The University of Lagos (UNILAG) and three workers’ unions have reached some understanding to make the ongoing strike by the workers more bearable.
The resolution was reached last Friday following a meeting of the university’s principal officers and the union leaders at the Council chambers after which the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, addressed some aggrieved workers waiting outside.
The leaders of the three unions have since restored some skeletal services withdrawn in exchange for the release of two of their leaders, Mr Joseph Adefolalu and Mr Adekola Adetomiwa, who were arrested by the police the day before (last Thursday).
The Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), Non Academic Staff Union (NASU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have been on strike since December 4, 2017 over the lopsided sharing formula of the N23 billion earned allowances released by the Federal Government, 75 per cent of which went to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) alone.
As a result of the strike, services like power/water supply, running of the health centre, had not been regular, while students also found it difficult to register because of limited access to the university’s website/registration portal.
However, early last week, even the skeletal services were withdrawn following a TV news show in which students and lecturers claimed that the strike was ineffective.
During the meeting, the union leaders had expressed displeasure about the management hunting down its members with security agents because of their compliance with the national strike called by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of the three unions.
“The management of UNILAG has been intimidating us; harassing us. Only yesterday, over 60 policemen arrested our members.
“You are not the one that will pay earned allowances, why are you doing too much guiding? It is not a good thing to arrest two union leaders” said NASU Chairman, Ajibade Kehinde.
Also speaking, SSANU Chairman, Comrade M.K. Olofidiran, called for amicable resolution of the crisis.
“We should look for the way forward. Whether it is the management that arrested our leaders or not isn’t important. We will appreciate that they will be given conditional release,” he said.
Responding to the leaders, Ogundipe accused them of putting pressure on the management by starving the students’ hostels of power and water supply.
He also faulted the unions for shutting the health centre and the university’s website.
Ogundipe said he was the only VC that had openly supported their strike and called on the Federal Government to increase their share of the earned allowances.
He said: “You have not being fair to the management. Because one student said the strike was not effective you stopped giving light. Even when you gave the (staff) quarters light, the students had no light for two-three days. Is it fair? I had to go to the hostel to talk to them. I never abused the non-teaching staff because of the strike. I told the students they were fighting for their rights.
“In other universities, they take light by 10am and by 6/6.30pm it is back; No one has to talk to them. But in UNILAG, you have to talk to them. You removed 120 fuses so we decided that nobody is above the law
“What you did was to incite the students against the management by not giving the light. If you put off the light, there should be a limit.”
Regarding the closure of the health centre, he said: “Do you know even in a war you don’t lock up hospitals? Do you know how many students the Dean of Students’ Affairs had to take students in his car to the hospital?”
Addressing other workers, Ogundipe was able to douse the tension by telling the workers that they were even with management.
“I heard you said I abused you, I did not abuse you. But even if I did, you people called me a thief. So, it is one-one goalless draw,” he said, drawing laughter from the workers.
He urged them not to allow the strike divide the university.
In return for facilitating their leaders’ release that day, Ogundipe asked the unions to re-open the medical centre and provide light for the students.
Ajibade confirmed to The Nation on phone that Adefolalu and Adetomiwa were released last Friday. He also said the services required by the university had been restored.
“They were released on Friday,” he said, adding, “We have opened the health centre and they will do skeletal services for now,” he said.