Kogi var­sity stu­dents face un­cer­tain fu­ture as lec­tur­ers stop work

Daily Trust - - EDUCATION - From Itodo Daniel Sule, Lokoja

Stu­dents of the Kogi State Univer­sity Anyigba are unar­guably in a tight spot as the dis­agree­ment be­tween the in­sti­tu­tion’s chap­ter of the Aca­demic Staff Union of Uni­ver­si­ties (ASUU) and the state gov­ern­ment over salary pay­ments lingers.

ASUU had on April 19 em­barked on “No pay, No work” ac­tion to pre­vail on the state gov­ern­ment to off­set all the ar­rears of salaries owed lec­tur­ers of the in­sti­tu­tion. The nearly three month’s labour ac­tion has ap­par­ently grounded classes and so­cio-eco­nomic ac­tiv­i­ties at the univer­sity.

Thou­sands of stu­dents who have been forced out of the univer­sity cam­pus fol­low­ing the industrial un­rest have re­counted their or­deals.

Ruth Ade­joh is one of the Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion stu­dents who com­pleted her pro­gramme from the univer­sity in December 2015.

Ruth, like her coun­ter­parts from other de­part­ments, had ex­pected that the in­sti­tu­tion would have com­puted their fi­nal re­sults and for­warded their names to the Na­tional Youth Ser­vice Corps (NYSC) for on­ward mo­bi­liza­tion for the manda­tory na­tional ser­vice. But the lin­ger­ing industrial un­rest seemed to have shat­tered Ruth’s dream of the NYSC.

Ruth ex­pressed wor­ries that she and some of her of con­tem­po­raries who had ea­gerly longed to be part of the Na­tional Youth Ser­vice might even­tu­ally be dis­qual­i­fied on the ac­count of age due to the lin­ger­ing strike ac­tion.

“The NYSC only mo­bi­lizes grad­u­ates who are not above 30 years. Some of us fin­ished our fi­nal ex­ams while al­most reach­ing that age limit. With the lin­ger­ing labour ac­tion, those of us in that category would be ex­empted from ser­vice, which is ac­tu­ally un­fair,” she said.

Ruth said she had de­cided to learn tailor­ing in the mean­time to keep her­self busy pend­ing when her re­sults would be ready. She ap­pealed to the state gov­ern­ment and lec­tur­ers to find an end to the dis­pute in the over­all in­ter­est of the stu­dents.

On her part, Peace Abah, an un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dent in the de­part­ment of English, said life has not been easy stay­ing idle for close to three months.

Stu­dents’ unions have also raised con­cerns over the face-off, which they said had im­pacted neg­a­tively on stu­dents.

Pres­i­dent of the Stu­dent Union Gov­ern­ment (SUG), Com­rade Shaibu Philip Omepa, said the ‘No pay, No work’ ac­tion em­barked upon by the aca­demic staff of the univer­sity had taken its toll on stu­dents and want an im­me­di­ate end to the stand off.

He said many grad­u­ates of the univer­sity who ought to have been mo­bi­lized for the NYSC as well as the Nige­rian Law School are be­ing de­prived of the op­por­tu­nity due the quar­rel be­tween ASUU and gov­ern­ment over wages.

On his part, Pres­i­dent of the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Kogi State Stu­dents (NAKOSS), Ab­dul­ma­lik Hadi, urged all stake­hold­ers in the state to in­ter­vene in the im­passe to bring respite to stu­dents. He ap­pealed to gov­ern­ment and ASUU to go back to the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble, say­ing “it’s the grass that suf­fers when two ele­phants en­gage in a fight.”

Ac­cord­ing to him, it was in the best in­ter­est of both gov­ern­ment and ASUU to bring the sit­u­a­tion to an end as all par­ties con­cerned are suf­fer­ing sev­eral con­se­quences aris­ing from it.

He said while the stu­dents have been pushed to the wall over the mat­ter, their lead­er­ship be­lieves in con­sul­ta­tion and di­a­logue as the best means of ad­dress­ing is­sues rather than con­fronta­tion and called on those con­cerned to set­tle their dif­fer­ences. He also asked the members of the state House of As­sem­bly and other rel­e­vant stake­hold­ers to wade into the stand­off.

But ASUU has vowed to sus­tain the on­go­ing industrial ac­tion un­til the ar­rears of two months’ salaries were cleared by the state gov­ern­ment.

Act­ing Chair­man of ASUU, Dr. Daniel Aina, who ad­dressed a press con­fer­ence in Lokoja, said its congress has re­solved that the labour ac­tion will be sus­tained till the ‘last kobo’ owed is paid and that the ac­tion will be in­voked any­time de­lay in salary pay­ment goes beyond the 7th day of the suc­ceed­ing month.

ASUU, which acknowledged that gov­ern­ment has cleared back­log of five months’ salaries since the in­cep­tion of its industrial ac­tion, how­ever in­sisted it will not re­sume work un­til the out­stand­ing ar­rears are set­tled.

Dr. Aina said that the in­sis­tence of ASUU that all out­stand­ing salaries be paid be­fore re­sump­tion of work was in view of its in­tol­er­ance for cor­rup­tion amongst its members, adding that “cor­rup­tive ten­den­cies would be rife” once salary pay­ments are de­layed.

The union ex­pressed wor­ries over the poor re­sponse of the state gov­ern­ment to some of the is­sues af­fect­ing lec­tur­ers in the univer­sity, adding that gov­ern­ment must live up to its re­spon­si­bil­ity for the in­sti­tu­tion to at­tain qual­ity aca­demic standard.

“We are com­mit­ted to this and the gov­ern­ment, be­ing the spon­sor, has to be equally com­mit­ted to it. It has be­come clear to us that the gov­ern­ment is not favourably dis­posed to ful­fill­ing its obli­ga­tion of paying salaries as and when due,” he said.

“The is­suance of threats of sack or “No work, No pay” will not solve the prob­lem and ev­ery re­pres­sive move against ASUU will not solve any prob­lem.

“It is er­ro­neous to be bi­ased that ASUU means trou­ble. What will solve the prob­lem is an ob­jec­tive and open minded en­gage­ment of ASUU on the is­sues at stake with def­i­nite com­mit­ments. This, we re­quire from gov­ern­ment as a pr­ereq­ui­site for hav­ing strike­free ses­sions in KSU,” he said.

He urged the gov­ern­ment to pay the two months’ out­stand­ing salaries for the lec­tur­ers to re­turn to the class­rooms within three days.

The chair­man in­di­cated that the op­er­a­tion of the univer­sity sys­tem is by strict ad­her­ence to aca­demic cal­en­dar uni­ver­sally hence it can­not be sub­jected to the civil ser­vice whims with­out some­thing go­ing berserk.

“The gov­ern­ment must see the univer­sity as it is in prac­tice and not by con­ve­nience, to elim­i­nate rifts and bumps in its op­er­a­tion. ASUU wishes to state very loudly and clearly that the is­sue of salary is only but a frac­tion of the is­sues at stake.”

Dr Aina said be­sides the is­sue of salary pay­ments, there were other griev­ances bor­der­ing on heavy tax­a­tion, non-im­ple­men­ta­tion of con­trib­u­tory pen­sions, ar­rears of Earned Aca­demic Al­lowances (EAA) be­tween 2009 and 2014 and univer­sity au­ton­omy which are yet to be ad­dressed.

He said the univer­sity has wit­nessed mass ex­o­dus of lec­tur­ers to other in­sti­tu­tions in re­cent times while lec­tur­ers who would have come to the in­sti­tu­tion on sab­bat­i­cal are of­ten dis­cour­aged from com­ing due to the sit­u­a­tion on ground.

When con­tacted, Com­mis­sioner for Ed­u­ca­tion and Tech­nol­ogy in the state, Dr Tolorun­leke Sun­day, said ef­forts are on­go­ing to re­solve the lin­ger­ing stand­off be­tween ASUU and the gov­ern­ment to en­sure aca­demic ac­tiv­i­ties re­sume at the univer­sity in the in­ter­est of stu­dents.

Mean­while ASUU had on Monday July 25 di­rected its strik­ing members to re­sume work to en­able stu­dents con­clude their ex­ams.

Act­ing Chair­per­son, Dr Aina in a state­ment is­sued at the week­end, said the de­ci­sion fol­lowed an un­der­stand­ing reached with the Univer­sity Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee (UMC).

“This agree­ment does not in any way trun­cate our ear­lier res­o­lu­tion and strug­gle but to al­low stu­dents write their out­stand­ing ex­ams now slated for Au­gust 1st 2016.

“ASUU lead­er­ship shall abide by our ear­lier res­o­lu­tion on the to­tal pay­ment of the back­log salaries as the only con­di­tion for the sus­pen­sion of the on­go­ing strug­gle,” it said.

Gover­nor Ya­haya Bello had last week di­rected the Vice Chan­cel­lor of Kogi State Univer­sity to re-open the univer­sity for aca­demic ac­tiv­i­ties with ef­fect from to­day.

He said the lec­tur­ers were ex­pected to re­turn to their classes since gov­ern­ment has met their ma­jor de­mands, adding that his gov­ern­ment should be trusted by ASUU hav­ing paid them six months’ salaries within his six months in of­fice.

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