CALLS ON AUTHORITIES TO MEET DEMANDS OF STRIKING WORKERS’ UNIONS
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) OAU Branch strongly condemns the decision of the authorities of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) to close the campus following weeks of strikes and protests by workers unions.
The announcement of the closure was made on the 21st of June 2016 following another round of protests by members of the University’s chapters of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU). The workers’ unions, among other things, are protesting non-payment of over 76 months earned allowance, nonpayment of over 6 months salaries, and the undemocratic process of the appointment the next Vice Chancellor.
As far as we are concerned, this is one closure too many. We consider the decision to close the University ill-advised, unjustifiable and a calculated attempt to prolong the academic session to the detriment of students while at the same time avoiding the legitimate demands of the workers unions. We therefore demand the immediate opening of the University so that stale and fresh students can resume for academic activities. We also call on the authorities to immediately meet the demands of the University’s chapters of the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) in order to ensure that normal activities return to the campus.
On the 21st of June 2016, the management of Obafemi Awolowo University announced the closure of the institution. The reasons behind this were not clearly stated. But it will be recalled, that for some weeks back the Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) and the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) had embarked on protest actions to press home their demands of non-payments of over 76 months earned allowance, nonpayment of over 6 months salaries, and the demand for the democratic process of appointing the Vice Chancellor. Recall that some months ago NASU embarked on industrial action on the non-payment of 64 months earned allowance which was later suspended based on different factors including the intervention of the late Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuwade to solve the crisis. The struggle has been intensified by also incorporating the demand for the democratic process on the appointment of the Vice Chancellor.
Both NASU and SSANU have also initiated a legal action at the Federal High Court Osogbo, Osun state to challenge the undemocratic process of the appointment of the VC. The matter has been adjourned to July 6, 2016. However, we find it condemnable, that despite the order of the court that the process of appointment should be suspended pending the verdict, the management undemocratically appointed Prof. Ayobami Salami-the immediate past Deputy Vice Chancellor (DVC) Academics - as the new VC. This is obviously a contempt of court and we urge the court to do the needful in punishing the respondents for flouting its orders.
We condemn the management’s archaic method of resolving crisis which does not meet the requirement of the contemporary era of 21st century especially in a “democratic” dispensation. Instead, the management should accede to the demands of the protesting staff unions. Not tackling the root of the crisis will further aggravate the workers and the students protest against the highhandedness of the institution which will continue to render the institution ungovernable. Of course the students will also bear the brunt of the effect, as presently evidenced in the way parents who are members of the unions find it hard or even impossible to pay the school fees of the children and to meet their basic needs. Ironically, the management which always warns the students to always avoid any action that can lead to the elongation of their academic session has continued to implement action of elongating their stay by persistent closure. While we cannot also gloss over the negativity of this management action, it also bring to the fore the death risk that possibly be encountered by students traveling up and down under the deplorable state of Nigerian roads. As evidence, it has presently been reported that two of our students have been killed in an auto crash along their way home as a result of the forceful closure of the institution.
We advise the management to desist from this ineffective tactic of closure of the institution which in no way solves the fundamental problem. At the same time we call for the re-opening of the institution for the academic activities to commence. Management should not continue to destroy the destiny of the students by this unnecessary elongation of their academic year.
The ERC joins the workers in solidarity to demand the payment of their earned allowance, salaries and for the democratic process of the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor. Historically, it has been proven that only a concerted effort of both the students and workers can expedite the success of any struggle against the common enemy which is the university authority.
We call on the students to join forces with the protesting unions by also linking the struggle with students demands for better welfare condition, reversal of the astronomical fee hike of 2014, reinstatement of the Olawale Owolabi (Ogunruku) who has been on suspension since 2011, the probe of the out gone Vice Chancellor Bamitale Omole. To ensure probity and accountability in University administration and avoid the usual rancor that often attends the appointment of Vice Chancellors, the ERC demands the democratization of the decision making organs of the university to comprise the elected representatives of staff and students unions.
Adabale Olamide Omole IbukunCoordinator Secretary