· 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
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 OgundeleNational Coordinator (07033697259) National Secretary