By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, yesterday called on the Federal Government to scrap the appointment of multiple Deputy Vice-Chancellors in the Universities in order to cut cost and reduce wastage.
SSANU also told the government to review the University Autonomy law, alleging that it has been abused and become a shield to promote corruption and illegalities in the universities.
Speaking in his address at the 2nd Quadrennial National Delegates Conference in Abuja, the outgoing National President of SSANU, Comrade Samson Chijioke Ugwoke also said that the inability of the Federal Government to keep to agreements it entered freely with unions was responsible for the incessant strikes in the universities.
Speaking on the duplicity of DVCs in the university system, Comrade Ugwoke said, “I wish to express my concern over the appointment of Multiple Deputy Vice-Chancellors in the University. The appointments not only increase the cost of governance in the University but lead to the usurpation of the job of the Registrar especially the Deputy Vice-ChancellorAdministration.
“There is therefore the dire need to redress this anomaly through appropriate legislation. There should not be more than one Deputy Vice-chancellor in a University. Having multiple Deputy Vice-Chancellors is duplicity and wastage which Universities can avoid.”
He also frowned at the high level of corruption in the university system and called on the government to look into the autonomy law.
According to him, “SSANU as a trade union has been in the forefront in the war against corruption in the educational sector. The damages done by corruption to our tertiary institutions, especially our Universities are quite colossal.
“We have gone on various advocacies, rallies and protests against the different forms of corruption in the University system, especially in areas of finance management, personnel and others. We have given support to our members who have been persecuted or victimized on account of their stance on corrupt practices either by the Managements or Councils of their Universities.
“We urge the Government to take a second look at the issue of corruption in the University system because of its far-reaching implications on the integrity and sustenance of our institutions.
“We also urge the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to as a matter of urgency constitute Visitation Panels to oversight the activities of all Federal Universities in line with the laws which stipulate visitation once in every five years.
“We also call on Government to review as a matter of necessity, the Autonomy laws currently in operation, which gives room to Vice-Chancellors to ride roughshod over the entire system and unquestioned by the very Councils that employed them.
“The purposes of Councils are gradually being defeated because we have legalized a system where Vice-Chancellors are now stronger than their Councils. The touted University Autonomy has become a shield through which impunity, corrupt practices and illegalities are being promoted and any time corrective measures are introduced, protests of University autonomy will rent the air.
“The easiest legal means to hide corruption is through the University autonomy laws and as such, if the government is truly sincere in tackling corruption in the University system, the University Miscellaneous Provisions Act must be totally reviewed and overhauled.
“Let it be clear that SSANU supports the autonomy of Universities but within proper ambits and the recognition that all interests in the system are represented and protected. Today, what we see as University Autonomy is a tyranny of a group over others in the system, which is unacceptable to us and should be unacceptable to all lovers of democracy, equity and justice in the university system.”
Ugwoke said the biggest challenge being faced by SSANU was the lack of respect of agreements duly and freely entered into by either the state or federal governments, pointing out it was one of the reasons for the incessant strike in the university system.
He said, “In 2001, an agreement was duly reached with the Federal Government which was left largely unimplemented before 2009 when another agreement was yet reached. The 2009 FGN/ SSANU agreement is a case in point of how agreements freely entered into are not implemented and even when some aspects are implemented, they are done in breach.
“As we speak today, salient aspects of the 2009 agreement with respect to Earned Allowances, career structure and progression of our members, encroachment into non-teaching units by Academic Staff among others, are yet to be implemented.
“This is despite the fact that we had embarked on a series of strikes between 2009 to date, in order to drive home our demands for Government to respect the agreements. The outcomes of those strikes were further Memoranda of Understanding or Terms of Settlement between the Union and the Federal Government which have not been actualized beyond the paper and the ink with which they were written.”
He mentioned some of the issues in contention to include, non-payment of arrears of Earned Allowances being owed NASU and SSANU members despite various Memoranda of Understanding.
Non-payment of arrears of National Minimum wage to our members, non-payment of retirement benefits to outgone members and lack of seriousness and delays by the government in the renegotiation of the 2009 FGN/ NASU & SSANU Agreements.
Others are a usurpation of the headship of non-Teaching Units by Academic staff in clear violation of Conditions Of Service and Establishment procedures.
Neglect and poor funding of State universities and corruption in the university system and non-constitution of Visitation Panels for the Universities in line with the laws.
“We need to note that all the issues listed above are not new and have been on the front burner of our various negotiations, agreements and memoranda of understandings of 2009, 2013, 2016 and 2018.
“The only newly introduced issue is the problem of inconsistencies in salary payments arising from the implementation of the IPPIS in the University system.
“This was a payment platform enrolled into by SSANU and NASU on the understanding that the seeming anomalies of shortfalls in salaries previously experienced would be resolved.
“Unfortunately, our experience has been a case of from frying pan to fire. Never in the history of the University system, have salary payments been so disorganized, distorted and mangled!
“It is a shame that despite our outcry, having supported the government through collective bargaining by enlisting our members into the platform on the understanding that our peculiarities would be captured on the system, we wrote several letters and communication to both the Ministries of Education and Labour and the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, highlighting all the distortions to salary payments experienced under IPPIS to no avail.
“Forced to embark on a warning strike which ended last week, we seize the Opportunity of this National Delegates Conference to inform that the last has not been heard on the issue and it is only a matter of days before the JAC of NASU and SSANU will take a decision on a full-blown, total and indefinite strike in the University system.
“It is sad that we have to go through this route but we are left with no choice given the insensitivity and neglect which our previous agreements have received.
“It is also pertinent to inform the public that the JAC of NASU and SSANU has developed an alternative salary Payment platform solution to IPPIS, which is the University General and Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System (UG3PS), with all the characteristics of ensuring probity and efficiency in salary payments in the University system, while capturing the peculiarities of all categories of staff, teaching and non-teaching, a strength which IPPIS does not have and which has been its bane all along.
“We wish to inform that the UG3PS is ready and awaiting presentation and test run to the Federal Government with the conviction that IPPIS of any alternative being suggested by any group either within or outside the system, cannot be as efficient as that being presented by the two non-teaching staff unions members of whose primary functions include personnel issues and salary payments.
“We say confidently and without prejudice, that no group can understand the intricacies, challenges and manoeuvrings of salary payments as much as SSANU and NASU in the University system and we have applied this knowledge which is a function of our primary duties in the development of the UG3PS solution.
In his address, Secretary of the National Universities Commission NUC, Professor Abubakar Rasheed condemned the bickering among the University based unions, saying that the federal government was considering bringing all unions within the university system under one single entity.
He noted that the polarization of the university system, where each of the union comes up with its individual demands to the federal government was constituting bottlenecks for the government to accede to their demands.
The NUC Executive Secretary attributed the phenomenon to why university education in Nigeria can’t match up to their peers abroad, academically.
He, however, said that the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, was planning to invite all the various unions to a round table, to see reasons why they should come under one umbrella.
The unions expected to key into the new proposal are the Academic Staff Union of Universities ASUU, Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities NASU, the National Association of Academic Technologists NAAT and SSANU.
While appealing to the conscience of the unions, the NUC Scribe said it is regrettable that most times government and individual unions lock horns negotiating for better welfare packages for the staff at the detriment of the students.
He said, “No university in the world can operate effectively insolation, it is frustrating that the University system in Nigeria have been polarized by various unions, you have NAAT, ASUU, SSANU all negotiating for different things.
“Most times, while one group is negotiating with the government, others are warning up for strike unless their demands are met”.
Rasheed also disclosed that the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu has secured the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to dispatch visitation panels to all public universities in Nigeria.
He explained that the need arose following the ugly incidents that trailed the University of Lagos, where the Pro-Chancellor, Wale Babalakin-led Governing Council ordered the sack of the former Vice-Chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe.
He said the respective panels which will soon be inaugurated are expected to tour the universities and bring back a ten-year report, in two separate batches of five years each.
Also, following the resignation of Wale Babalakin as Chairman of the universities renegotiation committee, the Federal Government has reconstituted an eight-man Committee to harmonise and finalise existing agreements between the government and the unions.
The NUC scribe said letters of appointment will be handed to the appointees by Tuesday or Wednesday this week.