The Managing Director and Chief executive officer of the News Agency of Nigeria NAN, Mr Bayo Onanuga had reacted furiously to the recent strike notice served the agency by three labour unions.
NAN have been issued a 21-day ultimatum strike notice by the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services (AUPCTRE) and the Radio, Television and Theatre Art Workers Union (RATTAWU),the notice mandates the agency to implement three demands.
In a formal letter conveying the strike notice to management of NAN, the unions expressed displeasure with “refusal to sign the draft Conditions of Service’’ for the agency.
They are also demanding full payment of transfer allowance to 20 members of staff, declared redundant by management, but who were later moved to Abuja and Lagos since February 1, 2017.
The unions also “reject whatever be the outcome of the uniform editorial promotion examination for Level 8 to Level 16’’.
According to the letter, the unions have resolved that since dialogue and consultation to convince management on the grievances had failed, staff will withdraw their service with effect from September 25.
The letter was signed by Mr. Joseph Edeh, Chairman of NUJ and the Secretary, Mr. Johnson Eyiangho.
The Chairman of AUCPTRE, Mr Suleiman Haruna and the Secretary, Mrs Uduak Oputa, also signed.
Others are Mr Daniel Akpaphiare, RATTWAU Chairman and Mr. Deji Fadipe, Secretary.
The letter was copied to the permanent secretaries in the ministries of information and labour as well as the Head of Service of the Federation.
In his reaction to the issues raised, particularly that of NAN Conditions of Service, Mr Bayo Onanuga, as the Chief Executive of the agency, said he would not want to sign a document that would further compound the financial burden of the federal government.
He explained that the federal government was doing a lot of favour to NAN by paying salaries of staff.
“We are supposed to be a Full-fledged commercial agency to earn our revenue and to pay salaries from that income.
“What I met on ground was that the CEOs before me persuaded the federal government to instead make the Agency semi-commercial.
“Since it is a knowledge-based agency, everybody ought to know that the agency is not making enough money to cover its overhead. And that money is the greatest constant challenge facing the Agency,’’ he said.
Commenting on the transfer allowance of the 20 members of staff raised by union, Onanuga explained that the affected personnel “knew from their heart of hearts’’ that they were cheating the system and the federal government for several years before they were discovered.
He explained that the staff were not justifying in any way, the salaries they were earning.
“If our Agency were in a private sector, the staff would have been sacked. But instead management decided to be magnanimous by asking them to report to the headquarters in Abuja and others to Lagos.
“Even as we talk most of them have nothing to do. It was part of the magnanimity that management resolved to pay them a third of their transfer allowance, which we paid in batches, because of the paucity of funds.’’
He explained that there was a time in NAN, because of the financial handicap, when personnel were paid just transport allowance when they were transferred.
On the promotion exercise, he expressed disgust with the position of the unions.
“I am ashamed as a journalist that the NUJ will be pushing that management should promote journalists, who cannot write good English or just simply incompetent.
“My position is that our job is like that of doctors and nurses and I have always asked staff to imagine a situation where we have killer doctors and killer nurses in our hospitals. Just think of the consequences of having toxic journalists in the newsroom.’’
He explained that he intended to run NAN with competent writers who “can stand on their own’’ anywhere in the world, and not people who could not spell the name of the President of Nigeria or that of China.