AAU Crisis: ASUU Seeks Urgent NUC, Edo Govt Intervention

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The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has called on the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Edo Government to urgently intervene in the lingering industrial crisis at the Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma.

This is to reposition the institution for better learning and development.

The ASUU, Benin Zone, made the appeal on Monday in Benin at a news conference, which the union’s Coordinator, Prof. Fred Esumeh, said became expedient due to the marketing of lies, propaganda, mischief and blackmail against the branch of the union in the institution.

Esumeh, who was joined by the chairmen of branches under the zone, said the union frowned at the poor funding and mismanagement of the university’s resources with the management’s inability to meet its obligation of payment of staff emoluments, hence a resort to irregular and selective payment of salaries.

According to him, the recent reduction in the monthly subvention of the university to an abysmally low N41.3 million from N270 million has led to the workers being owed 20 month salary arrears from 2020 to date, with 15 months of unremitted sundry deductions to staff unions.

This, he said, had put the total amount the university owed the union members and associations at N4 trillion.

“The state government must of a necessity intervene at this point to clear the arrears of emoluments of workers of the university.

“For what it is, the problem is a catalyst for industrial crisis and therefore a threat to the smooth running of the academic calendar and the general administration of the university,” he said.

The ASUU leader also described the current management model in the institution as bizarre and far from the idea administrative style of university administration in the country.

The institution, he noted, was being run on ad-hoc basis with an amendment to its law, which step up Special Intervention Team (SIP) as against Governing Council required by the NUC.

Esumeh averred that the management might be de-marketing the quality and value of certificate of degree programmes in the school by forcing the resumption of academic activities in the school and illegal conduct of examinations with the input of relevant course lecturers.

Other issues, the ASUU coordinator said needed the stakeholders’ immediate attention, included the suppression of staff right and freedom of association, controversial and inconclusive biometrics, among others.

To achieve industrial peace at the university, the union leader said the management and the Edo government would have to return to the path of truth, dialogue and sincere commitment to the resolution of the crisis.

“All outstanding emoluments – salaries, check-off dues and other deductions of staff in the university should be paid without further delay to avoid the continuation of the local strike when the national strike is suspended.

“The Edo Government should approve a bail-out fund for the university and satisfactorily increase the monthly subvention to the university.

“The ongoing academic fraud in the university should be investigated and dealt with decisively. We therefore call on the regulatory agency, the NUC, to immediately do the needful.

“The Edo Government should make haste to release a white paper on the report of the Special Visitation Panel to the university in October 2020 to deter further embezzlement of the finances of the university and mismanagement of its affairs,” he said.

Esumeh also called for the restoration of governing council to pave way for immediate appointment of substantive principal officers.

Prof. Sonnie Adagbonyin, the Vice-Chancellor of the Edo owned university, had however told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) the crisis was caused by union leaders’ refusal to understand the peculiarities of the university’s operational system.

The state government, he said, had never for once, reneged in its financial obligations to the university and prompt in the release of the monthly subvention to the institution.

“We must understand that like all universities, AAU has its own peculiar system of operations. It relies on subvention from the state government while the university management augments from fees paid by students.

“And we must emphasise that government has never failed in bringing its own component of the subvention. There is no month that government has reneged in paying subvention to the university.

“The union’s quarrel is that it is not as much as it used to be. But they have also failed to realise that within the university system, our capacity to discipline the resources and all the things that we do also have a role to play in sustaining us as a university.

“That has been the missing link. People just look at the amount government brings and begin to complain. How can this be enough to pay this or salary and can this settle the whole issues on ground.

“I want to say that what has always created a backlog of unpaid salaries is not what government brings. It is not the IGR the university generates. It is the consistency in the fragmentation of academic calendar.

“And I think that it is what offended government to the extent suspending activities of unions in the institution,” the vice-chancellor explained. (NAN)

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