Wednesday, 21 September 2016

LAUTECH CRISIS IS A PRODUCT OF FAILURE OF OSUN AND OYO STATE GOVERNMENTS



·        ERC CALLS FOR PAYMENT OF 5 MONTH SALARIES OF LAUTECH WORKERS AND OPENING OF THE CAMPUS SO STUDENTS CAN RESUME

·        FOR A JOINT PROTEST OF STRIKING WORKERS AND STUDENTS


Press Statement



The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) demands the immediate payment of backlog of salaries running into 5 months that the joint owners of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) – the Osun and Oyo state governments – are owing academic and non-academic staff of the institution. We also demand the opening of the University which has been shut for about 3 months now.

No doubt, Ajimobi and Aregbesola, the governors of Oyo and Osun states, have gained notoriety for their gross irresponsibility especially when it comes to matters of public education and workers wages. But the current crisis in LAUTECH which has kept the University shut and students idling at home for about three months is a new low. By this latest development, what the Osun and Oyo state governments are demonstrating is that they are among the most education-hostile governments in the country.

We call for immediate joint protest and mass demonstrations of workers and students of the institution to confront both state governments until the salary arrears are paid, University reopened and the Students’ Union which was suspended over allegations of electoral violence is restored so that students can have a platform to fight for their rights.

In this vein, we commend the decision of the institution’s chapter of Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU), early this week, to commence strike action to press for payment of the subventions, salary arrears and improvement in working condituions. This is in addition to workers under the aegis of the Senior Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) who are already on strike. While in full solidarity with the action of the workers, we hereby call on the staff unions not to simply down tools and stay at home. Instead they should organize regular congresses, symposia, joint protest marches and demonstrations accompanied by mass circulation of leaflets and an active press campaign through which they will be able to explain their case and the injustice done to them to the general public.

We condemn the Osun and Oyo state governments for their failure to promptly pay subventions to the University as at when due. The outstanding subvention is running into about 23 months! This situation has adversely affected workers wages and capital projects such that only TETFund projects are the only physical projects taking place on the campus. Workers have a right to their wages. Also students have a right to be in school. Many students, including those who wish to proceed for National Youth Service (NYSC), are undergoing unquantifiable suffering and losses as a result of this crisis. Paying the workers their arrear of salaries is the only way to get the University reopened so that students who are suffering at home can continue their academic activities.

We also condemn the sectarian call by the Ogbomoso Parapo Worldwide, Home Branch for Osun indigenes in the workforce to leave the institution. We urge the unions to stoutly reject this sectarian call and any attempt to sow division among workers and students of the institution. The unions must fight to protect the jobs of all workers regardless of their state of origin. We equally condemn the group’s and others’ crude attempt to reduce the crisis in LAUTECH to the irresponsibility of Osun state alone. According to the group, the root cause of the crisis is the co-ownership of LAUTECH by Osun and Oyo states. But even facts prove the group’s claim wrong. Out of about 23 months outstanding subvention, Osun state reportedly owes 15 months while Oyo owes 8 months.

As far as the ERC is concerned, both the Osun and Oyo state governments and their neo-liberal capitalist policy of education underfunding are responsible for the age-long crisis in LAUTECH. Granted that the Osun state Government led by Governor Aregbesola is chronically irresponsible when it comes to workers welfare and public education. But going by similar anti-poor and anti-education policies of Governor Ajimobi, it is nothing but grand illusion to expect that if Oyo state assumes the sole ownership of LAUTECH that the crisis will come to an end. This is the same Oyo state government that is owing the state civil servants and retirees backlog of salaries and allowances which led to a 7-week strike action. This is the same government that attempted to sell public secondary schools under the excuse that government can no more fund them. Up till today, resident doctors at the LAUTECH teaching hospital are being owed months of salaries by the same Ajimobi-led Oyo state government. So what would become the fate of LAUTECH if handed over to Oyo state alone?

Yes it is true that Oyo state does not have a public University of its own but what is the state of the other public tertiary institutions established by the state? All of them are in different state of abandon with many of them lacking basic facilities for teaching and learning. Therefore it is not only fraudulent to argue that sole ownership of the institution by Oyo state is the solution to the perennial crisis rocking LAUTECH, it is also a course of action which if taken can only  result into bitter disappointment for students and workers of the institution.

It is adequate funding and democratic management, including elected representatives of staffs and students, of LAUTECH  that can resolve the crisis on a lasting basis. However against the capitalist policies and philosophy of both state governments, only the enthronement of working peoples’ government armed with socialist economic policies in Osun and Oyo states can ensure that the public resources of both states are judiciously utilized to fund LAUTECH and other public institutions in the two states.

                                                                                          
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                            Michael Ogundele                          
National Coordinator (07033697259)                 National Secretary             

Monday, 19 September 2016

OAU: ERC REJECTS POLITICAL VICTIMISATION OF IBUKUN OMOLE

·         WE DEMAND THE OPENING OF HIS E-PORTAL PAGE BY THE PROF. ANTHONY ELUJOBA-LED UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION

 Press statement
 
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns the deactivation of the e-portal page of Ibukun Omole, a student activist, by the management of Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. By deactivating the e-portal page of a student, he or she is technically on suspension as he/she cannot register his courses for the semester or session. But in the case of Omole Ibukun, no official disciplinary process as laid down in the University rules was followed neither was he invited to a panel of any kind to allow him exercise his right to fair hearing.

 We therefore consider this action of the University unjustifiable, illegal, an abuse of office and a flagrant violation of the University rules and the principles of natural justice. We call on the Acting Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Anthony Elujoba, to direct that Ibukun’s e-portal page be opened and halt any further plan to victimize him. Not doing this in our opinion would mean that the Prof. Elujoba-led administration, rather than the breath of fresh air it claims to be, is merely a continuation of the despotic past.

 Omole Ibukun, a part five undergraduate student of the Department of Civil Engineering, is the secretary of the OAU branch of the ERC and a member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM). For more than 3 years, Ibukun has been an active voice on the campus against anti-poor education policies and attack on students and workers democratic rights. He is particularly being victimized for his leading role in the campaign for the probe of the immediate past tyrannical Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Bamitale Omole who was involved in multiple cases of mismanagement of fund as well as attack on democratic rights. Ibukun also played a prominent role in the struggles of the staff unions which forced the Federal Government to dissolve the corrupt Governing Council and terminate the appointment of Bamitale Omole’s protégé, Prof. Ayobami Salami, as Vice Chancellor and his subsequent replacement by Prof. Elujoba in acting capacity.

 This despotic act which was implemented in February 2016 by the immediate-past Prof. Bamitale Omole University administration is currently being upheld by the Prof. Anthony Elujoba administration in a manner that does not portray any striking difference from the structure that was ousted by the struggles of non-academic staff and students recently, for the new administrators to take power.

 While the e-portal access page of a student remains necessary for registering for new sessions, checking of results of past examinations, amongst other uses, the e-portal access page of Ibukun Omole remains inaccessible and keeps stating that he has committed an offence. Meanwhile, the university rules demand that anyone who is alleged to have committed an offence will be required to reply to a query first, and if the reply is insufficient, such students are invited to appear before an investigative panel before any letter of suspension or other disciplinary actions can be issued. Yet, the Obafemi Awolowo University administration disobeyed this law, as this student (Omole Ibukun) was not invited to any investigative panel for the sake of fair-hearing neither was any letter of suspension or any other form of disciplinary action issued to him.

Instead, Omole Ibukun was queried on 24 February 2016 on account of posts the University alleged he wrote on his facebook wall which, according to the query letter, “were understood to mean that the distinguished members of the Senate of the University are men and women of little reason and are not deserving of any respect”, and that these purported posts are “misconduct contrary to... the Code of Conduct of the University Community”. Omole Ibukun in his prompt response to this query denied authorship of the alleged posts since within the period the said posts allegedly appeared on his facebook wall, he had lost access to his facebook account in a manner suspicious of the handiwork of hackers and he had subsequently warned friends on his contact list not to respond to any solicitous messages from the said account. Since February 25, 2016 when he submitted his response, he has not heard anything officially from the authorities. He was not subsequently invited to an investigative or disciplinary panel as would be the case, in accordance with University rules, if his response to the query was found insufficient. All he realized was that subsequently he lost access to his e-portal page, something which he initially attributed to a technical glitch.

The current effect of this act on the student is demonstrated by his inability to register for the last academic session in the school, and to access and view the results of the previous academic session.

The ERC considers the continuous deactivation of Ibukun Omole’s e-portal page which is tantamount to deprivation of his studentship status as an attempt to keep him at the mercy of the management for the rest of his stay on campus so that he would not be able to continue to challenge the University’s anti-poor education policies. We hereby call on students and workers of the University to oppose this victimization of Omole Ibukun and start to lawfully and politically pressurize the university management to amend its ways.

 

 

                                                                                          

Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                               Michael Ogundele                            

National Coordinator (07033697259)                      National Secretary

Friday, 16 September 2016

Lautech shutdown and government palaver



By Taiwo Ademola

In 2011, Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, described Nigeria’s educational system as a colossal failure and called for the declaration of a state of emergency in the sector. At a later date, Soyinka in fact went on to propose a shutdown of all tertiary institutions for two years to enable the adequate tackling of the ‘inherent rot’. To him, the deplorable state is perhaps irreparable except if given such attention as becoming of sectors where state of emergency is/are declared. 

The erudite professor, though means well, did not take into cognizance how different his understanding and interpretation of such word as emergency is to complacent Nigerian governments (both at the national and state levels). While he and well-meaning Nigerians worry over how illiteracy level has gotten to such disgraceful height; a situation whereby being an artisan is comparable, and even thought of as better than being a university graduate, the latter grossly termed with such unregistered colloquial as graduate illiterate, the governments seems not lose a sleep over the issue. And to think they wouldn't mind permitting any small wind to destabilise the already crumbling system is worrisome. 

It is now close to three months since Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, has been shut down due to the non-payments of the institution worker’s salaries and entitlements for quite some months now. And sadly, nothing hitherto has revealed the genuine interest of the two governments who jointly own the school, other than a statement from the Permanent Secretary of the Osun state ministry of education, Mr Festus Olajide, who in the as- usual-Nigeria-government rhetoric said, the government will see into the issue. Of course, it is everyone’s prayer that Nigeria will one day reach a level where the government will stop seeing into everything without doing something really about it. That statement has been well over four weeks now, and nothing yet has been done to address the situation. 

 The response of the Osun state government to the strike action though lacking in conviction as evidenced in the fact that the strike still linger on, could be lauded if one considers the I-don't- care disposition of the Oyo state government to the situation. 

Or are we to relate this immoral act of neglect and outright nonchalance to the nation's economy since the nation’s economy seems now to be the new reason for every single problem in the country. Even the nation's economic paralysis is in no way separable from the dilapidating education sector, for if the knowledge impacted by universities and other higher learning institutions had been commensurable with the yearly turn outs of graduates, we wouldn't have probably been plunged in such economic catastrophe as we presently are. And it is quite counter intuitive to conceive of it that a government that is serious about economic resuscitation is at the same time crippling the education sector in neither paying education worker's salaries and entitlements as and when due, nor improving the institution's state of infrastructure. 

It is not a sin if the Osun and Oyo governments admit to their inability to rescue the situation. Doing this may attract the attention of the federal government to render whatever help it can, or perhaps, assume ownership of the institution if even for a short term or outright. 

It is now high time successive governments in the two states stop using student's lives to play the game of dice. The constancy of the strike actions by the school staffs mostly due to unpaid salaries and entitlements is merely a reflection of gross impotence which simply could be cured by calling for help or sitting for a review of the university's ownership, or perhaps handing the university over to the federal government. . This strike should not just be called off in a scrupulous manner as typical of others. The key reasons must be considered to forestall future occurrences. If that is not done, it merely reveals how students' interest is after all not important in the decision process, something which naturally should not have been the case. Responsibility demands proactive and sincere actions. So as we to say #Reopenlautech and we want the whole troubles affiliated with the constant strike action resolved once and for all.

Taiwo Ademola, a fresh graduate of LAUTECH, is a supporter of Education Rights Campaign (ERC)

Monday, 12 September 2016

LAUTECH Students Groan Under Indefinite Break Caused by the Failure of Oyo and Osun State governments



OUR STORY

ERC supporters, LAUTECH

Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) is co-owned and run by two states: Oyo and the state of Osun. All expenditures and revenues concerning the school are managed by the two states. Hence, salaries, arrears and allowances are the responsibilities of these two states.

THE SAGA

The school began its 2015/2016 academic session on 22nd February 2016 just as most schools that began the session earlier in the year. Normal academic activity started as usual and things were going on fine and one expected the duration of the semester would be the conventional 3 months and a month for exams. Going by that, it was expected that by May/June, the normal semester would be completed. According to the released calendar and schedule followed by the school, exams were to begin by May 13, 2016.

But to our surprise, when the day was drawing close, a notification of postponement was communicated and the new exam date was fixed for June 6 2016. During this time, everyone took it as the culture of the school as we never commence exams on initially agreed dates. They are often times not ready and always postpone the date by a week or two. When 6th of June was approaching, rumor of the school lecturers been owed by the government for months started making the rounds. It was alleged that the Oyo state government was owing 5 months salary while the Osun state government was owing 17 months. It was covered up earlier as the school management was using Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) to run the expenditures, things went awry however when the school coffers went dry and there was nothing left of IGR to make payments. Subsequently, the lecturers came up with another request for payment of "earned academic arrears" (EAA) which the state governments have been owing them for a few years now. Then they insisted through their union, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) that once their allowances are not paid, then they will not release exam questions.

The school was in this dilemma when 6th of June came, as expected, they postponed the exams once more. The students' union elections which was supposed to have been held in the previous semester or very early in the new semester was delayed and dragged to the same period. However when exams could no longer come up during that period, the school gave room for the students' union election while they continued to appeal to ASUU to reconsider their stand. The students' union election came up during that week and the result was violence. Of the four existing sociopolitical organizations on campus, the organization whose member is the electoral chairman claimed they won all the available positions. This did not go down well with others and some unknown students resorted to violence immediately after the election results were announced, where they destroyed some few school properties, the union building taking the major scar. Early on Monday the following week, massive protests erupted and some set of masked protesters locked down the school. In lieu of this, the school resolved to suspend all students’ union activities.

Alas, few days later, on the 13th of June 2016 when all efforts by the school management to make exams possible proved abortive, they declared an indefinite break only to blame it later on the student union post-election fracas.

CONCLUSION

The deceptive break has been on for more than two months now. What is clear is that the school management does not want to admit that it was the refusal of the academic staff of the University to participate in the examinations because they are being owed many months of salary that compelled the management to announce a fictitious break. This is in a bid to pacify the state governors and cover up their mess. But this deception cannot last for long. The only way the University can be re-opened for conduct of examinations is if the Oyo and Osun state governments are prepared to meet the demands of the academic staff for payment of their salary.

It has also been confirmed that the Oyo state had in the last few weeks made some payments to cover part of what they owe which will have been sufficient at least to get the school back running provided the Osun state government also paid its portion of the debt. But with the refusal of the state of Osun to complement with its own part, things are still grounded and may continue to be so unless students and workers are prepared to embark on mass campaign and struggles to force the state governments to pay the salaries and also commit to improved funding of the institution.

OUR DEMANDS
 
(1) The Oyo and Osun state governments must pay up all owed salaries and arrears to all concerned staff.
(2) The school should immediately announce a resumption date and allow students a little period to read before the commencement of exams.
(3) That the management must uplift the ban on union activities.
(4) That another election be held with another electoral commission constituted since the last election was inconclusive.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

A CALL FOR JUSTICE FOR FOLASHADE: BRUTALISED BY OP-MESA, DISMISSED BY SCHOOL AUTHORITIES



Press statement

BRUTALISATION AND UNJUST DISMISSAL OF MISS OLADOKUN FOLASHADE LESHI BY OP-MESA AND AUTHORITIES OF ABRAHAM ADESANYA POLYTECHNIC

A Cry for Justice

The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) demands justice for Miss Oladokun Folashade Leshi – an ND 11 female student of the Department of mass communication of Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic (AAP) Ijebu Igbo Ogun State  – who was brutalized by men of Operation MESA (OP-MESA) and for seeking redress, has now been dismissed from her studies by the Polytechnic authorities. We consider Folashade’s case a unique example of, on the one hand, the extreme brutality and complete disregard for human life that runs through the sinews of the state security forces including the police and the army as well as their contempt and base disregard for the female sex and gender rights.

We hereby demand Folashade’s immediate recall with adequate compensation for her travails, the identification, arrest and trial of the operatives of OP-MESA that brutalized her as well as the DPO of Topan Police station where she was detained even while bleeding from injuries sustained at the hands of OP-MESA operatives. We also demand the sack and trial of Prof. Jumoke Bilesanmi Awoderu and Miss Afolashade Jokotagba, respectively the Rector and DSA of the Abraham Adesanya Polytechnic for their ignoble roles in the entire saga.

On 18 April 2016, Folashade had gone to pay the mandatory N5000 the school had imposed as damages after a students’ protest allegedly led to destruction of the schools properties. But she, together with other students of AAP, was prevented from entering the school  by OP-MESA operatives stationed at the main entrance by the management.  She had paid her school fees since December 2015. However, payment of the said extortionate sum of N5000 had now been made the sole criterion for writing the semester’s examination regardless of whether or not she was part of the protest that led to the alleged destructions. The examination was to start on 18 April so Folashade and other students who had labored to raise the sum of N5000 went to the school entrance hoping the authorities would be kind enough to collect the money from them and allow them seat for the examinations. But to their amazement, they met a throng of armed operatives of OPMESA at the gate. Unrelenting, they decided to stay further at the gate, some standing, some seating, in the scorching sun, hoping that help would come.


Some hours later, the Rector drove in, had a few words with the security operatives and all hell broke loose. Folashade did not see them coming. For hours she had sat on a pavement by the school gate, lost in thought and dehydrated by the scorching sun. All she heard was a thundering voice: “you, what are you doing here? Go home”. She turned and in a pleading voice tried to explain why she could not go home and the implications of missing the exams. The next thing, one of the soldiers asked: “Are you stupid?” Folashade retorted that she was not stupid and as a woman, she expected a more civil treatment from the soldiers. Well those few harmless words were her undoing. Livid with anger that a student, and a woman, could bandy words with them, the soldiers descended on Folashade punching and beating her. They threatened to shoot her. They whipped her with an electric wire that tore through her cloth and the skin beneath. They ripped her cloth exposing her body in the process. All these happened in front of the gate of the Abaraham Adesanya Polytechnic after the Rector exchanged some words with the security operatives. Not done yet, she was bundled into a Hilux bus and driven to the Rector’s office to write a statement. By this time, she was bleeding from the gaping wounds on her body. After writing the statement, the DSA put her in a car and drove her, not to the nearest hospital, but to Topan police station where she was locked up in a cell. She was detained in a dirty cell, without medical treatment of any kind, from 12noon till 10:15pm when she was released on bail after a traditional ruler, Oba Beje Rokun of Oke-Agbo, intervened. 


As soon as Folashade got her freedom, she started seeking redress. The issue was published on social media by some sympathetic friends and online blogs and her lawyer also wrote the polytechnic on her behalf seeking justice. But this was not the end of her travail. 3 months after, on 19 July 2016, Folashade was dismissed by the Polytechnic for “insubordination/disobedience to constituted authority”, “false accusation, defamation of character, writing of false petition and peddling of false information about the Polytechnic management”, “misconduct”, “assault” and “failure to follow protocol in channeling/ seeking redress”. These are not only laughable allegations. They also show how desperate the polytechnic management is to punish Folashade who is a victim of assault, battery, harassment and unlawful detention.

No doubt, injustice reigns supreme in the banana republic called Nigeria and the motley crew of law enforcement and state security forces have been responsible for far more brutalization of Nigerians amidst other blood-cuddling violations. In fact, Folashade’s case is coming at a period when a number of students of higher institutions have been maimed and killed in different circumstances on some campuses this year by the police and other security forces. But for being a woman, Folashade’s brutalization highlight the total disregard for women and gender rights by security forces especially the police and the army who have been known to even rape female detainees in the cells.

The ERC is bent on seeking justice on this case in order to deter future violations. We therefore urge students unions, staff unions, other trade unions, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, women and gender-based organizations, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to add their voices to this issue until justice is seen to have been done in this matter not only to bring respite to Folashade but as a deterrent against such treatment of ordinary citizens by trigger happy security forces.

We call on the Ogun state government to intervene in this matter. We demand the demilitarization of campuses through the withdrawal of security forces, both uniformed and plainclothes, from campuses and a halt to the use of guns, tear gas and other weapons capable of causing bodily harm and death by police and other security forces to intervene in students’ gatherings and protests. Students are not criminals. Unfortunately, the conduct, method and reaction of the police towards students and other categories of young people promote a stigma of criminality as a definition of this segment of the nation’s population. We reject this and demand a total reform of the police and the army through the democratization of these forces so that rank and file officers can have the democratic right to form a union and therefore the right to disobey commands and orders to commit human right violations.


                                                                                          
Hassan Taiwo Soweto                                            Michael Ogundele                          
National Coordinator (07033697259)                 National Secretary