Gbajabiamila approved the payment of withheld salaries to only ASUU – SSANU

The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) has stated that the payment of the four-month withheld salaries to members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) at the expense of other university-based unions was due to a directive from the Chief of Staff to the President, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila.

SSANU and the Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) voiced dissatisfaction with the omission of their members from the payment of withheld salary, stating that the government should make the same gesture to their members.

In a statement headed “Failure of the Federal Government to Pay Outstanding Salaries to NASU and SSANU Members,” the unions stated that based on the feelings of their members on various campuses, they could no longer guarantee long-term industrial peace at the country’s universities.

In the statement signed by NASU General Secretary Peters Adeyemi and SSANU President Mohammed Ibrahim, the unions stated that they had previously written a letter to the Chief of Staff to the President and Minister of Education on February 13, 2024, regarding the exclusion of non-teaching staff from payment of outstanding four-month salaries.

However, Ibrahim who addressed journalists in Abuja, yesterday, said the action was at variance with the order by President Bola Tinubu that four months of withheld salaries of workers of the universities be paid.

“We discovered that the memo that was written by the Chief of Staff to the President to the Federal Ministry of Finance and subsequently copied the Accountant General of the Federation had only members of ASUU therein, so we were taken aback as to what happened to the president’s approval and this is giving a lot of concerns to workers who are working in the same environment with their counterparts in the academic sector.”

When asked if the union would declare strike at the end of the 7-day ultimatum given to government, he said: “The NEC will meet to take decisions on whether to embark on strike or not and we are meeting in the next seven days.

“We also going to meet at the level of the Joint Action Committee on SSANU and NASU to take a final decision on the issue because we can do longer continue to suffer while others are being treated differently.”

Speaking on why the other university-based unions were excluded from the payment of the four months withheld salaries, Ibrahim said information at their disposal showed that there was a letter from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President specifically instructing the Federal Ministry of Finance to pay only members of ASUU to be paid four months of their withheld salaries.

He said the association had written to the Chief of Staff and Minister of Education two weeks ago to draw their attention to the issue but no reply had been received.

“We have sent letters to the Chief of Staff to the President and Minister of Education and all were fully acknowledged but we are yet to get their response. We believe that the media will also serve as an avenue to further reach out to them so that they will correct the anomaly,” he added.

Speaking on the poor funding of state universities in the country, Ibrahim said the current situation of most of state funded universities was very pathetic.

He said universities located anywhere in Nigeria should be of similar standards anywhere in the world.According to him, the concept of university education was universal and workers in universities were supposed to be of the standards.

“But if you look at the trend of events because of poor funding, even the staffing is becoming greatly localised as nobody will like to leave a place like Lagos to go and work in another state if he is not sure of his salaries,” Ibrahim said.

He said SSANU has met with state governors under the auspices of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum to draw their attention to the issue of funding.

“It is not only the state universities, there is no federal university today that receives enough overhead to pay its electric bill. This is quite absurd. Universities do not have means of generating revenues, they collect charges tied to various services offered to students,” he noted.

SSANU said government has to do something to change the narrative by funding education with all sense of responsibility.

He said the law establishing the National Universities Commission (NUC), empowers it to accredit courses but lacks the powers to stop establishment of Universities by any individual or organisation with certain criteria but we suggested that going forward NUC should and must ensure that even the payment of salaries should be encapsulated in the requirement for accreditation.

“University are supposed to be undertaken teaching, research and community service as core mandate. A situation where you just establish university and run it the way you want is not acceptable that is why Nigerian universities do not always on the 1000 world rated institutions.

“A situation where a university did not pay its staff for upwards of three months, it should be denied accreditation, it should be delisted. If you don’t pay the staff, how would they teach, how would they carry out research? she said.