Some of us may recall that in 2014, an obnoxious circular emanated from the National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission directing Vice-chancellors to remove University Staff School workers from the payroll of the Government. With this circular began a series of agitations by the Senior Staff Association of Nigerians Nigerian Universities and other stakeholders in the sector. The agitations culminated in a legal action at the National Industrial Court, where it was ruled on December 5, 2016, that based on the SSANU/FGN 2009 Agreement and in line with the terms and conditions of employment of University Staff School teachers, they are an integral part of the University System and the obnoxious circular cannot be applied in their respect. This judgment of the National Industrial Court was greeted with great joy by all SSANU members but it is sad to note that three years after, the Federal Government has declined reinstating them back to the payroll and as such, they have been left on the hanger out to dry!
The question in line with the theme of today’s Workers Day Celebrations now arises- Where are their jobs? For more than three years now, many of the University staff school workers, numbering over two thousand nationwide, have been wallowing without jobs and left to languish in pain. Their dignities have been diminished and they have been reduced to beggars and destitutes who live on handouts from families and friends. Where is the social justice in a union embarking on legal means and respecting the rule of law and yet being denied the outcome of the court process? It is indeed painful and shameful that this disrespect for a court ruling would occur under not only a democratic dispensation, but one in which the number two man is a legal luminary of repute.
We invite our most respected and integrity personified President Muhammadu Buhari and his highly cerebral Vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to take a second look into this matter of our members in the University Staff Schools who have been denied their jobs, deprived of their dignities and withheld justice in a country where they are citizens.
The University Staff Schools are protected by the Acts establishing the Universities and in many cases, they are as old as the Universities themselves. The University Staff School system has produced many eminent and productive Nigerians including Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, Chimamanda Adichie, the new wave making Hadiza Bala Usman of the Nigeria Ports Authority among many numerous others. Not a few staff in these schools have worked for upwards of three decades and just a few years to retirement, are laid off without any iota of respect and appreciation and without any entitlements. We call on all stakeholders and friends of the University System to prevail on Government to respect the National Industrial Court Judgement and ensure the reinstatement of University Staff School workers so as to guarantee their jobs, Dignity and Social Justice as this year’s Workers Day theme connotes.
Abdussobur Olayiwola Salaam
National Public Relations Officer, Senior Staff Association of Nigerians Nigerian Universities*.
May 1, 2019.