•Fayose should pay our lecturers’ salaries, frustrated students plead
Wole Balogun, Ado Ekiti
For over six weeks, academic activities have been paralysed at the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado-Ekiti, since the academic staff of the institution went on strike. And the situation has been taking a toll on the students.
Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), EKSU chapter, have been on an industrial action since January 16. They are demanding the payment of their eight months’ salaries allegedly being owed by the government.
Investigations by Daily Sun revealed that students freshly admitted into the institution, who had hardly spent a semester before the strike commenced on January 16, are becoming restless. This is just as other students, especially those in their final year, are getting frustrated about the system.
Ifeoluwa Stephen Sanusi, 18, a 100-level undergraduate of the Department of Theatre and Media Arts of the university, told the reporter: “I have just got admitted and had been hopeful for a very busy and challenging learning experience. but then the school was shut down on January 16, and we have been here doing nothing. Efforts to read on our own have been boring and unchallenging, as there is no lecturer to guide you.
“I am bored and I want government to urgently pay our lecturers so they can resume work on time. I also appeal to the striking lecturers to kindly reach a reasonable pact with the government. They should put our future in mind.”
Marian Ayodele, a 100 level student in the Department of English and Literary Studies, said she and her idle friends have found a temporary solace in paying frequent visits to the mosque to shed off the burden of boredom slammed on them by the strike.
“This strike is not good for us, especially those of us that are still freshmen. We are not happy because we are being delayed for no fault of ours. We are even losing confidence in the system. We appeal to government to urgently heed the lecturers’ demand. They should just find a way and solve this problem once and for all and on time too. The campus has become a ghost town and everyone has left,” she said.
Olanrewaju Taiwo, a 300 level student of Science Laboratory Technology, declared that the impasse caused by government’s non-payment of salaries was negatively affecting the fortunes of the students. He called for urgent action by government: “This strike is just delaying me and my future. I want both the teachers and the government to urgently find a solution to the crisis and let us resume for lectures.”
Miss Akande Morenike, a final year student in the Faculty of Law, appealed to government to pay the lecturers and end the strike to prevent the consequences of youthful restiveness on the campus.
Her words: “I want to appeal to the government in particular to urgently take care of the situation. This strike is affecting many of us psychologically and we are already getting depressed about the whole system. I am already in my final year and have been calculating that I should be in the Nigerian Law School in a couple of months. But now I am getting weary with this unnecessary delay in the academic calendar occasioned by the strike.
“All my colleagues are confused. The fresh students are becoming restless. And you know an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. So, I appeal to both parties, government and the striking staff of the varsity, to urgently reach a pact and end this stalemate for our sake and the sake of their children also.”
Adeolu Oluwagbemiga, a 200 level student in the Economics Department and Akintunji Oluwaseun of the Science Laboratory Technology Department are heaping all the blame on the administration of Governor Ayo Fayose over government’s failure to pay salaries. According to them, anyone working and not receiving his salaries when due should not be blamed for downing tools.
“We learnt that our lecturers are on strike to demand some understanding from government on reduction of taxes that the government imposed on their salaries, and which they didn’t like. The lecturers also want the government to pay their outstanding salaries for eight months. We learnt that there is this disagreement over how many months should first be paid. I think the government is offering less than five months, which is what the lecturers want. For us as students, we would rather pitch our tents with the lecturers because they are also parents and have their own children and other responsibilities to take care of.
“Imagine, if my mom and dad were to be lecturers in this university and both of them have worked for eight good months without getting a dime, would they be able to pay my school fees? So, government has to do something quite urgently and stop giving us excuses.
“If they need to borrow to pay the salaries of lecturers, they should, please, do it. Governor Fayose should help solve this problem once and for all. We also want to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to assist our state government by giving him a bailout, if possible, to pay our lecturers’ salaries and allow us to resume in time.
“Imagine, I planned to graduate at 23, but with what is happening now, I may not graduate at that age. When do I start working and take care of my parents who are aging now? Please, government should do something fast and save our future.
“Many of us have been stranded here because our homes are far from here. I am from Lagos and cannot just be simply travelling to and fro in short time,” Oluwagbemiga lamented.
Also blaming the state government, Akintunji said: “I do not think the government has any excuses here. Just this last session, our school fees were increased with the reason that it would help the management to pay the salaries of staff and we agreed. Some of us who were paying N60,000 before now pay as much as N120,000 in total. Many of us have paid and, in spite of that, see the situation we are in now.”
Corroborating Akintunji’s claims on increment of fees at the university, a female student told the reporter: “We have a situation whereby in 100 level engineering students pay N52,000 as acceptance fee and about N201,000 for school fees. That is too high. And in spite of that, we are having non-payment of lecturers’ salaries, leading to this strike. We are tired of staying at home. Also help us appeal to the school management to ensure that we have electricity on campus.”
The leader of the school’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Prof. Olufayo Olu, who spoke on the telephone with Daily Sun, noted that: “It is actually seven months of our salary arrears. If we add this month, it would be eight months. We have been meeting and negotiations have been on-going.”
“We were owed over four months full salary and three months net payment were made. That is what we actually calculated to make seven months. If the full salary is N100, and you have paid the net of it which is N20, you would not say you have paid the salary in the real sense of it.
“What happened the last time was that the government started 100 per cent tax deduction. Our demands are that the government should pay our salary and pay it up to date. We have settled other areas such as tax deductions and pension, among others.
“The government has not said anything concrete on the payment of our salaries. All that it has said has been that there is no money. But our members cannot go back to the classrooms empty-handed. I am only speaking for the ASUU,” he said.
When called on phone to react to the claims by both the students and striking lecturers, head of corporate affairs and spokesman for the institution, Elder Olubunmi Ajibade, said he was not in the mood to talk at the moment, as he was at a family event. He promised to call back later in the day.
“I cannot, in all honesty, react now, as I am at an important social function involving my daughter. I am also on leave now. But that notwithstanding, I will call you back in the day and talk on the development. Thank you,” he told the reporter on Saturday. But he never called back.
The reporter placed several calls to Elder Ajibade on Sunday, but all the calls were rejected.