what they promised.

“The protest made them call us for a meeting; they should fulfill their promise.”

According to a letter that was printed in a newspaper on June 20, 2024, Nigerian academics were forced to start a nationwide walkout on February 14, 2022, when their pleas for the government to address the issues at hand were met with silence.

The resolution of the FGN/ASUU Agreement renegotiation based on the Nimi Briggs Committee’s draft Agreement of 2021, according to Osodeke, was one of the ten concerns and other emergent ones.

According to him, the agreement covered the following: the release of unpaid salaries for employees on sabbatical leave, part-time work, and adjunct appointments as a result of the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System; the release of withheld three and a half months’ salaries due to the 2022 strike action; and the release of outstanding third-party deductions, such as check-off dues and cooperative contributions; and funding for revitalisation of public universities (partly captured in 2023 Federal Government’s Budget).

Other issues in contention include the Earned Academic Allowances (partly captured in the 2023 Federal Government’s Budget); proliferation of universities by the federal and state governments; implementation of the reports of visitation panels to universities; Illegal dissolution of Governing Councils; and the University Transparency and Accountability Solutions (in place of IPPIS).

Osodeke said, “Your Excellency is requested to set necessary machinery in motion for bringing ASUU and major stakeholders (Ministries, Departments, and Agencies) together to address the outstanding issues in FGN/ASUU engagements since 2009. This will save our university system the agonies of another round of industrial action and its disruptive potential. The President’s promise of smooth academic calendars in universities at the inception of this administration is, we believe, achievable if the government sincerely sits down to address the issues as listed here.”

SSANU, NASU to protest Tuesday

In the meantime, unions representing the university’s non-academic staff members announced on Sunday that they would be going on a nationwide strike beginning on Thursday, July 18, 2024, in protest of their four-month salary being withheld.

But first, on Tuesday, all of the non-academic union branches operating under the Joint Action Committee’s aegis would stage protests at each of their branches.

The workers claimed that their meeting with the government authorities had broken down. They were representing the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions.

This was revealed in a circular jointly signed by Mohammed Ibrahim, President of SSANU, and Peters Adeyemi, General Secretary of NASU, which was issued by the two unions functioning under the Joint Action Committee’s jurisdiction.

The circular directed all branches of the two unions to hold a mandatory general meeting today (July 8, 2024) to sensitise members to the insensitivity of the government to their plights.

According to unions, the actions were necessitated by the failure of the Federal Government to pay their members’ withheld four-month salaries despite several meetings scheduled with the Minister of Education and its Labour counterpart.

“The national body of the Joint Action Committee of NASU and SSANU met on Thursday, July 4, 2024, to appraise and take position on the current situation in respect of the withheld four months’ salaries and other grievances of our members in the university and inter-university centers.

“Similarly, the National JAC, on invitation, met with the Honourable Minister of Education, Honourable Minister of State for Education, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education, and other top officials of the Ministry and the National Universities Commission.

“Unfortunately, after the engagement, the Minister of Education has not shown any convincing commitment to the payment of our withheld salaries and resolutions of other pending grievances of the JAC of the two unions.

“It is also disheartening that the JAC was also at the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, and as usual, the Minister of State was not on seat to receive us, as we were informed that she had an urgent call from the Villa.

“The Permanent Secretary, who stood in for her, could not make any commitment on the issues raised. In view of this disappointment and the failure of the government to address the grievances of NASU and SSANU, JAC has decided on a series of industrial actions, which include the following:

“All branches of NASU and SSANU should mandatorily hold a general meeting on Monday, July 8, 2024, to sensitise members to the insensitivity of the government to our plights.

“A one-day protest should be held on Tuesday, July 9, 2024, at each branch simultaneously. Every branch should ensure that all members fully participate in the protest and that the press or media is adequately mobilised.

“A national protest will be held in Abuja on Thursday, July 18, 2024, after which JAC will meet to announce a date when the strike action will commence. Further information will be communicated appropriately,” the circular read.

The Nigerian government withheld the salaries of both academic and non-academic staff in Nigerian universities for taking part in an industrial action that grounded the universities for eight months in 2022.

In October, President Bola Tinubu ordered the payment of four of the eight months withheld salaries for the academic staff, leaving out the non-teaching staff.

This development resulted in a renewed rift between the non-academic staff union and the government. Since the announcement, both SSANU and NASU have kicked against the selective payments’ and asked to be included. However, only the academic staff received the four months’ salaries paid in February.

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