ASUU: FG begins payment of withheld salaries, union loses 46 members, non-academic workers kick

          

The Abuja zone of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Monday lamented the death of some members resulting from the hardship posed over their unpaid outstanding salaries.

The union also said about 46 academics lost their lives in universities within the zone comprising University of Abuja, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Federal University, Lafia, Nasarawa State University, Nasarawa, and the Ibrahim Babangida University, Lapai.

Abuja zonal coordinator of ASUU, Salahu Muhammed said this in a statement Monday in Abuja.

He regretted the loss of an eminent Professor of Fisheries, Johnson Oyero, of the Federal University of Technology, Minna, following his inability to afford quality medical facilities.

He said: “In the last decade, more Nigerian academics are leaving the country in droves in search of greener pastures, thereby overworking the patriotic ones that remain in the system whose level of patriotism is dwindling on a daily basis due to poor remuneration and working conditions.

“It is also worthy of note that the union has lost several members during the period under review due to herculean working conditions, psychological and emotional stress, and diseases related to these conditions. For instance, universities in the Abuja zone have lost 46 members.

“In fact, just two days back, the union lost an eminent Professor of Fisheries, Johnson Oyero of the Federal University of Technology, Minna due to inability to afford quality medical facility.”

…Union pleads

In a related development, the Calabar zone of ASUU has called on both the state and the federal governments to urgently pay lecturers the remaining five month salaries withheld during the last industrial action, describing the ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy of government as a breach of labour laws.

ASUU zonal chairman, Happiness Uduk, said this Monday while addressing journalists in Calabar, Cross River state.

The zone comprises Abia State University, Akwa Ibom State University, Ebonyi State University, Cross River University of Technology, University of Calabar, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndifu Alike and the University of Uyo.

Reading from a text signed by chairpersons of the aforementioned universities, the chairman said: “ASUU calls on the federal government of Nigeria to pay without further delay its members their varying months withheld salaries in federal and state universities for participating in the 2022 strike.

“ASUU, as a union under the conditions of the ILO, like any other union, can use strike as a veritable tool to get its demands. Denying its members their salaries for the period of being on strike, and for work that has now been completed is against labour best practices.

“Government’s leaning on the obnoxious ‘No-Work No- Pay Policy’ is a breach of labour laws, and this is to further heighten the already tensed work environment.

“Do not forget that the strike was unwillingly suspended on the heels of interventions and promises made both formally and informally by well-meaning Nigerians. To say the least, none of those promises and entreaties has yielded any fruit.”

…FG begins settlement

And as a response to the union’s cries, the federal government weekend commenced the part-payment of withheld salaries of Nigerian lecturers as earlier pledged October 2023 by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Specifically, President Tinubu promised to pay four of the withheld eight months’ salaries.

Both members of the ASUU and Congress of Nigerian Universities Academics (CONUA) confirmed the payment Monday in separate interviews with Premium Times.

Those who spoke on condition of anonymity said the payment they received Sunday evening indicated it was for the two months of March and April 2022.

However, findings revealed that the payment was for March and April 2023, which sources confirmed were already, paid to non-academic staff members at the time.

This is coming barely a week after the leadership of ASUU threatened to take action if agreements earlier reached with the government including the payment of the withheld salaries, are not fulfilled.

But members of non-academic staff of the universities-Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Associated Institutions, have threatened a showdown, accusing the Nigerian government of a deliberate attempt to frustrate them.

This is even as CONUA National President Niyi Sunmonu, who confirmed the payment, said his members were looking up to the government to pay for the other months withheld.

Speaking to Premium Times Tuesday, the sources- both academic and non academic- said the lecturers only received two months’ salaries.

“We received two months out of 7.5 months withheld, salaries,” he said, adding that the government paid them with the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), a payment platform that the lecturers have consistently protested against, and which the government claimed to have exempted the university workers from.

“Members started receiving from yesterday. I received mine this morning,” the source added.

The national body of ASUU had condemned the continuous payment of its members’ salaries with IPPIS and a new platform tagged ‘new IPPIS’.

The union, after its National Executive Council (NEC) meeting held last week, said it suspected certain individuals in the government were working to scuttle the president’s directive that the universities be exempted from the IPPIS platform as part of their autonomy.

…SSANU kicks

Speaking with Premium Times Monday, the chairman of the University of Ilorin chapter of SSANU, Olusola Falowo, said the union was surprised at the neglect of its members in the payment of the withheld salaries.

Mr Falowo said the agitation for the release of the withheld funds was championed by the Joint Action Committee of SSANU and NASU, “even before the expiration of the term of the immediate past administration.”

He said: “We have continued to raise this same issue with the new administration, and I can confirm to you that even as early as last week the leadership of JAC still wrote the government on the need to pay our members.

“But I can assure our members that the national leadership is not sleeping over this matter. It will be logically resolved and very soon. The President of SSANU, I am aware, has been engaged in a series of meetings to address this.”

Meanwhile, calls by our reporter to the SSANU President, Mohammed Ibrahim, were not answered as his telephone line was engaged, and he was yet to call back as of the time of filing this report.

About Donald Iorchir, Abuja and Joseph Obung, Calabar

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