The University of Ibadan chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has accused its non-academic counterparts of assaulting and molesting its members during Wednesday’s protest on the campus.
ASUU warned that such conduct, that may put the lives of its members at risk, “shall henceforth be vehemently resisted.”
This is as ASUU is also engaged in internal wrangling, with some of its members accusing the leadership of compromise and tacit support for the protesters.
They also claimed that Friday’s statement issued and signed by both ASUU’s chairman and secretary, Ayo Akinwole and Chris Omoregie respectively, is not a true reflection of what was jointly drafted by the executive committee members.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Joint Action Congress (JAC), the coalition for the two unions involved in the protests, has denied the allegation of assault, insisting that it cannot be taught how to prosecute its protest.
JAC comprises members of the university’s chapters of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and the Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU).
The two unions had embarked on a strike since February, and have been at loggerheads with the university management over issues of welfare of its members and general administration of the institution.
Meanwhile, JAC has petitioned the education minister, Adamu Adamu, intimating him of the controversies surrounding the appointment process. It accused both the management and the council of compromising the process, and sought Mr Adamu’s intervention towards resolving the crisis.
Apart from distancing itself from Wednesday’s protest that rocked the university, and the subsequent one held on Friday, ASUU also accused the protesters of disrupting the process that was meant to conclude the appointment of the institution’s 13th substantive vice-chancellor.
In its statement tagged ‘Special Bulletin’, ASUU said its position was taken at its executive committee meeting on Friday to properly inform its members of the true position of things.
The statement reads in part; “We condemn in the strongest terms the disruption of the meeting of the governing council of the University of Ibadan that was convened to conclude the selection of the next vice-chancellor of the university.
“That the practice of protesters assaulting, attempt to assault, or outright molestations of members of the academic staff union of the university, UI branch, shall henceforth be vehemently resisted.”
ASUU also called on the governing council of the university to ensure a level playing ground for all the candidates partaking in the process.
SSANU, NASU react
The leadership of JAC including the chairmen of both SSANU and NASU, Wale Akinremi and Etim Malachy respectively, have denied ASUU’s allegations. They said the union cannot tell them how to prosecute their battle.
In a message shared with our reporter via WhatsApp, Mr Malachy challenged ASUU to come out in the open to accuse his union.
“Were they in the non-teaching staff congress or where did the harassment or assault come from? Let them come out and tell us that we assault them during our congress,” Malachy said.
But on his part, the chairman of SSANU said ASUU is entitled to its opinion and that the correctness or not of such an opinion is what should be in contention.
“We cannot help a union run its system, reasoning or conclusions. It is not for any emotional group to teach us how to run our protest. We know that many people are happy with the fact that at least, there is a group of workers who are not cowards or collaborators in the present sorry state of the University of Ibadan,” Mr Akinremi wrote in response to PREMIUM TIMES’ enquiry.
Internal wrangling rocks ASUU
The vice-chairman of ASUU, Adefemi Afolabi, has accused the chairman and secretary of the union of unilaterally changing the content of the union’s press release, which he noted was jointly drafted on Friday by the members of the executive committee.
In a clarification shared on the Telegram group of the union, a copy of which PREMIUM TIMES obtained, Mr Afolabi also said the draft was meant to carry ‘Press Release’ for the consumption of the public and not ‘Press Bulletin’ as captioned. This newspaper learnt from the union members that ‘Press Bulletin’ is used for information only meant for the members and not for the media.
Mr Afolabi wrote; “The chairman and the secretary have defied our complaints about the alteration of the last paragraph of the draft we wrote at the executive committee meeting held on Friday, October 30, 2020. The last paragraph pleaded with the council to ensure the autonomy of the university is preserved as it reconvenes to conclude the process for the selection of a new vice-chancellor.
“This borders on abuse of office which this committee must not allow. The union is greater than each of us or any group of members within it. I think there are mechanisms in place to resolve this issue. It is a fundamental issue that runs deep to the foundation and belief of our union.”
But when spoken to on the phone, Mr Afolabi declined comment, saying only the union’s chairperson is empowered by the regulations to speak with the media.
In a similar development, the union’s investment officer for the chapter, also wrote in one of the union’s platforms, accusing both the chairman and the secretary of betraying their trust.
The duo, among others, who also commented on the matter, had raised concerns over the last paragraph of the bulletin issued on Friday by the union.
The concerned paragraph in the union’s statement reads; “(We) reaffirm our earlier appeal to the governing council of the University of Ibadan that a level playing ground be given in the appointment of the next vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan in order to protect the sanctity of the university autonomy.”
But when spoken to on the phone, the ASUU secretary on the campus said he was not authorised to talk to the media and advised our reporter to reach out to the chairperson.
However, the chairperson also declined comment on the matter. In a telephone interview with our reporter on Sunday afternoon, Mr Akinwole simply said; “There is no comment on the matter.”
SSANU, NASU write minister
Under the banner of the JAC, the university’s chapters of both SSANU and NASU have called on Mr Adamu to intervene in the crisis rocking the university.
The union said the incumbent vice-chancellor, Idowu Olayinka, who is supposed to complete his tenure on November 30, should proceed on terminal leave.
In their protest letter addressed to Mr Adamu and signed by Messrs Akinremi and Malachy, among others, the unions urged the minister to ensure the suspension of the ongoing selection process which it alleged is “tainted and prearranged to foist a particular preferred candidate on the university.”
They also called on the minister to review the activities of the current governing council of the institution in relation to what they termed as incessant industrial crises rocking the university since the inception of Joshua Waklek-led governing council.
The letter added; “The minister should inaugurate a committee of former vice-chancellors of the university and saddle the committee with the responsibility of nominating for the approval of the minister, an acting vice-chancellor, who will midwife a transparent, fair and just process of the appointment of a new vice-chancellor, University of Ibadan.”
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