By Taiwo Soweto
On Tuesday 12 June 2012, the Senate of the Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA) shut down the university and suspended indefinitely leaders of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) Messers Ben Chukwuma and Makinde Faola citing “unwholesome activities” of the two unions. Six other union leaders were also put on indefinite suspension.
This is the second time in three months that the authorities of FUTA have closed the campus, and it is as a result of the crisis caused by management’s refusal to pay members of staff their legitimate hazard allowance.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the closure of the University. We also strongly condemn the suspension of Messers Ben Chukwuma and Makinde Faola respectively of SSANU and NASU and other six union leaders similarly placed on indefinite suspension. We demand their immediate recall and as well as reopening of the University.
The two unions – SSANU and NASU - are demanding payment of hazard allowance to members. According to the workers, it was the fact that the University authorities reneged on earlier promises to pay that forced workers to down tools and protest.
The closure of the campus and the suspension of the union leaders are undemocratic and outrageous. Report has it that the University authorities are also threatening to discipline other members of staff who refuse to work. This strong-arm tactics is meant to force workers to accept a situation where they work without full payment of their benefits including hazards.
Many non-academic staffs in Universities and other tertiary institutions work in hazardous conditions. This is not just in terms of the nature of their work (for instance those who work in laboratories, clinics, maintenance workshops, electricity department, etc as well as cleaners etc) but also in terms of the general unsafe work atmosphere predominant in most universities across Nigeria.
This is why the struggle for hazard allowance is very legitimate and must be supported by students, academic staff and the public. Indeed we call on FUTA Students’ Union and the local branch of ASUU to publicly condemn this attack on the non-academic staff. If this attack is not collectively resisted, it is only a matter of time before the same will be done to students and academic staffs when they have reason to demand respect of their legitimate rights.
The ERC urges FUTA workers to struggle on until all demands are met. However, the demand for payment of hazard allowance has to be linked with a fight for adequate funding of education. Without massive government investment in funding public education, there is no way the working condition of workers can improve positively and significantly.
The ERC strongly holds that Nigeria’s resources, if judiciously and democratically managed, is adequate to provide free and functional education at all levels and a better condition of service and remunerations for teaching and non-teaching staff. We again restate our demand for adequate funding of education. We reject the Oronsaye committee recommendation for introduction of tuition fees and demand the reversal of all hiked fees.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
Education Rights Campaign (ERC)
162, Ipaja Road,Agbotikuyo Bus-Stop, Agege, Lagos
E-mail: [email protected]
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