HomeEDUCATIONASUU Threatens Strike if Tinubu's Administration Fails to Release Withheld Salaries

ASUU Threatens Strike if Tinubu’s Administration Fails to Release Withheld Salaries

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has issued a threat to go on strike within two weeks if the administration of President Bola Tinubu does not release the withheld salaries of public university lecturers.

ASUU President Emmanuel Osodeke emphasized the unfairness of the situation, pointing out that while the Federal Government has paid four months’ worth of withheld salaries from 2022, they continue to withhold payment for an additional three-and-a-half months.

“It’s not about paying four months out of the seven-and-half months’ withheld salaries,” a displeased Osodeke said on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Thursday. He argued that public universities in the country have so far covered the work for the period that they were on strike in 2022 and should be duly paid.

“Every university in Nigeria today are in the 2023/2024 academic year which means that by September/October, they will be in the 2024/2025 academic year. The implication of this is that all the work for which we were not paid when we were on strike, we have covered them by making sacrifices.

“None of our members have gone on leave in the past three to four years, we have not gone on vacation so that we can cover the work that we didn’t do while we were on strike which we have covered. You can check, ask the students. But when you said you are paying four out of seven-and-half, I don’t think you are being fair to us,” the ASUU president stated, adding that the two-week ultimatum to the government began on May 13, 2024.

It would be recalled that in 2022, academic and non-academic unions in Nigeria staged an eight-month strike to advocate for improved welfare packages among other demands. The administration of then-President Muhammadu Buhari responded by implementing a ‘no work, no pay policy’ against the unions. However, in October 2023, President Bola Tinubu approved the release of four months’ worth of withheld salaries, out of approximately eight months.

While ASUU members received payment for four months of withheld salaries, members of SSANU and NASU did not receive any payment. The two non-academic unions had previously gone on strike in March. Education Minister Tahir Mamman stated that the government would consider providing half pay for them.

ASUU President Osodeke insisted that members must be fully compensated for the entire duration of the 2022 strike. He argued that the Tinubu administration’s clearance of four months’ salaries out of about eight months withheld was insufficient. Osodeke emphasized that if the Federal Government can allocate funds for trillions in road contracts, allocating billions for university workers should not be an issue.

“We don’t want to hear that ‘we don’t have money’ because if a government can award contract of ₦15 or ₦13 trillion naira to construct a road and we are asking for just ₦200bn for Nigerian universities, all of them. If they (the government) have that money (for road construction), they should have money for us.

“Pay the three-and-half months’ salaries that are still being withheld having completed the work. It’s ‘no work, no pay’, we have done the work, they should pay us if not we will also bring the theory of ‘no pay, no work’,” he said.

The ASUU president lamented that many lecturers are leaving the country because they are not well remunerated. “A lecturer still earns about $300. it was $1500 when we negotiated the agreement in 2009,” he said.

ASUU’s president highlighted the crucial role of a functional Governing Council in ensuring the proper functioning of a university. He expressed concern over the absence of such councils, stating that since the National Universities Commission (NUC) dissolved the Governing Councils of all federal universities following a directive by President Tinubu, numerous unauthorized contracts and recruitments have occurred in universities over the past 11 months.

“Nobody anticipated that we will have a university that will run for two weeks without a Governing Council but Nigerian universities, all of them, have been running for the past 11 months without Governing Councils, which means that all the actions taken in terms of employment, contract awards and what have you have passed through illegal process,” Osodeke stated.

The ASUU president emphasized that the process of constituting a Governing Council should not take 11 months, stating that no university worldwide operates without one.

He outlined that typically, the tenure of a university’s Governing Council is four years, comprising six government-appointed members and approximately 10 or 11 elected members from within the university community.

He argued that the number of university representatives far exceeds that of government appointees, making it untenable for the government to dissolve the councils arbitrarily.

“People were recruited and we have evidence, contracts were awarded illegally, we have evidence. We should not be part of illegality and that is why we have given this two-week (ultimatum). After the two weeks, if this illegality does not stop, and all other issues…if these are not done, our union will meet, consider all the issues and think of what to do.”

Osodeke highlighted that there have been no formal meetings between ASUU and any organs of the current government to date.

“That is why we have to take this action having used all the other avenues,” he said.

“The negotiation of the agreement that started in 2017 should be concluded, reinstate the dissolve Governing Councils, owed earned academic allowances should be paid,” he concluded.

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