By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA—BARRING any last minutes change, the organized labour has threatened to embark on a nationwide protest over the inability of the Federal to settle its differences with the four university-based unions that led to the shutting down of public universities.
Recall that the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU withdrew their services on February 14 and a few weeks after, the other three unions in the universities also proceeded on strike to press home their demands.
The three unions are the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions, NASU and the National Association of Academic Technologists., NAAT.
Arising from its National Executive Council, NEC, meeting on Thursday, the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, resolved to embark on a nationwide strike in the next two weeks over the alleged adamant of the government to resolve its face-off with the university unions.
A source privy to the meeting told Vanguard that Congress also resolved that after the protest rally if the government failed to resolve the crisis, it would embarked on a three-day warning strike that would also culminate in a total strike.
Already the four university-based unions have agreed to meet today (Friday) to take a common position on the ongoing strike.
In his opening remarks at NEC, the NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba said, the one-day nationwide protest would be to compel the Federal Government to resolve issues with the unions in the education sector immediately.
Wabba expressed sadness over the continued closure of the country’s tertiary institutions due to unresolved labour disputes between the Federal Government and unions in the sector.
He recalled that in the last decision, Congress went to the extent of writing to President Muhammadu Buhari and gave a 21-day notice for them to converge a very high-powered meeting.
“We demanded that the meeting should be chaired either by the Secretary of Government of the Federation (SGF) or the Chief of Staff to the President, for this issue to be resolved once and for all.
“That meeting was called, but from the reports that I have been receiving from all the unions in the education sector, we have found out that progress has not been made.
“The timeline of three weeks that was given to that committees for all reports to be turned in and for government to be able to make the decision, that has not taken place, ’’he added.
The NLC president, however, alleged that there was reluctance by the Federal Government in addressing the issues.
He said:“Therefore, Central Working Committee has decided that there will be a one-day national protest.
“This is to call the attention of the government to resolve the issue immediately.
“We have also asked all our affiliates by the next one week to issue statements,” he said.
He said the decision to embark on the one-day national protest was imperative as children of the poor have continued to remain at home.
He also said that Central Working Committee had observed that there was an increase in terms of social vices, which would be traced to the fact that those children had been at home for months and many problems had been made.
Wabba however, also condemned the lingering scarcity of fuel and the long queues across the country.
According to him, it is pathetic that Nigeria has not availed itself of the rich endowment of oil resources by continuing to depend on imported petroleum products for local consumption.
Wabba said that the situation has brought about dire consequences on productivity, economy, and wellbeing of the citizens.
“For instance, diesel is now selling at more than N800 per liter. It is unfortunate that Nigeria despite being a major oil-producing country has continued to fail to refine her own crude oil.
“The result of this, is the net total of 100 percent importation of refined petroleum product are brought into Nigeria.
“The consequence is the heavy hemorrhage of our national coffers especially given our most important challenged which has also brought about the long queues in almost all the filling stations, ’’he said.
He also noted that the situation had affected the purchasing power of many Nigerians and had brought hardship on many businesses to a halt due to many businesses were been run on the generator.
Wabba added that the only way out of this issue is to end the discussion on whether there is a subsidy or not but for us to refine the product for domestic use.
He further condemned the recent sack of over 3000 teachers by Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State.
Meanwhile, the sub-committees set up by the government on renegotiation and payment platforms that were expected to submit their reports before Wednesday were unable to do so.
It will be recalled that the Minister of Labour and Employment Senator Chris Ngige had said that the committees were expected to submit their reports before Wednesday for onward transmission to President Muhammadu Buhari.
The inter-ministerial departments and agencies committees of the Federal Government, including the Federal Ministry of Education, Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Budget Office of the Federation, National Salaries, Incomes, and Wages Commission (NSIWC), the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy and National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA), had met on Thursday last week to assess the progress made so far on addressing the demands of the striking university workers.
The demands include the contentions on the payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service by the unions.
The committees are reporting to the Office of the Chief of Staff to the President and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.
The two committees were empanelled by the Honourable Minister and the Chief of Staff to the President at the last tripartite plus meetings of the unions and the government side.
The Minister of Labour and Employment had in a statement on Sunday said that the meeting which had in attendance all the stakeholders reported on the various assignments given to them and accordingly, received further briefing and directives from the President in order to accelerate discussions with ASUU.
He said, “It is hoped that before Wednesday this week, all the various sub-committees will turn in their reports, to enable Mr. President to be briefed fully and for decisions to be taken on the contentious payment platform and the renegotiation of the conditions of service, especially the issue of wage increase.
“It is after receiving briefings from the government side that the Ministry of Labour will bring all the stakeholders, including the unions, to a conference table to look at the agreement before signing or endorsement.”
Vanguard reliably gathered that NITDA was yet to submit its report on the outcome of the integrity tests conducted on the University Transparency Accountability Solution, UTAS, which is the payment platform proposed by ASUU and the University Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System, U3PS, proposed by SSANU and NASU.
As a result of the alleged challenges faced by the university workers through the use of the IPPIS in the payment of their salaries and allowances, the three unions came up with the proposed payment platforms to address their peculiarities.