THE Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (NASU), Nnamdi Azikiwe University Branch, recently staged a peaceful protest, to register their dissatisfaction with the federal government over its failure to ‘keep to its words’.
The three-day warning protest, which took place in Awka, the Anambra State Capital, was also replicated in different parts of the country, in response to the directive from the national leadership of the JAC to all branch members in various public universities across the country.
Addressing newsmen shortly after the protest, the Chairperson of SSANU, UNIZIK branch, Comrade Njideka Nwangwu said the protest was aimed at making the unions’ stand and position known to the federal government over its neglect and failure to fulfill its own part of the Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the unions on October 20, 2020.
According to her, the issues for which the Memorandum of Understanding was signed and which were also the reason for the protest include but are not limited to: inconsistency in the IPPIS payment system, non-payment of earned allowance, non-payment of minimum wage arrears, delay in renegotiation of FGN/NASU and SSANU 2009 agreements.
Others, she further highlighted include non-payment of retirement benefits of out-gone members, teaching staff usurping headships of non-teaching units in clear violation of Conditions of Service and Establishment Procedures, neglect and poor funding of state universities, as well as non-constitution of Visitation Panels for Universities.
Comrade Nwangwu argued that the Integrated Personnel and Payroll Information System (IPPIS) recently introduced by the federal government is the most problematic payment system ever used, owing to its non-recognition of institutional peculiarities in its operation, among other challenges, which she said federal government assured them it would take care of, but also failed to do so.
“Even our check-off dues no longer have name. The union is run by check-off dues; they have taken them away from us. For instance, in Nnamdi Azikiwe University, our seven months check-off dues are outstanding. How do we explain that? They deduct the money from our salaries but they don’t remit it to the appropriate bodies.”
“They have not even captured or enrolled some of our members into the system. They want you to give them bribe for them to do their work, if not, they will leave your case pending.
“All these things are not okay to us. This IPPIS has also taken our allowances. Our peculiar allowance has been taken out. Our harzard allowance has also been taken out.
“Apart from IPPIS, the federal government said before the 31st of December, 2020, we would have our minimum wage, arrears of our minimum wage and our earned allowance; but up till now, government is yet to pay the money,” she lamented.
On his own part, the Chairman of NASU, UNIZIK Branch, Comrade Chukwugozie Ikegulu regretted that the federal government has duped and continued to dupe them through the IPPIS payment system, which he noted the FG most insincerely magnified and painted when being introduced, to make it appear very attractive and suitable to them, only for them to end up seeing the opposite of what they were expecting, thereby rating it as the worst system so far, judging from their experience.
According to him, the system has made it very difficult, stressful, demanding, and time-consuming for any member who has salary issues, bank issues or any other payment-related issue to resolve it, as such person cannot go to the Bursary and easily resolve the issue (as it was being done before), without being subjected to the rigorous and time-gulping process going to Abuja or perambulating from one office to another, while his salary or whatever payment is still halted.
This, he argued, has made some of their members not to have received their salaries for months now, in the midst of this economic hardship and fast-increasing prices of items.
On the teaching staff usurpation of leadership positions in the non-teaching units, Comrade Ikegulu gave an instance where a Professor in UNIZIK (who is meant to be engaged with lecturing and research) was brought to head the Transport Unit of the university, which is a position meant for the non-teaching staff; even as he outrightly condemned such and insisted that the non-teaching staff are as important and relevant as the teaching staff, and as such, should not be treated or regarded as second-class citizens in the university system.
While regretting that their new minimum wage which was approved since 2019 has not been implemented till date, he also alleged that the IPPIS has most-negatively affected their cooperatives as university workers, as they now find it difficult to access their money or obtain or any other financial assistance from the cooperatives, which he said, they had never experienced until the introduction of the IPPIS.
On what should be the way forward, Mr. Ikegulu said, “We have experimented IPPIS and other payment systems, and I can tell you that IPPIS is the worst; and so, we do not want the IPPIS system any longer, if these problems and our peculiarities as universities cannot be taken care of. We are universities, and not ministries; our year and method of operation is totally different from those of the ministries, and hence, should be regarded as such.”
The duo of SSANU and NASU cautioned that the warning protest which ended on Thursday, January 14, could precipitate an indefinite strike action if the federal government still fails to give the required urgent attention to their demands and problems.