The Federal Government and the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the non-teaching staff of Nigerian Universities have reached an agreement over the ongoing strike by the workers. The Minister of Labour and Employment, Sen. Chris Ngige, said this at a conciliatory meeting with the leadership of the JAC of the unions and other officials of the Ministry of Education on Friday in Abuja.
It would be recalled that the non-teaching staff of Nigerian universities under the auspices of JAC embarked on strike on Monday over non- implementation of the 2009 agreement. The workers belong to the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities ( SSANU).
The demands of the unions included the payment of earned allowances, a review of the governance system in universities and improved funding in line with UNESCO recommendations. Other demands included provision of infrastructure in universities and payment of salary shortfall being owed members, implementation of the National Industrial Court judgment on university staff schools and registration of NUPEMCO, the Pension Fund Administrator proposed for university workers.
Ngige, however, said agreements had been reached on all the issues raised by the workers. “We held discussions on all these areas and we reached agreement on all of them; government has already approved and released some N23 billion for earned allowances in the universities.
“This is for teaching and non-teaching staff of the various universities in Nigeria. “ We agreed on this that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation is to expedite action on mandate for this payment.
“We have the issue of shortfall; the issue is already being addressed and some universities are already credited with some amount of money for their short falls, ‘’ he said. On the implementation of NIC judgment for staff schools, he said that government through the National Universities Commission had issued circulars directing the universities to implement the judgement. He also said the Salaries and Wages Income Commission had initiated the process of ensuring compliance with the NIC judgment, expressing the hope that this would be completed within four weeks.
On non-registration of NUPEMCO as Pension Fund Administrator, he said that the process had begun and a consultant would be handling this on behalf of the unions. “ We have also reiterated our commitment that the appropriate filled forms and particulars be submitted within one week while the Federal Ministry of Education will expedite action to bringing out the certificates.
“ Also on the negotiation of the 2009 agreement, we realised that Babalakin Committee is handling that and has collected memorandum from the various unions,’’ he added. Ngige, who also reacted to the issue of inadequate infrastructure and poor funding of universities, said the Ministry of Education was in the process of inaugurating a nine-man committee that would develop an alternative means of sourcing for funds.
He also said that the meeting jointly agreed that government should intensify efforts to checkmate the excesses of corrupt officials in the university system.
The meeting further agreed that universities should also operate the Treasury Single Account and that the office of the Accountant General of the Federation should investigate cases of those operating multiple accounts.
“We also agreed that government should expedite action and send visitation panels to federal universities that have not been visited and revisit the previous visitation panels for the purpose of implementation of their recommendations. “ Again on whistle blowing which is the new anti-corruption policy of this administration, government agreed with the unions that whistle blowers should be protected
“On the issue of CONTISS 14 and CONTISS 15 for technologists, the technologists’ union, NAAT, is to provide the Federal Ministry of Education with information that would assist the ministry to develop appropriate scheme of service for the new cadres among others. “Finally, it was agreed that the union members should not be victimised on account of this journey they have undertaken to go on strike and the unions also are to revert to government on Wednesday, Sept. 20, after presenting this to their National Executive Councils, ‘’he said.
Mr Samson Ugwoke, the National Chairman of JAC, commended the labour minister for his honesty and commitment in ensuring that the strike was called off. “We have all dotted these items one by one and agreed on them, but you know we are messengers; we were sent here by our principals and we cannot endorse any of these as either an agreement or MOU
“So, what we agreed on today, on these issues that we have put our heads together on, will be taken back to our various National Executive Councils for deliberation and we will report by Wednesday, Sept. 20, ” he said. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the meeting between the Federal Government and the unions lasted about 11 hours.