By EmmanuelÂ Edukugho
With public universities grounded by the striking academic and non-academic staff now without meaningful solution in sight the case of Lagos State University (LASU) has been compounded by deep-rooted internal wrangling that is tearing the community apart.
The situation at Lagos State University is worsened by the draconian methods of the vice chancellor in administering the affairs of the institution which has put him on collision course with the entire academic community.
Efforts to break the rank and file of the unions by directing that examinations be conducted met with stiff resistance recently, even by students themselves who are in solidarity with the striking lecturers.
Agnes Funmi Sessi is the chairman (or chairperson) of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) Lagos State University Branch.
She spoke with Vanguard on the state of affairs, the rot in the system, and the need for a visitation panel in the institution to restore sanity, good university governance and accountability.Â Letâ€™s go.
What is the latest situation non the strike as there is tension everywhere on campus?
The atmosphere is charged as you can see, because management has refused to yield to demands of workers. If the authorities of federal universities can yield to demands of their staff to a large extent, state universities can also call their workers and settle the issues.
We donâ€™t want a situation that when the national strike is over, then we at this university will go on strike again.
Do you have issues apart from the ones on which the national union has gone on strike?
Yes, the university is owing us different arrears: These are: 36-month arrears on Harmonised Tertiary Institutions Salary Scale VI (HATISS); Monetisation 2003-2005 which the Federal Government has paid to all federal universities parastatals and agencies (50%); the 15% salary increment since March 2007 till date which LASU management refused to implement with the excuse that the Lagos State Government has not given them the money.
But if the management was serious, consistent in demanding for the money and good relationship, the money would have been paid. If they donâ€™t ask, the money could be diverted.
Why wait so long and to go on strike on these issues?
Government wants it that way. It so. Government wants strike before doing the right thing. Strikes take us back as a nation, but if we are helpless, it is only by strike that we can press home our demands. Thatâ€™s the language the authorities understand.
How is the welfare situation?
The welfare is at Zero level.
There used to be a rebate in fees paid by staff who are studying here to acquire knowledge and improve their performance. But the Vice Chancellor has removed the rebate.
He is like a dictator. Nobody can talk. If anyone raised objection to anything, that person will be removed. That 10% rebate granted was rejected by him.
Salary and welfare conditions at UNAAB are far better. I have been in service for 12 years now but has never attended any seminar, workshop or conference. ICT training not available for staff.
There are no benefits whatsoever.
Theyâ€™ve also introduced car park fees for staff. Fees paid by parents in the staff school have been increased from N4,000 to N10,000 – 150% increase at a go. They donâ€™t want our children to go to school.
Are there no development projects being carried out here?
None by the management so far despite huge funds being generated by the university.
If there is any, let them point to it. Some of the projects you see on campus are done by ETF and PTDF. Former Governor Tinubu said he released, N1 billion to LASU. Where is the money?
The school of part time studies brings in so much money. Even the Vice Chancellor has said the part time school is the goose that lays the golden eggs. But again, where is the money. What is being done to better the lives of people in LASU?
Is there hope that the crisis can be resolved for peace to return to the university?
There could be hope, but the Vice Chancellor is a dictator.
â€œWeâ€™ve called him several times, but not ready for talks. For two weeks, now, he did not come to work, and has been asking his deputy to come to meetings.
But he is doing so in order to overturn decisions taken at such meetings.
It looks as if no progress, so which is the way forward?
The way forward is for the management to pay us all our arrears – because they are owing us a lot.
So many atrocities have been committed. There is need for a Visitation panel, like what happened at Imo State University so that the truth will be known.
There are 70,001 students in LASU, MBA students pay N150,000 per session, Masters, Ph.D students pay N120, N112,000 per session, minus acceptance free of N10,000.
Undergraduates pay so much.
Foundation programme students pay N250,000. So you can imagine the revenue generated at LASU.
What about the national strike by SSANU?
Yes, the Federal Government wants to introduce fees of N180,000 in federal universities. We are against that. Legislators and political office holders have increased their pay.
Democracy has become very expensive in Nigeria. Politicians give themselves all kinds of useless allowances â€“ constituency allowance and so on.
Corruption is very deep in the country. Etteh, Tafa, Alamaseigha, what has happened to them inspite of the huge public fund accumulated. Tafa and Alamaseigha were tried, sentenced and almost immediately freed again. Corruption is the problem. There is no progress because of corruption: Electoral process is faulty. See what happened in the Ekiti governorship re-run election. Corruption.
My conclusion is that the Visitor to LASU, Governor Babatunde Fashola, should set up a Visitation panel. We trust him. The Deputy Governor can not be so trusted because she is taking side with the Vice Chancellor.
She is biased. We have faith in Fashola. He is a lawyer, heâ€™ll listen to all sides. Only the government which is the owner of LASUÂ can call us back to work, not the management.
It will victimize, harrass and intimidate us. The management must be called to order.
We want a listening leader, not a dictator. We want to see more development in LASU. We donâ€™t want all these arbitrary increase by the management who wants to milk us dry.