Candidates aspiring to sit for 2018 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), conducted by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), may be in for a difficult time, if the ongoing nationwide industrial action in the university system is anything to go by.
Apart from impeding smooth administrative and academic activities across the universities nationwide, the ongoing strike by the non-academic staff unions of universities, under their umbrella- the Joint Action Committee (JAC), the conduct of this year’s Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination is set to be hindered.
Meanwhile, the fears have been aggravated since the unions, comprising the Senior Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), have insisted that there were no signs that the industrial action could be called off soon because the Federal Government has not been forthcoming in its commitment to their demands and resolution of the crisis.
However, due to the strike, the UTME Mock Test, which had earlier been scheduled to hold between Monday, January 22 and Wednesday, 24, had already been shifted twice, and there are also strong indications that a new date might not be announced soon except the workers call off the strike.
At a stakeholders’ meeting convened by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, which held in Abuja on January 9, the Registrar of the examination body, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede, had announced a shift in the date for the Mock test, citing the workers’ strike as excuse.
According to Oloyede, most of the reliable computer-based test (CBT) centres are located on university campuses, and are manned by members of the striking workers’ unions. He said at the meeting, that the Mock test would hold in the first week of February, but again, the week has gone without the test held.
Also, at the weekend, the Head of Media and Public Relations Unit of JAMB, Dr. Fabian Benjamin, told New Telegraph that a new date had not been fixed or announced, saying JAMB would make its decision known as soon as it is ready to conduct the Mock test.
Meanwhile, the registration for the examination had been successfully concluded on Sunday, February 11, after the deadline was extended from Tuesday, February 6, to Sunday.
The three unions, under the Joint Action Committee, had in December declared the nationwide indefinite strike over the perceived lopsidedness in the sharing of the N23 billion Earned Academic Allowance released to the universities by the Federal Government. Other issued raised by the unions revolved around the implementation of the December 5, 2016 judgement by the National Industrial Court on University Staff School; non-payment of arrears of earned allowances owed members; non-payment of arrears of salary shortfall, and inadequate funding of the university system.
Though, most of the universities had defied the striking workers by resuming academic activities, provision of municipal services on the campuses, such as electricity, water, registry activities and other allied services, have not been without difficulties. For instance, institutions like the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, at the wake of the strike postponed its convocation, billed for December 13 to 16, indefinitely, and ordered the students to vacate the campus hurriedly for the end of year holiday.
Though, the institution had since reopened, the university authorities are yet to fix a new date for its graduation. Also, the striking workers at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), have at one time or the other disconnected both power and water supplies to the campus; a development that has led to conflicts between the unions and the university management.
Addressing media recently, the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, decried what he described as lawlessness on the part of the striking workers, saying even though the university supports their agitation for better welfare condition, it would not tolerate lawlessness.
On the lopsidedness in the allocation of the Earn Academic Allowances to universities, Ogundipe queried the rationale why a paltry N25 million would be disbursed to UNILAG to take care of its numerous non-academic staff out of the N23 billion released by the Federal Government, while some universities got more shares.
Meanwhile, in an exclusive interview with New Telegraph, the National Public Relations Officer of SSANU, Mr. Abdulsobur Abdulsalaam, said there were no indications that the strike would be called off soon, insisting that the unions have not been handed reasons why they should resume work. According to Abdulsalaam, there have been series of meetings between the JAC and the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu on the one hand, and the Education Committee of the House of Representatives on the other hand, but that the meetings had not yielded the expected results, that would warrant suspension of the strike.