Varsity workers to FG: Don’t push us into another strike

From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) on Wednesday, said it is not eager to embark on another industrial action but may be forced to do so if the government continues to total disregard to the welfare of its members.

Speaking with Journalists at its 6th National Women Conference held in Abuja, SSANU President, Mohammed Haruna Ibrahim, urged the government to be more alive to the plight of public servants and fulfill the various agreements it has entered with the union to avert the sprout of a fresh industrial action.

Ibrahim further lamented the economic conditions of the country, stating that it has drastically eroded the value of the monies which the government owes members. He noted that the sooner the payments are made, the better.

“We have always said that SSANU is a 21st century union and that we are not strike mongers. We only talk about strike when it becomes necessary and our own style is that of engagement. We ensure that we engage ourselves with the key stakeholders. Today, the struggle we are going through is not something that started yesterday. It started in 2009, this is 12 years, and gradually we are making progress, but what we keep telling government is that there is need to open your eyes to ensure that the welfare of public servants generally, not only if the university system needs is catered for because if we don’t keep the workers happy, naturally they will be a problem. We are service providers, we teach children, we mold characters, and if we are not fully settled, if our salaries are not paid, or are not paid well, you know naturally it will have a ripple effect. And that is why we are saying since we have entered an agreement with the government and have agreed and they have consented that they will see to the fruition of this welfare, then why the delay.

“If you look at the economy today, it’s something else. And the monies we are talking about, the value has totally been eroded. So the earlier this problem is settled, the earlier payments are made the better. For us, we will continue to engage with governments; we will continue to enlighten members for them to continue to remain silent, for them to continue to remain vigilant and for them to continue to remain focused. Therefore, we will not at this point begin to flag the card of strike until and unless it becomes necessary. And for us as leaders we drive our powers from our constituencies and whatever we do before you see anything, we must have taken mandate from our members and those are people in the congresses at the level of different branches.” he said.

Speaking on the Conference themed; “Unionism and Gender Challenge In Nigeria”, the President noted that women made up half of the SSANU population and therefore must be included at the helm of affairs and brought to the forefront to partner with their male counterparts.

He said women posses a special intelligence that allows them operate in a more strategic approach, which cannot be ignored but rather explored for the growth of the union.

He also explained that the conference was an opportunity to bring experts to educate the women about health issues that affect them and how to be more security conscious especially in the face of ravaging insecurity.

Ibrahim said; “ I have to tell you that SSANU looks at women as partners in progress. In the union we have what we call the National Women Committee. This is telling you that we see them as partners and we don’t look down on them. We also see them as people whom we need in this struggle. Without the woman, there is no nation as you have heard from them, and they play a critical roles in unionism. Today, SSANU has grown and in our membership, I can assure you that about 50 percent of us are women. and we cannot continue to keep them at the bench or at the back seats that is why we have given them the opportunity to come together, to talk to themselves and talk on issues that surround them and their well being. Part of what will be discussed today will be about healthcare in the home because they are mothers who have children, they have grandchildren, they have sisters and brothers. They need to be updated on the latest education about their health and the health of the family. We also talked to them about the need to be security conscious. You know that insecurity today in Nigeria has become the ring tone, and that women and children are the most vulnerable. So we have assembled facilitators here that will talk to them and reawaken them to bring them up to speed on the need for them to be careful and be very strategic in whatever they do, and being security conscious also.

Speaking on the agitations for university security to bear arms, he said, “ At this point, we have gone to the level of trying to engage with the National Assembly because we have realized is an issue of law. The security personnel we have in those universities are not new to ammunition because most of them are retired police or military and therefore, all the government needs to do is to give them a fresher course or refresher course and then license or approve that those ammunition should be purchased by universities and that they should be regulated because the institutions generally have become so porous. 80 percent of our universities today in Nigeria are borderless, because they are not adequately protected and therefore they are vulnerable and people can attack from all angles, but by the time you have fortified security system where the personnel can carry guns. These dire devils are not angels, they are not coming from outside, they are human beings like us the only thing that makes them different and what they use to intimidate our workers are the guns. So once we allow our security men to hold these guns and train our personnel, they’ll be able to deter and ensure that they secure the community.”

The National Women Leader, Comrade Agnes Nti said the Conference was a platform for women to interact and be enlightened, educated, informed and equipped to perform better in the Union and the society at large.

She said women play pivotal roles in the development and well being of every society and therefore, encouraged them to use their God given skills as good managers, home makers, family builders and peace makers to better the union and the society.

Also speaking, the National President, Nigerian Union of Journalists (NAWOJ), Mrs Ladi Bala who was in solidarity with SSANU Women decried the poor quality of education in Nigeria. She said miserable salary structure for teachers has led to a brain drain in the country’s educational system and commended the federal government for the recent proposed review in the salaries of teachers. She expressed hope that this would attract more qualified people to the educational sector.

Bala further tasked the women to take up the responsibility of re-orienting the minds of the younger generation and teaching them that quality education is the bedrock of success.

According to her“The quality of education has become very bad in Nigeria. And this is mostly found in public school. I know government is doing its best but the quality of teachers is a big issue in the educational system of Nigeria. I am glad the federal government recently made a pronouncement about the proposed rise in these salaries of teachers. I think that is one of the strategies to address the status in Nigeria. Once the teachers are well paid, I want to guarantee, there are many people that have the qualification who will go back to the classrooms, and if we have the qualified teachers in the classroom, you can be sure that those students that they will train will come out better students. But like I said earlier this issue of education should not just be left to the government alone and the school authorities. As different women organizations, we also have the responsibility of reorienting the minds of individuals.

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