Research institutes’ strike clocks 83 days, paralyses activities

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Exactly 83 days after the Joint Unions of Research Institutes and Allied Institutions embarked on an indefinite industrial action, activities at research and agriculture institutions across the country have been grounded.

The action of the unions, which commenced on November 14, 2017, was taken after the Federal Government ignored a 15-day strike ultimatum, issued on October 30, 2017.

Of the 26 institutions, 15 are Agric-based establishments, a development described by stakeholders as a setback to government’s much-hyped diversification of the economy to agriculture.

Their demands include; payment of 12 months arrears of 53.37 per cent salary increase; withdrawal of circular on non-skipping of grade level 10; retirement age of 65 years for non-research staff, obtainable in the university; and peculiar allowance/earned allowances.
 
Others are establishment of a central body to be known as National Research Institutes Commission (NARICON); adequate funding of research institutes; and release of condition of scheme of service.

A visit to the Centre for Management Development (CMD), Magodo, Lagos, which was always lively considering its mandate as an institution meant to promote and conduct research into various facets of management development, showed it was locked-up when The Guardian visited during last week. It was the same scenario at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), as the strike, has impacted negatively on the activities of the institutions. Vehicles were also not allowed in, as offices remained under lock and key.

Feelers from the National Root Crops Research Institute (NRCRI), Umudike, Abia State, Nigerian Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER); Nigeria Institute of Science Laboratory (NISLT), Ibadan; and Institute of Agricultural Research & Training and Forestry Research Institute of Nigeria, all in Ibadan, Oyo State, showed that the same scenario is playing out there.

The Guardian learnt that on January 24 2018, national leaders of the unions met with their branch officials and insisted that they would sustain their indefinite strike, if the Federal Government fails to accede to their demands, with a resolution for all the affected institutions to carry out peaceful demonstration in their various branches.

During its protest last Thursday, the CMD’s Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational And Associated Institutions (NASU) and Academic Staff Union of Research Institutes (ASURI), for JORAISU, accused the Federal Government of paying lips service to the development of research in the country.

They chided the Federal Government for failing to recognise the importance of research, with its body language since the commencement of the strike, adding that the recent threat to enforcing no-wok-no pay policy is a mere threat.

The NASU chairman, Oladipo Adekunle and Secretary ASURI, Lucky Inigbenosun, said if government plays its part, the affected institutions wouldn’t be on strike. “To me, no research, no development. If our agitations have been met we would have resumed. We want them to do the needful by meeting our demands, just to ensure that we carryout our mandates effectively,” Adekunle said.

They insisted that they would not call off the strike until government honours all the agreements reached five years ago, lamenting that they have exhausted all the necessary medium to make government to recognise the importance of research institutes, yet there is no hope in sight.
 
During the protest at FIIRO, Chairman, FIIRO Branch, the Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutions and Associated institutions (SSAUTHRIAI) for JORAISU, Comrade Engr. John Odoh, told The Guardian that despite the fact that the strike has grounded activities at the institutes, government has failed to pay attention to their agitations.
 
Odoh stated that a country that does not embark on research would not have any meaningful development, insisting that they would sustain their indefinite strike, if the Federal Government fails to accede to their demands. 
 
He disclosed that the unions are waiting for government’s promised memo of approval for the payment of arrears, noting that the issue has been discussed and resolved at the National Assembly. 
 
On his part, the Branch Secretary of NASU, FIIRO Branch, Kehinde Michael, maintained that the strike would continue until their demands are met, accusing government of paying lip service to research for development.

When The Guardian contacted the Director of Press, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Tolu Makinde, on steps being taken by the ministry to resolve the impasse, he promised to call back to give a full detail.

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