Students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomosho may not resume anytime soon despite being at home since June 9 when workers of the university began a strike over non-payment of salaries.
The Academic Staff Union of Universities, Non-Academic Staff Union, and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities in the university had declared the strike to protest a perennial crisis arising from lack of funds to run the institution and pay its workers.
LAUTECH is jointly owned by Oyo and Osun, the two states that constituted old Oyo State before Osun was excised in 1991 to form a separate state.
The failure of the two states in fulfilling their shared funding responsibility provoked the workers to shut down the institution, just before the students were scheduled to begin their second semester examinations.
Osun, which has since established a university of its own, is the more guilty party in the failure to disburse funds as it owes bulk of the debts that have stalled the operations of LAUTECH.
A perceived lack of commitment by the state to the university prompted the monarch of the host community, the Soun of Ogbomoso, Jimoh Oyewumi, to call on Oyo State to take sole ownership of the institution.
Mr. Oyewumi’s call was picked up by a member of the Oyo State House of Assembly, Olawunmi Oladeji (Ogbomoso North/LP), and nine other members who sponsored a motion for review of the joint ownership of the university.
Following the motion, the Assembly summoned the state Commissioner for Education, Science and Technology, Adeniyi Olowofela, and his counterpart for Justice, Oluwaseun Abimbola, to appear before it on September 27 for briefing on the matter.
After the briefing, the Assembly directed the commissioners to submit within two weeks a two-part report containing recommendations for short-term solution to the lingering crisis that would ensure immediate return of students and workers to the university, as well as for how Oyo State could become its sole owner.
The move towards divesting Osun of interest in LAUTECH was however criticized by some prominent indigenes of the state, including the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Ogunwusi; and Babajide Omoworare, a senator from the state.
The two states, run by the All Progressives Congress, have repeatedly promised to offset their arrears of funds but have yet to match word with action.
PREMIUM TIMES’ inquiries indicate that the two state governments have indeed made some disbursements, but have also attached conditions to access of the funds.
A top management staff of the university, who pleaded anonymity, said Oyo State government disbursed about N500 million, while Osun State has released N50 million from the N3.8 billion it owes the university.
However, according to the source, the Oyo State Government has directed that salaries of only workers who are indigenes of the state could be paid from the N500 million it disbursed.
This directive has caused disquiet among the workers, as some view it as a ploy to ease out workers of Osun origin from the university.
Another top official of the university, who also asked not to be named as he was not authorized to speak on the development, said the directive was necessary to force Osun State to make up its mind whether it wants to continue as a joint owner of LAUTECH.
“If the state is paying only N50million out of N3.8 billion naira, what do you expect us to do?” the official said.
The official, however, said in spite of the disbursements, “the resumption of students and staff is not yet in sight.”
The various staff unions are also calling for dissolution of the university’s governing council, citing alleged corruption.
When contacted on phone to comment on the crisis in the institution, the university’s Public Relations Officer, Lekan Fadeyi, directed our reporter to the registrar.
The Registrar, J.A Agboola, however refused to speak on the issues raised in this report.
“I know you are a gentleman, I cannot be speaking on what a government has done or not, especially as a public servant. I am not the Bursar”, he said when asked to confirm the release of funds.
When told that the PRO identified him as the right person to comment on the issue, he said
“It is true, I should be the spokesman for the school but I cannot tell you anything on this issue.
“I am not saying no money was paid but I cannot speak on what the governors said”, Mr. Agboola stated.
The Vice Chancellor, Adeniyi Gbadegesin, also declined to speak with the press on the issues.
A don, Timothy Adebayo, who was a former member of the university’s management, would also not comment.
Mr. Adebayo, a professor, said “I am not the Chief Accounting Officer. In fact, I stopped being the deputy vice chancellor since July, so I am not in the best position to comment”.
The Deputy Governor of Osun State, Titilayo Laoye-Tomori, who doubles as the state’s commissioner of education, did not respond to several text messages to her phone.
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the management is considering increasing tuition fees of the institution as an internal measure around the financial problems of the Ogbomoso-based university.