President Muhammadu Buhari will be transferring the crisis in the university system to the incoming administration by refusing to pay the withheld salaries of university unions, according to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero, said this during a visit to the headquarters of SSANU on Wednesday in Abuja.
This is as the SSANU President, Mohammed Ibrahim, appealed to President Buhari to pay the withheld salaries of its members before handing them over on May 29.
The university unions went on strike last year, lasting four to nine months.
In return, the Federal Government invoked the No work, No pay policy for the duration of the strike.
The Congress directed the four university-based unions, which included the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Allied and Education Institutions and the National Association of Academic Technologists, to meet and revert to the NLC on the withheld salary backlogs.
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Ajaero said: “The federal government is making a mistake by not paying those arrears of salaries. That is part of the crisis they (Buhari’s administration) are transferring to the incoming government, and they must face it. There is no way you will say no work, no pay when you are the cause of the No work. You can’t benefit from your inadequacy.
“If we accept that that will be the end of industrial relations and we should also be conscious of precedence in law; that precedence cannot stand.
“I want to plead with you that the unions in the education sector should meet and send us a memo in NLC. We are going to call national action for the payment of arrears of withheld salaries.
“We have waited enough for the Nigerian state to retrace its steps. It is bad enough to owe people for three to five months as a punitive measure for an agreement the government failed to obey and still boasting.
“If the unions could get across to us, all the sectors- electricity, oil and gas; we will start a solidarity action until the federal government takes responsibility for its inaction. This is not a threat because we are not known for issuing threats.
“The federal government must respect the sanctity of its agreement and we must insist on it. The unions should not waste time on this. We need to do it as soon as possible.
“We are on a course to return the NLC as a fighting organisation; to be proactive. If we allow eight months (of withheld salary arrears) to pass then that’s the end of this movement.”
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Ibrahim lamented the failure of the federal government to release the N100 billion for teaching and non-teaching staff of universities.
“Even the N100bn meant to pay for the salaries of all university staff – academic and non-academic. Till date, we have not seen anything. And this government is exiting soon.
“We went on strike for four months in 2022 and our salaries were stopped in the process. We followed due process, we sought the audience of the minister of Labour and Employment for the renegotiation of our agreement.
“Even if it is the last thing this government does before exiting office, let them release the salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff of universities. Because we have suffered and lost our members because they couldn’t access their money.
“Mr President we plead with you as a father not to leave behind the backlog of unpaid salaries of teaching and non-teaching staff.”