On December 4, 2017 the Non-Teaching Staff Unions (National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT); Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); and Non Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU)) in public universities resumed their suspended strike. This time, it is about the failure of the Federal Government to explain how and why it ‘shared’ the N23 billion disbursed earned allowances disproportionately.
Rationally so, it may be strange to have heard as Nigerians that, out of the said amount, academic staff earned allowances for twenty-two ‘verified varsities’ by the government was allocated N18,389,698,674.04 while non-teaching earned allowances for twenty-four varsities was N4, 610,301, 325.96.
To some who share this line of thought, since the number of non-teaching who are support staff are more than the academic staff, they ought to receive more while to others, it is simply an explanation of the ‘why’ that is required.
But these are not ‘free-for-all’ type of monies, they must be earned, meaning that if you do not fall into the specified type of jobs entitled to earn it, you can only hear of it. This is why it is necessary that union leaders make available to their members the 2009 agreements reached with the government in order not to mislead them or cause cross union acrimonies.
Union members, including ASUU members, must go beyond passive membership to knowing what their leaderships are negotiating for them beyond reading about it in the newspapers. A line in the University of Ibadan Anthem says “A mind that knows is a mind that is truly free.” How was the N23 billion allowances arrived at?
To what extent are union leaderships culpable? Were the disbursed monies arrived at from the computation/entries made by the unions themselves?
The Federal Ministry of Education through the Director of ICT, (Ifegwu. K Oji) on behalf of the Permanent Secretary, had written a letter to the Accountant General of the Federation on 30, October, 2017 on the payment of ‘verified’ submissions from universities on earned allowances.
It was based on the verification of the claims made by universities through a five-man committee in the Education Ministry that it recommended that the amount quoted in the preceding paragraph be made. Note that the submissions were principally coordinated by the unions at the varsity level which were then taken to the negotiation table by the leadership of unions (I am sure of that of ASUU).
However, it was on the basis of non-submission of entries/claims that academic staff at University of Ilorin and University of Nigeria Nsukka got no disbursement while their non-teaching staff got N207.5million and N447.1million respectively.
A few examples of those who got for both ‘ASUU’ and Non-teaching as the monies were labelled would suffice here: ABU, Zaria (ASUU: N2.075,440,687.64; Non-Teaching: N331, 087,210.45); University of Ibadan (ASUU: N1.626,117,386.20; Non-Teaching: N105,709,758.33); OAU (ASUU: N1.571,133,153.50; Non-Teaching: N168, 272, 921.18); UNIPORT (ASUU: N863,729,534.11; Non-Teaching: N326, 130,552.69); UNILAG (ASUU: N935,033,419.92: N23,220,355.15). But, does staff membership qualify a person to receive these allowances?
No. There are ‘hearers’ and ‘takers’. In the former category are those who wish they receive the allowances but were not employed as at the period being captured or are out of the captured jobs that are entitled to the allowances. The ‘takers’ meet these criteria.
For SSANU, the 2009 contract with government states “both teams agreed that Earned allowances demanded by SSANU and the rates applicable should be left at the discretion of the individual University Governing Councils but paid to qualified staff at rates specified by way of the benchmark.” Captured are Responsibility allowance (Registrars and Bursars: N750, 000 per annum; other Heads of Departments/Units: N300,000 per annum); shift duty, overtime and duty tour to some workers “would be paid allowances at prevailing Government rates”; Excess Workload Allowance shall “be paid to officers on CONTISS 13 at a rate of N3,500 per hour.”
On Sabbatical Leave, it was agreed that SSANU members on CONTISS 09 and above shall be entitled subject to University Governing Council regulation while Laboratory/workshop/Studio/Clinical/Hazard allowance was to be paid only to staff “regularly and routinely exposed” to hazard at the rate of N180, 000 per annum.
Also, Technical to Chief Technical Officers are to be paid between N60, 000-N100,000 as may be determined by the University Governing Councils.
What these two cases imply is that NOT all staff have entitlements to earn allowances except she/he performs the stipulated assignments not minding whether they are ASUU, SSANU, NASU or NAAT and in some cases leaving the final decision in the hands of University Governing Councils.
As such, no member of SSANU, NASU, or NAAT should accuse ASUU of scheming them out of the allowances or issue threat to their lives. ASUU leadership needs to be commended for agreeing with the government to sacrifice part of their N23 billion to offset allowances of the non-teaching staff based on the promise that they will receive their balance when the next tranche is paid.
As a duty, ASUU negotiates for the revitalisation of public varsities through funding and ONLY for her members’ welfare and not for other unions.
Therefore, members of other unions must hold their leadership responsible if they have been negotiated out of agreements. They must hold them responsible for telling them half-truths or total falsehood or denying them the right to know what their stakes are. The government is partly to blame for the strike.
Had it acknowledged the letter written by the Non-teaching Unions and made little explanations, the Unions would not have felt totally disregarded. The point is, the Unions leadership cannot absolve itself of complicity in the ongoing strike perhaps owing to the complacency of their members.
It will amount to an injustice for a Registrar to work but be asked to ‘share’ his earned allowance with his office clerk. You can only ‘share’ in what you are entitled to and not in what you are not ‘contractually’ captured. Nigerians know that our enemies are the principalities and powers in high places and our grievances must be properly channelled.
Dr Tade, a sociologist, writes via [email protected]