Battle for the soul of FUOYE
Tension is mounting at Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE). Amid the festering crisis between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities( ASUU), the body’s chapter of FUOYE is facing a self-inflicted insurrection over issues bordering on alleged maladministration, self-interests and death threat, writes Head, Education Desk, IYABO LAWAL
“If we have been crying out to ASUU leaders that things are not done the right way and nothing is done about it then we have a right to leave. The same thing happened at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife which is the headquarters of ASUU. Like OAU, members of Congress of University Academics (CONUA) in FUOYE are more than ASUU members. We just finished our exams and normal academic activities have commenced. ASUU is a dead horse. We are bold enough to break away from them. Even within ASUU, there are three splinter groups – independent, non-aligned and beleaguered ASUU. Without any fear of contradiction, events in the next few weeks would either vindicate or vilify us,” Mr Ayodeji Ige began without mincing words.
He had more to say but some background of how matters came to a head may explain the ongoing conundrum in one of Nigeria’s ivory tower that may serve as litmus test for the Academic Staff Union of Universities in other institutions in the face of the nation-wide strike embarked upon by its members.
Until now federal government-owned universities like their state-owned counterparts are under a siege: being asphyxiated by decrepit infrastructure and meagre funding. Nigeria’s public education system has writhed in excruciating pains of neglect from Nigerian successive governments at the state and federal levels. There is a tell-tale of a system in throes of implosion.
It is in this conundrum that universities across the country have also been hit with the moral crisis of sexual exploitation and harassment of students, especially female students by lecturers. Following that is the issue of universities’ academic staff misapplying public funds.
At the Federal University, Oye-Ekiti, a medley of these crises is playing out. When it is expected that ASUU, which is currently on strike nation-wide, should be more united as it fights against what it terms government’s insensitivity and insincerity towards the 2009 ASUU-federal government agreement on the one hand and the commitment to make tertiary education a priority, FUOYE represents a growing confusion in the ranks of ASUU.
There is fire and fury brewing within the ASUU chapter of the university as the union is battling with a self-inflicted insurrection over issues bordering on maladministration, malfeasance, self-interests and even a death threat.
In November, the Chairman of ASUU-FUOYE, Dr. Akinyemi Omonijo, was roundly condemned for his defiance and misrepresentation of the union.
Omonijo was accused of refusing to implement the decision of the union’s congress, which had charged him to make use of all internal settlement mechanisms to resolve the ASUU’s issues with school’s management before tabling the matters with the zonal branch of the union or addressing the press.
By his actions, the chairman was said to have misled the zonal ASUU and the National Executive Council (NEC) of the union. Eventually, the alleged mess in the university caught the eye of a rather complacent federal government now demanding explanations regarding its affairs.There were efforts to remove Omonijo as ASUU-FUOYE’s chair but he managed to escape by the teeth of his skin. There was a collateral damage though in the end as splinter group backed out of the ASUU strike, forming a new group known as the Congress of University Academics (CONUA). Its leader is Ige quoted at the outset.
Ige, a lawyer pointed out that CONUA members would continue to work and not be part of the ongoing strike “because we are no longer members of ASUU.”
He described ASUU as going through a decaying stage and no efforts could revamp the body, adding that FUOYE lecturers now take directives from CONUA headquarters in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
Prior to this development, FUOYE ASUU had been at loggerheads with Omonijo and the zonal leadership of the union, who were accused of misrepresenting happenings in the university. They claimed that the chairman had misled both ASUU national leadership and the Federal Ministry of Education to take some decisions against the university. Omonijo was also accused of reporting some members of the union to the police and the Department of State Services without carrying other members along.
According to Ige, following its November 30 press conference, he and his cohorts decided to break away from ASUU because of “extreme lawlessness, immaturity on the part of the leadership”, claiming that the union’s executive committee has been “hijacked by a cabal whose agenda is primarily self-interest”.
“You know there are times when you surrender your own interest for the collective interest. But this one is ‘if it is not us, they can blow the roof’. There was one of them that they gave the letter of appointment of a head of department. For a whole year he did not give the man that letter but if it were to be from the other side that that kind of thing happened, they are the one that will raise fire and brimstone,” the CONUA convener stated.He also accused ASUU-FUOYE chapter of rather engaging in shameful acts saying, “We have a group of ‘businessmen’ who are more interested in contracts. I have documents that one of the leaders asked the management (of FUOYE) for (a) contract and when they turned him down, crisis started. People abuse position of power; that’s why I said for private interests, not collective.”
That is damning accusation regarding ASUU that fights tooth and nail to make the federal government bend to its wishes. Yet, there are more gospels according to Ige.“Aside from that, there’s indiscipline of the highest order. At the level of the congress, the congress is supposed to mandate the executive to go and act on our behalf, not that the executive would go and do certain things and now report back to the congress it has acted on our behalf.
“ASUU national saw nothing wrong in the action of the branch’s leadership. The local would feed the national with wrong information and the national would thereafter feed the minister and the general public wrong information. The union raised so many issues at its press briefing so much so that we are even ashamed to identify with them,” Ige added.
Speaking on the issue of the conference organised by Omonijo’s group, he claimed that the majority of the union was not consulted. “The national leadership has decided to back ASUU without due consultation when last did you see ASUU doing a critique of government’s policies? The union is always fighting for salary increase. I grew up in the time of vibrant ASUU, it was not even a civilian government in power then, it was the military. But today, when ASUU collapsed, the students’ union also collapsed completely. There was a time NANS was a dominant factor in the politics of this nation. Today, we have ‘cash-and-carry’ union leaders,” the union leader asserted.
If his words are to be believed, CONUA has become a new idea that “cannot be stopped”. It is learnt that about 10 institutions have embraced the coalition. The CONUA as part of the coalition at FUOYE is claiming that ASUU is no longer interested in developmental programmes of the institution, “are opposed to new faculties, especially law.”
The university had set up an investigation panel to look into the issue of TETFund grant. The committee, headed by the Dean, Faculty of Social Science, Prof J.S Omotola was mandated to investigate all cases of TETFund intervention outstanding funds, consider beneficiaries, who failed to submit reports in line with stipulated guidelines, investigate cases of beneficiaries absconding, misuse of such grants and make appropriate recommendations.
The panel reported that Akingbe and Adeyemi not only failed to carry out the research; the topic was not in the research interest areas of the lead researcher. The committee, quoting the testimony of one of the team members, Dr. C.A Abrifor said it was curious that Abrifor, a lecturer I, who was barely six months old in the university at the time, could be made the lead researcher in a research team.
“It was also observed that until the investigation panel wrote to them, there was no concrete evidence that the research had commenced despite having received the full amount of the grant. Two days after the grant was released, Dr. Abrifor informed the committee that in accordance with the understanding reached among the team, he took for himself the sum of N400, 000 and allegedly transferred the remaining sum of N1.2 million to the account of Dr Akingbe,” the report stated.
After a review of the report of the investigation panel and interactions with parties involved, the committee concluded that a case of misconduct had been established against Abrifor, Akingbe and Adeyemi. While Abrifor was spared his blushes, Akingbe and Adeyemi were not so fortunate.
This denouement to a scandalous misapplication of funds is not sitting down well with ASUU-FUOYE.In a statement by the union’s treasurer, Dr. Olaniyan, said: “It was a complete issue of double standard when Dr. Abrifor, the lead researcher of the project that the committee referred to is walking around freely in the university. To this end, I challenge the university’s administration to make available to the public how various TETFund grants of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti have been utilised since inception to date.”
Not done, he went to claim that Abrifor “a principal accomplice in the case of sexual harassment and aborted baby in the university’s hostel” that involved a 100-level student, Precious Azuka and Prof. Adewole Atere. Dr. Abrifor is now a willing tool in the hand of FUOYE management to help them silent people with independent mind since management covered this case of sexual harassment and aborted baby for him.
In the conundrum of fire and fury, ASUU wants government to investigate further the issue of TETFUND scam and bring all culprits to book.As it stands, an alleged case of death threat raised by one of ASUU’s members is under investigation at the Ekiti State Police Command and Department of State Services, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State. It was learnt that the FUOYE vice chancellor, Prof. Kayode Soremekun, had been interrogated on the matter. As battle rages between ASUU on the one hand and CONUA and the university authorities on the other hand and with no truce in sight, this is a fight to the finish and the real losers are standards of education and students of the institution.
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