By Bassey Udo
Organised Labour on Wednesday gave the Federal Government 21 days to take a definite step towards resolving the lingering face-off with members of the different academic and non-academic unions in the country’s tertiary institutions.
The ultimatum was issued by the umbrella labour body at the end of a joint meeting of the NLC affiliate unions in the country’s education sector on Tuesday in Abuja.
The communique of the meeting signed by President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, and the General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, asked the Federal Government to immediately constitute a high-
powered panel consisting members with requisite mandates to resolve within the stipulated period the lingering issues militating against
industrial harmony in the country’s university system.
Pursuant to the resolution, Wabba said the central labour body would soon convene a special meeting of its Central Working Committee (CWC), made up of all the affiliate unions of the Congress, to decide on the next line of action, if the government fails to act within the deadline.
The meeting was attended by the Presidents ofthe Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU); Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions
(NASU); Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities (SSANU); and National Association of Academic Technologist (NAAT).
Wabba said the labour movement was deeply concerned about the various crises in the country’s tertiary institutions, which called for the meeting to take reports and updates on the various ongoing industrial disputes with members and the government.
At the moment, ASUU is still on a warning strike, which it extended for additional two months after the expiration of the initial 14 days ultimatum calling on the government to address their concerns.
Wabba recalled the letter the NLC wrote to the government on August 2020, through the Ministers of Education, Labour and Employment, as well as Finance, Budget and National Planning, and the Accountant General of the Federation following a meeting with affiliates in the education sector.
The letter, he said, stressed the need for urgent government intervention in the lingering crisis in the country’s tertiary institutions, and highlighted the concerns of Labour over the implementation of the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS), apart from other industrial concerns.
The NLC President expressed regrets that only the Minister of Labour and Employment gave an acknowledgement to the letter with a reply dated August 28,2020 in which he shared in the concerns of the workers’ body for Nigeria’s tertiary education.
He reminded the government about the issues fueling the lingering disputes in the various campuses around the country, including the current crises in the country’s tertiary education system.
He identified the issues to include re-negotiation of the 2009 Agreement between ASUU and the Federal Government, which was expected to be reviewed every three years; challenges with the implementation of the IPPIS;
Funding of University and Tertiary Education System in the country; non-payment of arrears of minimum wage for university staff, and earned allowances for both academic and mon-academic staff of the universities.
Lamenting the problems caused by the unresolved crises in the tertiary institutions in the country, Wabba said Labour was seriously concerned that the intermittent and protracted strikes and other industrial
actions in Nigeria’s public tertiary education system have become protracted, with dire consequences to most families and the country’s economy.
Besides, he said the on-Implementation of Collective Bargaining Agreements signed
with the unions in Nigeria’s tertiary education system, bordering on university funding, earned allowances, and other welfare issues facing universities staff were yet to be addressed, while the fate of more than 95 percent of Nigerian students were still hanging in the balance due to uncertainty in the academic calendar in the country.
The bulk of the affected students, he said, were largely children of the poor who cannot afford to pay the average of one million Naira school fees charged by private
tertiary institutions in the country.
Most of these students, the NLC President noted, were currently idling away at home, while the children of the rich continue their education in the private schools or abroad.