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Ongoing Lecturers’ Strike Shocking, Took Me By Surprise — Unijos VC

The industrial action by the Academic Staff of the University of Jos, which started on Thursday was unexpected and it took the university community by surprise, the Vice Chancellor (VC), Prof. Hayford Mafuyai, said yesterday.
“The strike took me by surprise because I was not given any notice, as required by the industrial law.
“There was completely no fair hearing; the university management, students, parents and stakeholders are shocked and in the dark over the development,’’ Mafuyai told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Jos.
NAN reports that the lecturers, under the aegis of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Unijos Chapter, had announced the strike in a statement signed by the university’s ASUU branch chairman, Dr G. C. Piwuna.
No reason was given for the action which the statement said, was “indefinite, comprehensive and total”.
But Mafuyai told NAN that the action was “uncalled for’’ because management had been in dialogue with the union on the two issues of Earned Academic Allowance and Postgraduate Supervision Allowance, which it learnt prompted the action.
He said that a committee set up to pay the earned allowance allowance carried out the exercise but that issues of overpayment, underpayment and outright non-payment evolved, prompting the setting up of another committee.
“The disagreement is that the lecturers insist that those underpaid must be paid at once, but we have told them to be more patient because the deductions from those overpaid have been very slow.”
He said that management was forced to source N179 million to effect that payment, and expressed disappointment that an issue like that could not be used to disrupt the academic calendar.
On the postgraduate supervision allowance, Mafuyai said that management had paid some lecturers, while other payments were being processed.
“In fact, ASUU brought cases of 2004-2009 when I was not the VC, but I paid.
“We asked the union to submit the names of those they claimed had not been paid, but for up to two years they could not, forcing us to stagger the payment, depending on which department was ready.
“Out of 150 claimants, 59 had been paid and 68 others have been processed and ready for payment before the Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy made it difficult to access the funds to pay.
“ASUU is aware that for the past six weeks, no federal university in this country has had access to any funds from the TSA, apart from salaries; it is very clear and ASUU knows it, that management has been making every effort to dialogue and resolve all the issues.
“We are struggling to get the money from the TSA; so, unless ASUU had a mindset, these issues are not enough to make them stop work.”
Mafuyai expressed surprise at ASUU’s claims that their welfare had not been a priority.
He explained that lecturers’ promotion had been rapid, with some being promoted even before they were due, unlike in the past when they stagnated for several years.
Apart from the steady promotion, he said that 583 staff had been trained in both local and international universities since he became VC in 2011.
“Of the figure, 409, which is 70 per cent of the slots, went to ASUU members, with 259 and 113 of them sponsored to acquire PhDs and masters’ degrees respectively.”
He expressed management’s desire for dialogue to resolve the issues, and revealed that a letter of appeal had been written to the union.
“The union has not responded to that letter, but we also hope to reach out to respected members of the society to intervene, so as to restore academic activities; a strike now is not an option because it will not serve any good.”
The VC said that he had tried to involve all segments of the community in decision making processes in the effort to move the university toward greatness and cautioned against frustrating such efforts.
“The university is moving fast and surpassing all expectations; we have entered into MOUs with more than 20 universities, many of them in America, Europe and Asia.
“Only recently, the Gambia applied that we should admit its students. Many other African countries have done same.
“Not long ago, we were rated as a centre of excellence in Phytomedicine after a research that discovered a cure for malaria; for that feat, we received eight million US dollars for further research in more areas.
“We have also won research grants from the University of Chicago and many other institutions; all of these feats were possible because we were stable. No one should puncture that stability,” he said.
He said that the university had recorded steady progress in physical structures and human capital, and advised ASUU members to be open-minded so that the issues could be amicably resolved “in the overall interests of the institution”. (NAN)

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