The Federal Government has approved the constitution of visitation panels to oversee the activities of all federal universities in the country.
The Executive Secretary of National Universities Commission (NUC), Abubakar Rasheed, made this known in Abuja on Monday during the 2nd Quadrennial National Delegates Conference of Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
The conference is themed “Respecting the Sanctity of Collective Bargaining in Democracy.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) listed non-approval of visitation panels to oversee the activities of all federal universities as one of the reasons for its ongoing strike.
The NUC boss said the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, had secured the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to dispatch visitation panels to all public universities in the country.
He said the constitution of the visitation panels was in line with the laws that stipulate visitation of public universities once in every five years.
According to him, the respective panels, which will soon be inaugurated, are expected to tour the universities and bring back a 10-year report, in two separate batches of five years each.
“The report will cover a period between 2011 and 2015 and from 2016 to 2020,” he said.
Mr Rasheed also said that the incessant strikes by various unions in tertiary education are affecting the progress of the university system.
“The polarisation of the university system, where each of the union comes up with their individual demands to the Federal Government is constituting bottlenecks for government to accede to their demands,” he said.
He called for the unification of all the unions within the university system under one single body.
“This is why the Nigerian university education cannot match up to their peers abroad academically,” he said.
Mr Rasheed said the government was planning to convince the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) to invite all the unions in universities to a round table,’’ to see reasons why they needed to come under one umbrella.’’
The unions in Nigerian universities include the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU).
He said there was a need for the unions to enter into negotiations with the government with one voice,” 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.”
“No university in the world can operate effectively in isolation. It is frustrating that the University system in Nigeria has been polarized by various unions, you have NAAT, ASUU, SSANU all negotiating for different things,” he said
Mr Rasheed said the Federal Government has also reconstituted an eight-man Committee to harmonise and finalise existing agreements between the government and the unions.
He said that the need arose following the resignation of Wale Babalakin as the Chairperson of the universities renegotiation committee.
He said that letters of appointment would be handed to the appointees by Tuesday or Wednesday.
Also speaking, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) President, Ayuba Wabba, said it is important for governments to keep to negotiations and collective bargaining entered with various unions as a way of ensuring industrial harmony in the country.
“It is not enough to bargain without upholding whatever has been negotiated and agreed upon. The government must honour agreements,” he said.
Also speaking, the SSANU National President, Samson Ugwoke, said the biggest challenge faced by the union is the lack of respect of agreements duly and freely entered into by the government at all levels.
“The 2009 FGN/ SSANU agreement is a case in point of how agreements freely entered into is not implemented and even when some aspects are implemented, they are done in breach,” he said.
According to him, ”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 the 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,” he said.
Mr Ugwoke said the Joint Action Committee of the Non-Academic Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and SSANU have developed an alternative salary Payment platform solution to the Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
“This is the University General and Peculiar Personnel and Payroll System (UGPPS) with all the characteristics of ensuring probity and efficiency in salary payments in the University system,” he said.
He said the system will capture 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.”
PREMIUM TIMES reported how SSANU withdrew its support for the implementation of IPPIS, a government payment platform, for its members across the Nigerian universities.
SSANU, which had initially supported the initiative, said its trust in the IPPIS was let down by the Federal Government “as reflected in the various irregularities noticed in the payment of February salaries of its members.