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Anger erupts as Nigerian university unions reject govt’s half-pay offer



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Two major university staff unions in Nigeria, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), have expressed outrage at the federal government’s proposal to pay only half of their withheld salaries.

This comes after months of dispute regarding unpaid wages from a 2021 strike.

The controversy stems from a recent interview by Education Minister, Professor Tahir Mamman, on Channels Television. Mamman stated that SSANU and NASU would receive just half of their withheld salaries, with final approval hinging on President Bola Tinubu’s decision.

Mamman said, “No, it has not been approved. There is a court judgment on ‘No work, no pay’. ASUU getting four months’ pay was a discretion and decision on the part of the President. So, it doesn’t automatically transfer (to NASU and SSANU) but the matter is under consideration.”

While speaking on what date SSANU and NASU would get their pay, the minister said, “I don’t think it is safe to put a time on it but it’s safer to say that we are on it and we are pushing.”

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Responding to the minister’s interview, the National President, SSANU/NASU, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, said the claim by the minister that there was no approval to pay SSANU/NASU was disappointing.

“I am disappointed in the Minister of Education, who said there was no approval for the payment of SSANU/NASU withheld salaries. We met in January in the presence of all vice chancellors and union leaders and they promised to pay us. He is talking about a court case, meanwhile we didn’t go to court, we suspended our strikes after reaching an agreement with Mallam Adamu Adamu (ex-Minister of Education).”

He added that the government should go ahead with its decision on payment.

“If that is what they have made up their minds to pay, they should just pay us. Why is he not categorical about the time to pay? We are losing confidence in them. At the appropriate time, we will send a reply. Our strike followed due process. At this moment, I have no confidence in the minister. If he is coming up with this, we are taken aback by his comments on Channels TV. This was not what we were told in November 2023 and January. He said the Presidency has granted the waiver. We are not impressed by the chameleon-like treatment; we’re not happy with this government.”

This offer stands in stark contrast to an earlier suggestion of a full salary reinstatement, which the unions claim the government had previously implied.

This partial payment proposal has ignited anger within SSANU and NASU. The unions have accused the government of lacking good faith and failing to keep its promises. They argue that their members already face significant financial hardship due to the withheld salaries, and a mere 50% repayment is insufficient.

The development threatens to reignite tensions between the unions and the government. SSANU and NASU have previously resorted to strike action to protest unpaid wages, raising concerns of further industrial action if the dispute remains unresolved.

It remains to be seen how President Tinubu will respond to the situation. His decision on the salary issue will likely have a significant impact on labor relations within Nigerian universities.

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