For more than a week now, activities in many federal universities have been paralysed due to the strike action jointly embarked upon by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities [SSANU], Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities [NASU] and National Association of Academic Technologists [NAAT] under the aegis of a Joint Action Committee, JAC. The unions directed their members on Monday December 4, 2017 to resume the indefinite strike action earlier suspended.
Following the separate suspension in September 2017 of the indefinite strike actions by the academic and non-academic staff unions in Nigerian universities, the federal government recently released N23billion to 24 federal universities in the country; being the amount owed university staff as Earned Academic Allowance [EAA] for 2009 and 2010. While ASSU received N18.4 billion or 89 percent of the total amount, the three non-academic unions were allocated N4.6 billion or 11 percent of the money.
Chairman of JAC and National President of SSANU Comrade Samson Chijoke Ugwoke said the sharing formula for disbursing the money “is laced with a motive of causing disaffection among members of the university community.” He said a protest letter was sent to Minister of Education Malam Adamu Adamu rejecting the allocation. JAC gave government seven days to explain the criteria used in the sharing formula. JAC’s Chairman said the ultimatum elapsed without any response from government which was why members of the unions were directed to resume the suspended strike.
During the one week period of ultimatum given to the federal government, the three unions at the University of Ibadan (UI) and the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife protested on their campuses against the N4.6 billion released to them. At UI, academic staff received N1.6 billion while non-academic staff got N105 million. At the OAU Ile-Ife, academic staff got N1.6 billion while N168 million was given to non-academic staff. At the University of Lagos, N1.6 billion was allocated to academic staff while N709.7 million was paid to non-academic staff.
As the name EAA implies, it is paid for specific academic duties in the university system. It is not a routine allowance and has to be earned. For an academic staff to earn EAA, he must be a head of department, dean of faculty, deputy dean, director of institute or center or an examination officer. Lecturers are similarly entitled to earn allowances for excess workload, which is determined by the number of students in a particular course.
Normal size of a class has separately been defined for science and arts courses beyond which a lecturer earns an allowance. Postgraduate supervision is also a qualification for earning EAA. Furthermore, EAA is time bound as it can only be earned for the period a lecturer held any of the positions listed above. It is obvious from the foregoing that not every academic staff qualifies to earn EAA at any given time.
If government had agreed to pay non-academic staff the EAA, it must have defined the criteria for earning it. That should have been the basis upon which a specified amount was allocated to members of the non-academic unions. Now, if the amount released to them was short of the pact in the Memorandum of Agreement, the appropriate thing was for the unions to engage government on the matter; not resort to strike action. It is when negotiations fail that they will be justified to resume the suspended strike.
We are not holding brief for ASUU or government but dissimilar duties performed by academic and non-academic staff explains the disproportionate allocation of EAA. The perceived strife between non-academic staff and lecturers in the universities is akin to the one between nurses and doctors in the health sector where the former wants to earn as much as the latter. While we urge government to quickly respond to the unions’ letter, we call on the three unions to withdraw their current strike and return to work so that normal activities would commence while they engage government in further negotiations.