From WOLE BALOGUN, Ado-Ekiti
On June 10, 2017, the Vice-Chancellor of Federal University of Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Ekiti State, Professor Kayode Shoremekun, shocked the world when he accused Governor Ayodele Fayose of propelling some leaders of the staff unions of the institution to disrupt academic and administrative activities on the campus by embarking on industrial strike.
The allegation came on the heels of the strike spear-headed by the Senior Staff Association of Nigetian Universities (SSANU), National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT) and Non-Accademic Staff Union (NASU), to press for the review of promotion exercise of 2016, allegation of threat to sack staff by management, and alleged misappropriation of funds by the VC among others.
The visibly agitated VC linked Fayose with the crisis on the grounds that the governor secured the release of some leaders of the staff unions who were detained by the police on the orders of the school management for being allegedly responsible for a mayhem visited on some academic staff members and property of the school on June 7:
“Sometime ago, some workers invaded the bursary that is the mini-campus of the university. They ejected the staff from their offices and also deflated the tyres of the official bursary car. Incidentally, and on that particular day, members of the University Council were about to hold a meeting. On hearing about the mayhem, council members, most of whom are senior citizens had to flee, they hurriedly relocated to Ado-Ekiti. The university management was directed to investigate the incident with a view to bringing the culprits to book.
“In response, the school management set up a panel. The panel in turn has since turned in its report. One of the observations of the panel was that the erring workers refused to appear before the panel. By way of response to this gross insubordination, management decided to suspend the workers pending the final outcome of the disciplinary panel this decision was upheld by the council.
“The workers since then have unleashed various forms of physical and psychological violence on members of the university community. The high point of these inclement activities occurred on June 7, 2017. On this particular day, the workers as usual, laid a siege on the university. They proceeded to inflict physical harm on members of the university community. In this respect various individuals went through harrowing experiences in the hands of these misguided individuals.
“A related development here has to do with the fact that members of NAAT which have always acted separately, have since joined these workers. Their grouse is that hazard allowance, which initially was exclusive to them was given a universal ring such that all the other union members currently enjoy this allowance. This was done in view of the university’s lean purse, and in tandem with what occurs in some universities. The NAAT members also decided to unleash violence on the university community. Consequently queries were served on them for this unbecoming behaviour, but they refused to answer these queries.
“In spite of this defiance of constituted authority, they wrote to the council, a higher level of authority as regards their grouse. But council noted that in view of this act of defiance, directed that they should be suspended, since acts of indiscipline are antithetical to the university culture. As soon as the suspension orders were served on the workers, they dug up all kinds of age old grievances; and on the basis of these manufactured grievances, they decided to embark on industrial action.”
Reacting to the VC›s allegation, Fayose’s Special Assistant on Public Communications and New Media, Lere Olayinka, denied all allegations leveled against the governor: “Beyond maintaining peace and protecting the rights of all residents of Ekiti State, Fayose does not have any business with FUOYE.
“The vice chancellor is the one that should search his conscience whether or not he is doing the right thing concerning the management of the university.
“Be that as it may, it sounds so illogical that head of a university will stand before the press to say that university staff should be arrested and detained by the police for protesting.”
FUOYE chapters of SSANU, NAAT and NASU described Soremekun’s allegation as “puerile, childish and an attempt to gain the sympathy of the federal authorities in Abuja and members of the public.”
NAAT chairman, Ekundayo Ajibaye, said the unions have no business with Fayose whatsoever other than him being the chief security officer of the state. He said the union leaders are primarily concerned with the welfare of the staff and payment of the benefits and promotio of deserving staff:
“There is no truth in the allegation of the VC that the governor is sponsoring unions in FUOYE. The allegation should be disregarded.”
SSANU chairman, Mutiu Ademola, claimed that their release from police custody was facilitated by the representatives of the national bodies of their unions and not by Fayose. He denied involvement of the unions in the attacks on lecturers for which they were arrested. He alleged that the VC did not sign a tripartite agreement brokered by the Federal
Ministry of Labour because of an alleged plan to arrest them.
NASU chairman, Dada Adebayo, said the face-off was sparked by alleged reneging on an agreement entered into in February when the authorities promised to pay arrears of salaries within five days of suspension of strike which was not fulfilled 17 days after which made unions to picket the bursary.