Lament attendant hardship, multiple deaths

Staff of Imo State University (IMSU) Owerri, have decried the deplorable state of affairs in the institution, including refusal of the government to pay them five (5) months accumulated salaries, after providing all necessary information, including their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN), as requested, a situation they said, has resulted in multiple deaths of staff of the institution. 

In a release by the Joint Action Committee (JAC) of Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU),IMSU Chapter, which was signed by representatives of the various Unions namely,  Comr. Eugenia C John-Anoruo, chairman, NASU;Comr. Emeka Ejiofor. I, Secretary, NASU; Comr. Stan Iromaka, Chairman, NAAT;Comr. Chika Emegano, Secretary, NAAT;Comr. Felrx Chukwu, Chairman, SSANU.Others are Comr. Ambrose Okeroafor, Secretary, SSANU and made available to the press, they expressed dismay that after being coerced by the state government to submit their BVNs, contrary to section 1.6 of the Central Bank Regulatory Framework for Bank Verification Number operations and watch list for 2018, as amended,675 staff of the university including retirees are still owed five (5) months salary arrears. Those that were paid received only March, April and May salaries, excluding February.

They urged the Government to pay them without further delay, to enable them take care of their basic needs, and that of their dependents that have been subjected to lack and deprivation.

The release also stated that by virtue of their enrollment into the Contributory Pension Scheme (CPS) of 2004 as amended in 2014, 8% of staff salary is deducted at source and paid alongside the 10% contributed by the employer into the Retirement Savings Account (RSA) of every staff. “This is aimed at ensuring that anybody who works in the federal, state or private sector is paid retirement benefits as and at when due”, without excuses.

“Regrettably, staff members of IMSU are owed One Billion and Fifty Seven Million Naira (N1.057 billion) excluding actuarial value, as a result of poor funding and insincerity of management towards the pension scheme”.

They also complained bitterly of the inexplicable slashing of the university’s subvention, which, coupled with the free education policy of the state government that dwindled it’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) base has compounded the university’s problem. “Prior to 2016, the total wage bill of the university was N398 million, but it received N297 million as subvention, including staff salaries”. “It was further slashed to N197 million by the Rochas Okorocha administration after making deductions at source. This has made it difficult for the university to function effectively and be alive to it’s statutory responsibilities as a tertiary institution”.

“The unions on several occasions had called on the university Governing Council and the State government to address the situation and restore our monthly subvention to what it used to be, but were ignored. Hence the deplorable situation persists till date”.

The release further noted that, “we observed from the three months salary paid to some selected staff, that pension deductions that are usually remitted to staff individual Pension Fund Administrators were not complied with, contrary to the provisions of the pension Reform Act of 2014, part IV page 12, sub-section 3,5,6 and 7”.

“Besides, union membership subscriptions otherwise called union dues that are deducted and paid to each of the staff unions which enables them run their affairs, were also not remitted. “Others include staff cooperative society dues, staff bank loans guaranteed by the university, staff welfare deductions, repayment of housing mortgages, among others. “We demand the urgent release of all the check-offs enumerated above, in line with laid down procedure”.

They also wondered why payment of some peculiar allowances including occupational hazards, allowances, shift duty and call duty allowances that are implemented in all Nigerian Universities, in line with the federal government’s agreement with the unions in 2009, were not included in the three (3) months salaries paid to the few selected staff. “We demand immediate restoration of these allowances and payment of these outstanding arrears in the shortest possible time”.

They urged the government “to reactivate the four man Technical Committee to work out modalities for off-setting arrears of the Earned Allowances and commencement of the monthly payment to staff. It is on record that, virtually all federal and state universities have commenced the monthly payment of these Earned Allowances to their staff”.

They also called for the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) reached between the school’s Governing Council, government and staff unions at the peak of the last industrial action. “The MOU provided that a technical committee be set up to address all issues of funding including the payment of arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) claims of N2.8 billion  for ASUU, Earned Allowance (EA) of N2.6 billion for NASU, and SSANU and Earned Allowances (EA) of N295 million for NAAT. Despite the four (4) weeks ultimatum given to the technical committee to conclude it’s assignment, the state government has since then reneged on the agreement”.

The Joint Action Committee (JAC) also called for the constitution and inauguration of a Governing Council “that, aside being the governing and policy making body of the university, shall have the power to generally manage the affairs of the university and in particular, the control of the property and expenditure of the university as stipulated in section 8, sub-section 81c of Imo State University Law No 5 of 2005”.

They recalled that, when they paid a courtesy visit on Governor Uzodinma, at the inception of his administration, he promised to delist IMSU from the TSA to enhance it’s autonomy as a unique institution that should not be run like ministries and parastatals. They urged Governor Uzodinma, to ensure that the university is run and administered strictly in line with it’s governing laws, and stressed that, “JAC may resort to resumption of the suspended industrial action if the issues raised above are not satisfactorily addressed”.