A desperate attempt by the new management of the crisis-rocked Ambrose Alli University, AAU, Ekpoma, Edo State, to reopen the university in spite of the ongoing strike action by university teachers, is being resisted by the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. The Prof. Osarhieme Benson Osadolor-led management of the institution had on Wednesday May 19, 2021, announced Monday May 24, 2021 as resumption of academic activities. But the defiant lecturers insisted that they would not go back to class until their demands, namely unpaid five months salaries, non-remittance of more than one year check-off dues, and sundry deductions from their salaries, were met.
The aggrieved lecturers, who in a statement by the local chapter chairman, Monday Igbafen, professor of political science, and secretary, Anthony Aizebioje-Coker, described the resumption announcement by the management as a “hoax”. They contended that “to forcefully ask workers to resume on empty stomach simply amounts to enslavement of our members”.
But in an intriguing move on Monday to break the strike which began Friday March 26, 2021, Osadolor, in a personally signed statement Tuesday May 25, dangled the carrot of preparedness to clear outstanding salaries within one week, to those who had or would return to work.
In his statement titled “AAU, Ekpoma resumes academic activities, set to clear outstanding emoluments of active staff members”, Osadolor said “The Management of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, profoundly appreciates academic and non-academic staff, as well as other officials of the university, who turned up for work on May 24, 2021 in line with management directives.
“Management is glad to announce that all those who resumed and others who are willing to join them will begin to receive their emoluments within the next one week. Management is also very appreciative of the understanding, support and cooperation of the student community and all others within the university community, for how they have conducted themselves in line with the resumption notice”.
The acting vice chancellor said management remained “committed to restoring harmony and normalcy to the university” and was set to take the institution to greater heights, adding that “We continue to count on all your support and goodwill as we set on the course of repositioning Ambrose Alli University for excellence”.
However, the ASUU leadership punctured the claim by the vice chancellor that academic activities had actually kicked off. It described Osadolor’s statement as “insulting, dehumanizing, and a grand plan to enslave the workers of the University”.
In a statement on Tuesday by Igbafen and Aizebioje-Coker, ASUU said “The attention of the Union has been drawn to the release personally issued by the Acting Vice-Chancellor which amongst other things, said that “all those who resumed and others who are willing to join them will begin to receive their emoluments within the next one week. The Union views the above-quoted statement insulting, dehumanizing, and a grand plan to enslave the workers of the University.
Urging its members to ignore the release and remain at home until their demands were met, the Union insisted that “The strike action is still fully on course. United we bargain, divided we beg. A people united can never be divided”. To pooh-pooh the management’s claim that academic activities had picked up with the return of some students and staff, the union released a video clip of the prevailing situation in the institution which showed a desolate campus, an indication that staff and students “effectively obeyed the sit-at-home order”.
Solomon Aimiebinomon, a member of staff of the non-academic union of the University which had been on strike since October last year, noted that “This is the deserted campus of AAU Ekpoma as of today, Tuesday 25th May, 2021, devoid of administrative and academic activities.
“The so-called resumption of academic activities in the University, as claimed by the acting university administration, is not only a hoax but also a ploy to deceive, mislead and misinform the students and the public. The strike of ASUU is therefore biting hard on the institution.
“Government should do the needful by paying the unpaid salaries of workers of the University to restore normalcy”.