Strike looms as ministers’ meeting with NLC over withheld salaries ends in deadlock

On Wednesday, a meeting between the Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman, and the leadership of the striking workers’ unions in Nigerian universities failed to accomplish the desired goal of halting the seven-day warning strike that began on Monday.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU) directed their members to withdraw from service beginning Monday due to the government’s refusal to pay the withheld four months’ salaries since 2022.

The strike has had an impact on university campuses across the country, including the death of a student at the Federal University of Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE) in Ekiti State, who reportedly died due to his inability to access the university’s healthcare center as a result of the strike.

The unions stated that the action was necessary as a result of the government’s indifference, claiming that letters of complaint given to the relevant authorities had been disregarded.

However, on Wednesday, the Minister of Education, Tahir Mamman, and his Minister of State counterpart, Tanko Sununu, led other ministry officials in a meeting with the leadership of the SSANU and NASU JACs, as well as the National Association of Academic Technologists.

Minister asks for understanding.
According to sources who attended the meeting, government representatives pleaded with the unions to stop the warning strike until the administration addressed the striking workers’ demands.

Mr Mamman was reported to have acknowledged the concerns of the striking workers and expressed the government’s commitment to addressing such problems.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) also reported that the Minister, while briefing journalists at the end of the meeting, said the request for payment of the withheld salaries of the workers had been made to the superior authorities, and awaiting approval.

NAN quoted the minister to have said: “It is our expectation that things will not go beyond what it is. We have a good understanding with the unions to ensure stability in our tertiary institutions.

“We will do everything possible to maintain confidence in the unions so that the issue of the strike can be rested,’’ he said.

SSANU President speaks
Meanwhile, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday evening, the President of SSANU, Mohammed Ibrahim, said the meeting ended in a deadlock.

He said: “We felt that while we appreciate the efforts they are making, we can not go back to our members and start telling them that. After all, when they paid our counterparts, they didn’t have to wait for that long approval.”

The union wondered why the government decided to do a selective payment, which it said was done for the first time in its history.

“This is the first time they are segregating payments —paying this one differently from another one. Even when we have to complain about the sharing formula of the earned allowance, payments were made at once for everybody,” Mr Ibrahim said.

“So we told them that we cannot understand how and what transpired that they have to segregate teaching from non teaching and while we appreciate whatever efforts they said they are making, we have already declared a seven-day warning strike.”

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