For over eight months, lecturers and non-academic staff at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology downed tools due to non-payment of salaries and allowances.
The staff also complained of others issues like inadequate funding of the university, jointly owned by the Osun and Oyo state governments.
In January, the owner states gave the university N500 million and the management called for a reopening of the institution. However, the lecturers, ASUU, said they would not resume.
In this exclusive interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ Olanrewaju Samuel, the chairman of ASUU at the university, Biodun Olaniran, spoke on his members’ decision.
Mr. Olaniran, a senior lecturer in Entomology / Pesticide Toxicology, also spoke on funding of the university, corruption and other issues.
PREMIUM TIMES: The current shutdown rocking LAUTECH has caused a lot of controversies, can you tell us the genesis of the whole disagreements?
ASUU CHAIR: The disagreements emanated from non-release of subventions to the university and subsequent use of internally generated revenue to offset salaries.
PREMIUM TIMES: How has LAUTECH been surviving till now? Why wait till the debt owed got to tune of N7.6 billion before acting?
ASUU CHAIR: We started our campaign against the use of IGR since May 5, 2015.
PREMIUM TIMES: How has funding of LAUTECH been over the years?
ASUU CHAIR: It is basically through the government subventions.
PREMIUM TIMES: You spoke about owner states not paying subvention, did ASUU ever call for a review of the ownership of the institution?
ASUU CHAIR: We (ASUU) never called for review of ownership.
PREMIUM TIMES: Back to the demands of ASUU which border on salaries and funding, do you think fees paid by students can sustain the almost N380 million monthly salaries?
ASUU CHAIR: Remember LAUTECH is a public university. School fees paid cannot sustain the salaries and allowances. That is why ASUU is saying IGR (internally generated revenue) cannot be alternative to government subventions.
PREMIUM TIMES: But the government has been complaining about lack of funds, saying the economy is bad. The governor even said LAUTECH needs to sustain herself. Does ASUU agree with position of Oyo State Governor on funding?
ASUU CHAIR: You mean self sustaining? No public university can be self sustaining.
PREMIUM TIMES : There have be corruption allegations against the Vice Chancellor. Don’t you think corruption is the reason for LAUTECH’s financial issues?
ASUU CHAIR: I’m not aware of such (allegations).
PREMIUM TIMES: Apart from subvention, how else do you think LAUTECH can be funded? What would your recommendations be?
ASUU CHAIR: The major funding source is the subvention from the government. The university received other funds from TetFund. It then means other sources include TetFund. and grant from international bodies.
PREMIUM TIMES: The Oyo and Osun state governments paid N500 million to offset two months salaries and we learnt that was what you (ASUU) agreed with the state governments at the meeting preceding disbursement of the fund. Why is ASUU making a u-turn?
ASUU CHAIR: There was never an agreement, because we told them that we can’t take decision on behalf of congress. That we would go back to our members for their decision.
PREMIUM TIMES: But sir, many are of the opinion that the root of all issues is the salary of ASUU and not basically funding. Some also think it may be impossible for the government to pay N7.6 billion at once. And there is the issue of letter of commitment, the state government has said she is not in position to write it, what has the Governing Council been doing ?
ASUU CHAIR: Salary was not (our primary concern). Because we started our agitation on earned academic allowances
PREMIUM TIMES : And why is letter of commitment needed after the Oyo and Osun state governments promised to fund LAUTECH?
ASUU CHAIR: We are not aware of the promise.
PREMIUM TIMES: Are you saying that the subvention would be enough to sustain LAUTECH and what is your expectation from the investigative panel report?
ASUU CHAIR: Subvention can’t be enough, but will go a long way to address other welfare issues. We expect the panel report to address our fundamental problem.
PREMIUM TIMES: Do you subscribe to an increase in students’ tuition fee, do you think it is inevitable?
ASUU CHAIR: ASUU is against commercialisation and privatisation of education. So we are against hike in tuition fee.
PREMIUM TIMES: Sir, with students already on campus, have you been invited to a round table discussion? Have you submitted your ideas on how revenue can be generated to the panel and are you saying your demand is not that the Government should pay $7.6 billion at once but rather give a roadmap on how the money will be paid?
ASUU CHAIR: We are asking for a workable payment plan of the amount owed because we understand the economic reality.
PREMIUM TIMES: Are you saying that no resumption until the payment plans are received? Have there been efforts to reach out to you from the university management including the Governing Council? Is the stalemate looking like over or it is not looking bright?
ASUU CHAIR: Yes, (no resumption) until we receive the plan.
PREMIUM TIMES: Don’t you think there are fundamental issues that have affected LAUTECH beyond funding? Do you think ownership should be reviewed?
ASUU CHAIR: Our union is not involved or joined in the issue of ownership.
PREMIUM TIMES: So you maintain a neutral position?
ASUU CHAIR:: Yes because we are just employees.
PREMIUM TIMES: What is the way out of the current issue if the government says she cannot issue letter of commitment as only the management can? What is the fastest way out of the crisis?
ASUU CHAIR: To sit down together and agree on the way forward.
PREMIUM TIMES: So you are calling for dialogue from the government or university management.
ASUU CHAIR: All strata of governance.
PREMIUM TIMES: Finally, how soon should we expect LAUTECH to resume?
ASUU CHAIR: LAUTECH has resumed. Just that ASUU is still on strike.
PREMIUM TIMES: Finally, what are your words to the owner states and the university management?
ASUU CHAIR: Let each organ of governance do what is expected of such organ.
PREMIUM TIMES: Thank you for your time.
ASUU CHAIR: You are welcome.