By Bose Adebayo
The recent mass retrenchment of staff at Olabisi Onabanjo University, OOU, Ago-Iwoye, has been described as a necessary move to bring sanity to the troubled institution rather than to witch hunt the employees.
This position was made known by the Governing Council Chairman of the state University, Dr. Alex Onabanjo. According to him, a number of steps have been taken to reposition the institution, promising to use his position for the betterment of the university.

Otunba Onabanjo, who spoke through a member of the Governing council, Mr. Sina kawonise, said the institution had faced a lot of challenges before it finally resolved to down size the number of the university staff. ‘’Before this time, a lot of factors, had been considered by the council to see how changes could be made to place the university in its rightful position.

The Chairman, who expressed deep appreciation for the services rendered by all cadres of staff, also said the staff were not disengaged because of any wrong-doing but simply because the university could no longer afford to keep them.

According to him, the sack was part of the recommendations made in a White Paper submitted by the Professor Ayo Ibidapo-Obe led visitation committee when the State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel visited the school.

He further said the university, as at April 22, 2009, was almost bankrupt, insisting that the university could no longer meet up with its obligations to staff, contractors, and other creditors.

According to him, the institution, as at April this year, had over-bloated staff , and that staff salaries were being paid through loans from banks. The banks, it was gathered, were no longer interested in lending to the institution since the ones given were “not performing,” hence, the services of some staff were no longer needed.

“We met a total debt profile of 1.9 billion naira, much of which was incurred to augment the subvention given by the government for staff salaries.” he said.

He said the wage bill of the university had shot up from N65million in 2006 to N97million in 2007 and increased to N248million in 2009. In view of this increase, the state government, it was said, did not in anyway hesitate to jerk up its subvention to the school annually, from N60m in 2006 to N148m in 2009. He said: “Apart from this, we inherited an over-bloated workforce, far in excess of need and requirements of the National Universities Commission (NUC).

From a monthly salary bill of sixty five million naira (N65m) in 2006, the wage bill shot up to ninety seven million naira (N97m) in 2007, and finally to two hundred and forty eight million naira (N248m) in 2009.”

The council discovered that some academic departments had too many lecturers, just as the institution had overshot its non-academic staff quota by 50 per cent “To refresh your memory, the present Governing Council and the new management of OOU met a university that was almost bankrupt. The university could no longer meet its obligations to staff, contractors, and other creditors,’‘ he noted.

The council member said the state government had directed the authorities of the school to be the custodian of its Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) so as to cater for other needs of the institution.”The breakdown of academic staff in excess is as follows: Professors 7; Readers; 5; Senior Lecturer/ Senior Research Fellows ! Lecturer I/ Research l (27); Lecturer ll/ Research fellow ll (24); Asst. Lecturer 19; Graduate 3, while a total of eight hundred and sixty eight (868) non teaching staff have been asked to seek employment opportunities elsewhere,” Onabanjo explained.

“A total of eight hundred and sixty eight (868) non-teaching staff has been asked to seek employment opportunities elsewhere.

“In like manner, academic departments were reduced from 68 to 52, faculties from 13 to 8, while the existing three colleges are maintained.

Part of the options considered by the institution is to increase the tuition fee by two hundred per cent up from the  existing fee to pay workers’ salaries, but it was acknowledged that many parents would not be able to pay such fee especially when the economy is tight. An overall 459 staff academic staff are retained in the system, with a projection of 61 additional academic staff to be employed in few instances of some departments short staffed, thereby bringing the number of academic staff in the Humanities to 235 and 285 in the Science. Given the NUC staff-mix ratio, a total of 733 non-teaching staff are required and retained.

“In carrying out the right-sizing, however, diligent efforts were made to give the whole process a human face. For instance, in situations where husband and wife were to lose their jobs by the stipulated criteria employed in the exercise, one of the spouses was retained on humanitarian ground. No fewer than 12 of such cases were treated. In another instance, mother and daughter were affected, and on the same humanitarian basis, the daughter was retained while the mother (who was actually close to retirement) was disengaged.”

‘’We also use this opportunity to thank Chief Gbenga Daniel, Governor of Ogun State , for his unwavering commitment to and unflinching support for the re-birth and progress of OOU. Just last week, the government, out of its very lean resources, awarded a Ninety million Naira (N99m) contract for the provision of potable water in all the campuses.

The governor has also directed the Ogun State Road maintenance Agency (OGROMA) to move to rehabilitate old ones. The value of this is about N110m. With the completion of this restructuring and rationalization exercise, this once great citadel of higher learning is back to the path of greatness charted for it by its founding fathers,’‘ says Kawonise.

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