Union alerts on looming industrial crisis in universities, seeks Buhari’s urgent intervention

Posted by Boniface Okoro, Umuahia | 31 January 2016 | 2,551 times

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The leadership of the Federal University Staff Schools Association of Nigeria (FUSSAN) has appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, to urgently intervene and stop current moves to transfer the funding of Staff Schools from the Federal Government to the universities.

President of FUSSAN, Rev. Chidi Nwankpa, made the appeal in Umuahia while addressing newsmen on the plight of members of staff of the Staff Schools, some of whom have already been sacked by their respective universities on the strength of a circular seeking to stop the federal government from funding Staff Schools of Federal Government-owned universities.

The appeal is coming on the heel of the December 9, 2015 comprehensive Memo the union had despatched to the Minister of Education on the circular but was yet to get any response.

Nwankpa maintained that the law establishing Staff Schools which was amplified by the 2009 agreement between the Federal Government and the four university-based unions placed the responsibility of funding the schools on the federal government.

He warned of the negative consequences of the current move to transfer the funding of the Staff Schools to their universities which implies privatising such schools. He listed the negative implications to include lowering the standard of education, making the schools unaffordable, throwing FUSSAN members into the labour market and throwing the Nigerian university system into industrial disharmony.

Last year, the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission (NSIWC) issued a circular directing Federal Government-owned universities to stop the funding of their staff schools with federal budgets.

“Well, we thought it was a play and the Jonathan government didn’t quite take it to heart until a month to their departure, precisely April 24, 2015, NSIWC put up their letter again, that the Federal Government will not be funding these staff schools again, will not be paying their salaries again; that from January 2016, they shouldn’t have their names on the budget again.

“We thought it was a play until December last year when the Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Akure (FUTA) sacked teachers of the Staff School and gave them letters disengaging them from the system. University of Ilorin did the same thing. Uthman Danfodio University (UDU), Sokoto was the first to sack their Staff School teachers,” Nwankpa explained.

He said the parent union of FUSSAN, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), kicked against the development and embarked on strike since December 24, 2015 to press for withdrawal of the offensive circular.

“So, it is a surprise to us that despite the strike embarked upon by SSANU since 24th December, the circular is yet to be withdrawn. They have held meetings with the Ministers of Education and Labour on this issue and these meetings are still on-going,” Nwankpa said, stressing that morale of their members were already low as they were yet to get their January 2016 salaries.

“There have been demonstrations all over the country within the last three months on this issue and we are thinking that the federal government should have a rethink. If the Ministry of Defence still funds 100 per cent, the capital and recurrent cost of over 100 Command Schools of the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Police Command Primary and Secondary Schools, then I don’t see why the university  Staff School should be a different ball game.

“The staff strength of the Staff Schools is not more than 2000. The total budget of all the Staff Schools will not take more than N3 billion a year if you put everything together. I do not see why the federal government should not listen to the voice of reason and then withdraw this letter because that is what we are asking for,” the FUSSAN President said.

He pointed out that the move to delist his members from the federal civil service flies in the face of the federal government’s policy not to sack workers.

“The Federal Government is talking about the fall in the standard of education because the foundations are a little bit problematic and if we miss it at the primary level, then there will be a problem and this is where it starts. When you now sack teachers where do you expect them to go and you are talking about employing 500,000 teachers during this administration. So we feel that it is not good, it is not right, it will affect the teachers and their families,” he said.

He emphasised that the Staff Schools, were in the main, offering social services to the university community and their host communities, and consequently charge minimal fees. Nwankpa insisted that privatising the Staff Schools would push up fees beyond the reach of parents, open the door to employment of unqualified teachers which would lower the already established high standards, bring about downward review of salaries of FUSSAN members or their outright sack which would not augur well for their welfare.

He called on President Buhari and the Minister of Education to intervene and ensure that the circular was immediately withdrawn and a return to the status quo for the sake of industrial peace in the universities.

“We are asking that the circular be withdrawn, that the entire status quo be maintained, at least, until there is a renegotiation of the agreement that the four in-house unions had with the Federal Government in 2009 so that our schools can function well and then peace can return back in the university system because as it stands today, because of this issue, things are no longer working in our universities,” Nwankpa said.

What will FUSSAN do in the event that the federal government refuses to heed its appeal? Nwankpa replied: “We will be listening to SSANU which is our parent union, to know the next step to follow. But we are believing that the federal government will not allow it to get to that level where ASUU, NASU, SSANU and NAAT will now join forces to say we are not going to school anymore.”

•Photo shows Adamu Adamu.

Source: News Express

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