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Ojukwu varsity unions threaten strike over N4.6bn debt

Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University COOU

Academic and business activities at the Anambra State owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University (COOU) may be paralysed as three  labour unions in the institution threaten to embark on indefinite strike over N4.6 billion debt.

Already the unions, National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) under the auspices of Joint Action Committee of Trade Unions (JAC) have issued a notice for the industrial action and commenced mobilization of the members for the strike.

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According to a statement issued by the unions, the total debt owed the workers by the varsity was  about N4.6 billion, which covered monetization arrears, promotion arrears, CONTISS and CONUASS arrears, Earned Allowance arrears, non-remittance of Contributory Pension Fund Deductions/non payment of employers (10 per cent) portion of the fund, PAYE deductions and remittance, non-remittance of National Housing Fund contributions and non-remittance of union dues/levies after deduction.

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The statement was jointly signed by JAC leader/Chairman, NAAT-COO; Comrade A.C. Okeke; Chairman, NASU-COOU, Comrade F.O. Nwaibe; and Chairman, SSANU-COOU, Comrade Oddih Obiora and made available to Daily Trust in Awka Anambra State capital last week.

According to the statement, the JAC-COOU had at various times pleaded, dialogued and signed agreements/MoUs with the University Governing Council over these issues.

“Unfortunately, little or nothing has come out of all these platforms. While our colleagues in federal and state universities are enjoying better conditions of service, we have remained a “Beacon of Darkness” in a state that prides itself as “The Light of nation,” hoping and praying that the right and proper things will be done to address our needs, to no avail”.

“The story has always been “there is no money” but this stance does not agree with the lifestyle and spending of some of the people trusted with managing the finances of the state and the university.

“We have endured and endured to the extent that our “Ndidi,” show of understanding and blind loyalty to the administration are now being seen or construed to be weakness and foolishness at some quarters.

“We are therefore, constrained and compelled to believe that His Excellency, the Governor and Visitor to the university is either not aware of our plight and the myriad problems of the university or that he is made to believe ‘all is well,” “we can manage.” We are tired of being managed or managing, it’s really tough and rough for our members as we are losing them to the cold hands of death in great numbers without benefits,” it stated.

Giving a breakdown of the N4.6 billion debt, the unions said the institution owed them 39 months monetization arrears (October 2003 to December 200) totaling N326,030,094.00; promotion arrears – junior staff promotion arrears, October 2007 to May 2008, (eight months); October 2008 to March 2009 (six months), October 2009 to February 2010 (five months); SATS promotion arrears October 2008 to July 2009 (10 months) all totaling N26, 948,495.00; 50 per cent 2013 promotion arrears, N42,546,688.00 and 50 per cent 2014 promotion arrears, N42,698,916.00.

Others include CONTISS I/CONUNASS I/CONUASS I arrears (January 2008 to June 2009) and (July 2009 to January 2011) which amounted to N451,932,390.00 and N1,303,35,582.00 respectively.

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