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ASUU Knocks Gov Obaseki, SIT Over Impunity – Says Management Owes Workers 29 Months Unpaid salaries

On Friday, 21st June, 2024, the Special Intervention Team (SIT) forced on Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, Edo State presented what it tagged “end-of-tenure report” at Government House, Benin City to the Governor of Edo State/Visitor to the University, His Excellency, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.

In response to the report through a terse press statement presented to the Media in Benin City yesterday, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), AAU, Ekpoma Chapter rejected the report by the SIT and the Governor’s praise of their performance.

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ASUU described the report as “a gross misrepresentation of facts, a slap on the face of truth and a desperate attempt by SIT to justify their illegality and cover up their failures”.

The Union stated that since SIT was constituted in May 2021 by Edo State Government to illegally play the role of a governing council in the University which normally performs the functions of sourcing for funds for the University, repositioning it and ensuring industrial harmony among other things, the endpoint of SIT’s performance is abysmal failure.

The Union bemoans that It is sad that the Governor commended their reign in the University that was characterized by impunities, dehumanization and victimization of staff and students, denial of workers’ right to appropriate wages, poor funding of the University, industrial disharmony and erosion of university’s autonomy, culture and ethos – the Union stated.

The Union also decried the continued stay of SIT in the University when their tenure expired since November 2022 in violation of the SIT Law and the University’s autonomy.

The dubious claims by SIT of clearing eight (8) months of outstanding salaries of staff were debunked by the Union, describing them as patently false and misleading.

According to ASUU, “The University is still in default of payment of salaries of some staff for twenty nine (29) months while others are being owed varying numbers of months of unpaid salaries up to May 2024.

In addition, check-off dues and welfare savings of members of ASUU and other staff unions in the University deducted by the University Administrations from September 2020 to November 2021, amounting to over two (2) billion naira have not been paid until now.

”The Union also described as false the claim by the SIT of employing qualified staff to fill identified gaps in the University.

According to the Union, “SIT’s style of employment of staff in the University was a farce. In their recruitments, they set aside the University’s Law and Regulations, and foisted on the employees alien conditions of service and prohibitions from joining any trade union in violation of their fundamental human rights guaranteed by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.

These are verifiable – the Union said.

ASUU further frowned upon SIT’s consistent marketing of propaganda and lies in their reports to the Visitor to the University.

For example, the Union pointed out that in previous reports, SIT lied that the staff of AAU, Ekpoma were tax evaders and that they were owing tax to the tune of two billion naira. Also, they stated that many students who were not on ground but overseas graduated from the University without studying, with the aid of some academic staff.

Further, the Union stated that its demand that the allegations should be investigated by the government, and offenders punished has since been swept away.

For SIT, it has been a game of continuation of illegality, aberrations, impunity and relevance-seeking – the Union stated.

The Union berated SIT for their poor performance in AAU, Ekpoma for the past 36 months and raised some questions about their activities in the University.

What external funds did they (SIT) bring to the University? What physical or infrastructural development did the University experience in their time? Was there even improvement of existing infrastructures during their tenure?

During the reign of SIT, the University environment became weedy and untidy like a forest; what did they do with the millions of naira collected for clearing weeds on campus?

With an expression of dissatisfaction, the Union stated, “The Governor’s promise to constitute a new governing council for the University is long overdue, and we demand immediate action.

During the stakeholders’ meeting on the crisis in the University held on 16th March, 2023 at the instance of the Governor, the Governor issued a 90-day ultimatum to SIT to wind up and pave way for the constitution of a governing council for the University. What is the fate of that ultimatum? The university urgently needs a governing council, substantive principal officers, adequate funding, respect for truth and university autonomy.

Furthermore, ASUU posited that running a university on ad hoc basis (pseudo-council and all principal officers in acting capacity) for the past three years, shows unpreparedness to run the University smoothly. Is this a confirmation of the Governor’s statement, “Ignore what they are saying about you as I have learned to turn my back on them”? – The Union asked.

The Union also expressed displeasure with the statement credited to the Governor that AAU, Ekpoma is not an Esan University but an Edo State University, describing it as a mere political rhetoric aimed at deflecting the issues at hand.

The Union stated unequivocally that the university is in shambles, and that SIT and the State Government have failed to address the issues.

The Union cautioned that politicizing and ethnicizing the problems of the University will only distract from the real issues, and then demanded an end to the illegality and impunity in the University and a return to the rule of law and university autonomy.

Finally, the Union demanded that the Governor should take immediate action to address the issues plaguing the university, including the non-constitution of a governing council; lack of substantive principal officers; lack of funding of the University; non-payment of all outstanding salaries/deductions from staff salaries; notional promotion of staff, and undue termination of the appointment/retirement of some members of staff.

Anything less will be a continuation of the illegality and impunity that has characterized the SIT’s tenure which the Union will continue to resist.

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