Classes and examinations maybe halted again at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso (LAUTECH), few weeks after the return of academic activities following a protracted strike action by the workers unions.
The future is said to be uncertain for thousands of students resulting from uneven academic calendar due to incessant industrial actions over lack of infrastructure and payment of workers’ salaries.
The institution, which is owned by Osun and Oyo states, suspended a two-week warning strike to allow students complete their examinations. There were indications that the industrial conflict may persist due to unfulfilled agreements.
While explaining the genesis of the crisis, chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), LAUTHEC chapter, Dr. Biodun Olaniran, said in spite of the Memorandum of Action (MoA) signed by union and the Governing Council after an eight months’ old strike by the union last year, governments of the two states have reneged on fulfilling their own part of the deal.
He said: “On the 13th of February this year, we (ASUU) signed a MoA with the Governing Council on how to resolve the challenges facing the institution. The signing of MoA led to the suspension of an eight months’ old strike on 17th February this year. One of the fundamental clauses of the agreement is to ensure that the governments (Oyo and Osun states) are made to be responsive on their legitimate responsibilities (funding inclusive) to the university.”
According to him, the council also promised to work out the modality of paying salaries, promotion arrears, Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) as well as prompt payment of monthly salaries, adding that out of 11 months’ salary arrears, only one month had been paid.”
He said salary payment had been unreliable since May while promotion arrears and EAA have not been paid, adding that the union had observed with dismay the non-compliance with the MoA by the council even after several appeals to it and the management.
“It is worthy of note that most of the time, the council does not reply our correspondences to it and whenever it does, the message had been ‘bear with us until the university finance improves.’ The latest of such mails to the council was on the 5th July, 2018. No reply was made on this,” he said.
He said the union also discovered that the situation in LAUTECH is not improving because the visitors to the university are not responsive to their financial responsibilities. “The situation has become unbearable to members of ASUU in LAUTECH, who are being owed 10 months salaries among others,” he added.
President of the Students’ Union Government (SUG), Abiodun Oluwaseun Laurel, said the only option for the two states was to appeal to the Federal Government to take over the institution since they could not pay subvention and maintain the infrastructures.
According to him, another way out is for the two state governors to come together and resolve the lingering problems amicably and decide on how much money they can give the university monthly.
Mr Laurel said the university could also establish business ventures to increase its IGR.
“We understand the economic situation of the country. We understand the dwindling price of crude oil and as a result of that, many states cannot pay salaries promptly. However, how can we defend two states having a university without having single building block erected in the last eight years?
“Running cost of the institution monthly is close to N400 million but only Oyo State government pays N75 million monthly as subvention. If Osun is no more interested in LAUTECH, Oyo State should take over. If both of them are tired, the Federal Government should take ownership of the institution,” Laurel said.
He appealed to unions in the institution to allow students write their exams without interruption. He noted that the university has become unpopular with many parents discouraging their children from seeking placement there.
“As at today, students admission into the school has drastically reduced because many parents discourage their children from coming to LAUTECH. Before, we used to have more than 30,000 students but now, we are far below that. So, for the interest of the future generation, the two governors should look for a way to resolve the contending issues,” he urged.
Also, a former SUG president, Bakare Solace Olatunde, said the two owners of the institution were not sincere with the public on the issue of LAUTECH.
He suggested that if the two states were tired of their financial contributions to the survival of the university, they should allow the Federal Government to take over its ownership.
He said many students have wasted years on campus before graduation and many stakeholders were ready to allow philanthropists to run the institution, if it was the way out of the current situation.
Olatunde appealed to the governments to take decisive steps to resolve the lingering issues.