By Cross Udo
Unions in the universities yesterday resolved to bury their differences and work together to rescue the education sector and improve the welfare of members.
The idea was floated at the 44th National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture in Umudike, Abia State.
The plenary of the SSANU NEC was attended by the host President, Comrade Mohammed Ibrahim, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, and the President of the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Comrade Ibeji Nwokoma as well as the beach Chairman of Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU), Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike.
There has been inter-union rivalry among the four universities-based unions which has made it possible for government to apply divide and rule to weaken their struggle.
Recently, the sharing formula for the Earned Allowance released by the government to the four university-based unions generated a crisis between ASUU and the other three unions, as lecturers were accused to have taken about 75 per cent of the N21bn.
In his solidarity message at the SSANU NEC, the NAAT President, Nwokoma said no one single union could fight the battle to liberate the universities alone and get the desired results.
“We need to come together, the battle calls for synergy if we want to get something for our unions. When we come together, the new government has to hear us.”
He lamented that everyone is affected by the economic hardship occasioned by the removal of fuel subsidy which has led to the increase of goods and services but with salary that doesn’t take workers home being static.
On his part, ASUU President, Osodeke noted that Nigerian universities are facing a serious attack and advised that all the unions should come together to tackle the challenges.
“We should work in unity to save the university system. We should work together to rescue our Universities from the stranglehold,” he said.
The ASUU President noted that the successive Nigerian governments have succumbed to the dictates of foreign bodies like the International Monetary Fund, IMF, and the World Bank in taking policies and decisions that are anti-people, stressing that, “It is only by working together that we can resist this.”
Similarly, President of SSANU, Ibrahim said, “If we are truly comrades, our problems have been solved. There is one common enemy, those in government, those in power, politicians, who behave irresponsibly.”
He said that his Union has said no to inconsistencies in government policies that have retarded development and growth in the nation’s ivory tower.
Ibrahim lamented the dissolution of the Governing Councils of the Universities even when the tenure of the governing councils is either new or not completed according to the law that set them up.
While calling for the reversal of the dissolution, the SSANU boss said that some of the governing councils didn’t operate for up to two years before they were dissolved.
He contended that the universities will not function effectively and efficiently without active Governing Councils in place, regretting that some of the functions of the University Governing Councils have been hijacked by the Head of Service of the Federation.
He said that universities should be centres for research and development but expressed dismay that those in charge of the universities have deviated from their core responsibilities, alleging that some vice-chancellors have become contractors and sometimes using their proxies to handle contracts for them.
The SSANU President also accused some university authorities of hijacking the responsibilities of his members.
Earlier in his welcome address, the SSANU branch Chairman of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Ogbuagu Elvis, said the union is devoted to enhancing and sustaining the developmental and welfare programmes of its members by adhering strictly to its welfare by-laws.
He lamented the non-payment of consequential adjustment of the minimum wage arrears, unfriendly working environment, and usurpation of the functions of non-teaching staff among others.