The non-teaching staff of Nigerian universities have provided reasons for suspending their strike for one month.
The staff, members of three unions, NASU, SSANU, and NAAT, announced the suspension of the 11 days old strike on Thursday.
Sam Ugwoke, the national president of the Joint Action Committee of three unions, announced the suspension at a media briefing in Abuja.
Mr. Ugwoke said the strike was being suspended for a month to allow the government meet their demands.
He enjoined government to “ensure compliance” with agreements reached with the unions.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the government and the staff reached an agreement after several hours of meeting in the early hours of Thursday.
At the meeting, a memorandum of understanding was signed with the federal government delegation led by the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige.
Mr. Ngige had earlier said both parties produced “collective agreement of action” after the meeting.
The union has now issued a detailed statement explaining why it agreed to ceasefire, and what will be done after one month.
Read the statement below.
Members of the public would recall that the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of NAAT, NASU and SSANU embarked on a total, comprehensive and indefinite strike action on Monday September 11, 2017. The strike was not our desire but was brought about by the unhealthy situation where agreements freely entered into by the three non-teaching staff unions were not respected and kept to linger unendingly, despite repeated reminders and agitations on the issues. As responsible Trade Unions, we are not oblivious of the implications and effects of a strike action on Nigerians including the hardships even on us. But when left with no choice and having no options, the strike had to be embarked upon, having exhausted every other means of conveying our agitations to the powers that be.
Our demands were spread over a gamut and diversity of issues bordering on the sustenance and survival of the university system, welfare of our members among others. Our agitations were not selfish but predicated on an overall love for the system and the interests of our members.
For the purpose of elucidation, the substance of our agitations covered the following:
Non-payment of Earned Allowances to our members.
The problem of bad governance affecting the university system.
Poor funding as against UNESCO recommendations.
Inadequate infrastructure in universities and abandoned projects.
Shortfall in payments of salaries.
Non-implementation of the National Industrial Court (NUC) judgement in respect of university staff schools.
Non-registration of National Universities Pension Commission (NUPEMCO).
Non-implementation of CONTISS 14 and 15 for Technologists.
Problem of lack of adequate teaching and learning facilities in the universities.
Corruption in the university system.
Lack of seriousness in the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/University Unions Agreement.
Usurpation of Headship of Non-Teaching Units by academic staff.
The above demands were aggregates of the Unions agreements of 2009 with the Federal Government which we had waited eight years to consummate. We had shown understanding, maturity and patience. In January 2017, we embarked on a one week warning strike which was suspended on the strength of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Federal Government. We waited nine months for the consummation of the MOU but observing that our nine month pregnancy was going beyond term, we were forced to induce the pregnancy to ensure that our 12 point agenda baby is born.
Following the commencement of the strike action, we have embarked on two Conciliation meetings with the Federal Government, culminating to almost twenty four valuable man-hours of government functionaries led by His Excellency, Chris Ngige, with the full participation of the Minister of State, Stephen Ocheni, Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly, Ita Enang, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and Ministry of Education, the Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission, representatives of the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, Head of Service of the Federation, Budget Office of the Federation, National Universities Commission among others.
Following heated engagements and exchanges on the issues in contention, certain understandings were reached on the issues which we hope, given the calibre of people on the government side, who we assume until otherwise proven, to be honourable gentlemen true to their words, would be realised within the timeframes promised.
Ladies and gentlemen of the Press, the major bane we have in our labour firmament is not so much about lack of agreements but the actualisation of the agreements. This is reason for the prevalence of industrial actions in recent times. To this end, beginning with the understanding reached early this morning, today, Thursday, 21st September 2017, with the JAC of NAAT, NASU and SSANU, we enjoin government to respect agreements reached and ensure their compliance. We maintain our principled stand on the dictum “Pacta Sum Servanda” – Agreements entered into must be honoured. This dictum is not restricted to this agreement alone, but any other agreement signed with workers across all sectors.
The level of confidence in government by Nigerian workers is indeed poor and highly eroded as workers no longer have trust in policies of government despite the fact that MOU’s and agreements are reached. Government must therefore embark on a deliberate policy of confidence-building, to shore up trust and belief in its activities. This is the key solution to end the spate of industrial actions in the country.
The strike by the university based non-teaching unions was indeed avoidable and would have been averted if government had done the needful. Arising from the series of deliberations and engagements, we have once again gone to the drawing board. The negotiations we have had since the beginning of the strike have developed a template which we hope will be a panacea to the continued conflicts between the university based non-teaching staff unions and the Federal Government. We have developed an actionable template with specific timeframes to implement salient aspects of the agreement. Based on the foregoing and following exhaustive and extensive consultations with our various union organs, we hereby announce the suspension of the strike action embarked upon by the Joint Action Committee of NAAT, NASU and SSANU, on the understanding that the time lines agreed with the Federal Government on the various issues are met. We have consequently directed our members to resume work on Monday, September 25, 2017. In one month time, we shall be reviewing the level of compliance with the agreement and shall not hesitate to resume the strike action if government reneges on the agreements reached or delays in any aspects.
We seize this opportunity to thank the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige for his sense of patriotism and painstaking effort in the resolution of this industrial conflict. We extend the appreciation to the Minister of State for Labour, Stephen Ocheni, the Senior Special Assistant on National Assembly Matters, Ita Enang, and all other representatives of government at various levels. We cannot but appreciate our own President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Ayuba Wabba, for leading us through the engagements. We appreciate all Nigerians, especially the Nigerian students for the sacrifices they have had to suffer on account of this failure of government. We appreciate their parents and all other stakeholders for mounting pressure to end the conflict on ground. We cannot but thank our NEC members and branch members of the three unions, NAAT, NASU and SSANU for their cooperation and compliance with the directive to embark and remain on strike. Their loyalty to the JAC leadership is unequalled and worthy of appreciation.
We cannot end this address without thanking our friends in the media for their efforts in bringing our agitations to the front burner of public discourse. We appreciate your time while keeping vigil with us during our late hour meetings with government. We believe that together, we can all work to make our educational sector great again, and by extension, the entire Nigerian nation. This is our vision, this is our dream.