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EKSU: An ivory tower bogged down by management, union crisis

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Crisis is brewing in Ekiti State University, Ado Ekiti (EKSU) over its management’s decision to ban unionism on campus. Already, the unions have kicked against the decision and demanded a reversal to forestall a breakdown of law and order.

Established in 1982 by Michael Adekunle Ajasin- led Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in the old Ondo State, the university has had its share of crises and unstable academic calendar. Most times, the crisis was due to disagreement among the various unions and management. The unions, including Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU); Non-Academic Staff Union of Education and associated institutions (NASU) and National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) have had their share of activism, leading to disruption of the peace on campus.

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The latest crisis rocking the university was as a result of shortfall in its subvention as government was alleged to have released 50 per cent, without paying any considerable attention to capital grants and infrastructural development.

The workers alleged that the shortfall had forced management to indulge in financial infractions such as diversions of pension deductions, funds from health centre, ICT, faculties and directorates to pay salaries, while the units are allegedly neglected with no infrastructural facility put in place by state government.

But the school management explained that on November 11, 2020, a tripartite meeting involving the state House of Assembly; Chairman and some external members of Council and the leadership of the unions came up with a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), aimed at resolving issues concerning outstanding emoluments and salaries.

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But due to the inability of the school to pay outstanding salaries, ASUU local chapter gave four weeks ultimatum to the management to settle all outstanding issues; a failure of which it would proceed on strike.

ASUU branch chairman, Dr Kayode Arogundade said but for the various interventions of Federal Government, coupled with consistent struggles from academic and non-teaching unions, EKSU may have been closed down or mortgaged to private investors.

Arogundade lamented that the university could not boast of any infrastructural facility from governor Kayode Fayemi’s administration since it came on board in 2018.

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“As at today, we are being owed three months arrears of salaries for July, August and September, 2018; six years arrears of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA); 26 months unremitted pension deductions and 14 months arrears of half salaries.”

Arogundade said: “Despite all efforts to embrace the spirit of collective bargaining, neither the governor, council or EKSU Administration, was concerned about our plight”

Reacting to the development, the state government said strike is not the answer to the myriad of problems in the university, adding that the way out is for parties to sit together and find ways of alternative funding sources.

Special Adviser to Ekiti State Governor on Tertiary Education, Dr Sikiru Eniola, who appealed to the lecturers, said the problems in the institution dated back to former governor Ayo Fayose’s administration.

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He charged ASUU, EKSU council as well as management to work on resolutions arrived at during the recent House of Assembly intervention, including the need for a private bill to enable local government devote part of their monthly allocations to EKSU.

“The unions should sit with stakeholders and fashion out alternative sources of funding to augment government’s funding. There is no way ASUU can just go on strike and expect that these issues can just be resolved.

“ASUU should spearhead the brainstorming. They should work on alternative sources of funding. Government is still committed to increasing the subvention to the university, but the school should work internally to ensure there are alternative sources of funding,” Eniola added.

But before the ultimatum expired, the unions embarked on massive protests that grounded activities in the university. However, sensing that the situation could degenerate to total breakdown of law and order, the management announced immediate closure of the university and proscription of the four
workers’ unions.

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The unions however rejected their proscription, insisting that neither the state government nor management has power to proscribe unions.

“Government or management has powers to close down our school, but they have no such powers to proscribe any union. It is very clear that the governor is not finding it easy with the unions,” Arogundade said.

He denied allegations that the unions stalled normal academic activities during their protests, saying nothing was violent about their actions.

The ASUU Chairman also denied allegation that the unions walked out on the governing council during a peace meeting, saying such was far from the truth.

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On his part, SSANU Chairman, EKSU chapter, Mr Temidayo Aguda, also said no one has unilateral power to proscribe unions. “They invited us to a meeting last Friday, which ended in a deadlock, as council insisted on government’s inability to meet our demands. Few minutes later, the council shut the institution and proscribed the unions.”

On steps taken by the university, EKSU’s spokesperson, Bode Olofinmuagun, said the council engaged the unions on amicable ways of resolving the crisis, which were allegedly rebuffed.

Olofinmuagun said management had been able to achieve regular payment of gross salaries, while balance of for months of September and October 2020 were effected.

But ASUU faulted government’s claim saying it has not honoured any of its agreement with the union. “Worthy of specific mentioning is the fact that Ekiti State House of Assembly mediated between government council,
management and union between November 16 and 20, with a view to ensuring that we resumed at the expiration of the national struggle, unfortunately, none of the agreements signed was respected.

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“Why should we continue to trust a government that could not honour agreement with the union signed on its behalf by the state House of Assembly?

“Despite all efforts by ASUU to embrace the spirit of collective bargaining, neither the government nor EKSU Administration attended to our needs. EKSU is presently caught in the web of suffocating socio-economic and infrastructural challenges, which should urgently be addressed.”

ASUU-EKSU subsequently called on stakeholders to appeal to all concerned in the EKSU project to save the institution from total collapse. “This required action would be in the interest of children of ordinary Nigerians, whose parents are paying through their noses to educate.”

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