From Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma Chapter, has blamed the University Administration/SIT for the current strike action in the institution.
It also warned against any attempt to make its members the sacrificial lambs of the present crisis rocking the University as a result of what it calls “the glaring incompetence, ineptitude and cruelty by the University Administration in the handling of the school fees/charges debacle.”
In a press statement issued in Benin City, the Union said it was disturbed by the seeming collapse of the truce purportedly brokered by the DSS between the students and the University authorities on the lingering students’ protest over the hike in school fees/charges in the University.
The Union expressed concern over the safety of its members in the University as a result of frequent insistence by the students that workers should stay away from the University campus and the directive by the University Administration that workers should resume work immediately, adding that staff of the University were being hemmed in the melee or faceoff between the students and the University Administration.
In the statement signed by Dr Cyril Oziegbe Onogbosele and Dr William Odion, Chairperson and Assistant Secretary of ASUU, AAU, Ekpoma respectively, the Union said that since the Special Intervention Team (SIT) and the present University Administration led by Prof. Asowman Sonnie Adagbonyin took over the management of the University, “they have not demonstrated the capacity and competence to apprehend or successfully deal with conflicts and crises emanating from critical issues pertaining to staff and students in the University.”
“Surely, there is trumpery, ineptitude and cruelty by the University Administration in the handling of the school fees/charges debacle.
“When the protest by students against the betrayal by the University Administration on school fees/charges regime for returning students occurred, the first approach by the University Administration/SIT was the dissolution of the Student Union Government (SUG) – a primitive and an unreasonable path to resolving students’ problems,” the Union said.
The Union recalled that “initially when there was an upward review in the school fees for incoming students, the University Administration stated categorically that the returning students were not affected by the change in school fees. However, with the exposure of an increase in students’ school fees/charges which the University Administration called “add-ons”, the reaction of the SUG led to the suspension of academic activities due to poor human relations and draconian measures adopted by the University authorities in dealing with the matter”.
The Union noted that “with staff unable to have access to the main campus of the University, the University Administration shamefully summoned a militarized emergency Senate meeting outside the University premises and resolved to suspend academic activities in the University indefinitely with effect from 4th September 2023.”
According to ASUU, the resolution stated that the Senate decision was informed by the need to prevent a total breakdown of law and order and to guarantee the safety of life and properties of the University and its environs.
The Union said that it was startled by the circular dated 11th September 2023 by the Acting Registrar of the University, Mr. Ambrose Ehi Odiase directing all staff to resume unfailingly on 12th September 2023 to avoid sanctions. “The questions arising from this are many.
“Has the crisis caused by the hike in school fees/charges been resolved? Is the University campus accessible to, and safe for staff? Have students returned to campus for the commencement of lectures and other academic activities? When did the Senate direct the return of academic activities?,” the union queried.
According to the Union, “it seems the University Administration/SIT have resolved to blame their failure to avert and manage the school fees/charges crisis on innocent staff”, adding that there is speculation that some authorities in the University are working tirelessly to blame the avoidable crisis in the University on staff and staff unions.”
While describing the development as disturbing, the Union stated that “only sincere commitment to the resolution of the crisis will put the students’ unrest to an end.
“The University Administration should dialogue with the SUG leadership and toe the path of truth in the matter. Staff should not be made scapegoats in the matter.
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