By Ozioruva Aliu
Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State has said the government’s decision to suspend all union activities across state-owned institutions of higher learning was not aimed at witch-hunting anyone but to protect the interest of students in the state.
The decision followed the protest by students of Ambrose Alli University, AAU, Ekpoma, over the lingering strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, after which the government directed all cadre of staff to report to their duty posts immediately.
Obaseki made the disclosure when he addressed veteran labour leaders, who were on a courtesy visit to Government House, Benin City, where he said the workers’ decision to down tools was not justifiable given that the state government has been up and doing in meeting her financial obligations to the school and its workers.
Obaseki said: “We don’t play politics with education. We will not compromise education because we are who we are today because of the quality of education we received. As a government, we are committed to improving education as the reforms we are putting in place are in the long-term interest of the staff of AAU.
“Our students cried to us begging us to help them go back to school, resume classes and graduate, and we approached the lecturers to go back to class, but they said no. What do you want us to do?
“If ASUU has a problem with the Federal Government, how is that our problem in Edo State? This is a deliberate effort to give private universities an edge and advantage over government-owned institutions. If ASUU has a problem with the Federal Government, why should we suffer in Edo?
“We have done so much in AAU and have embarked on several reforms and wonder why a school like AAU that is about 45 years old with over 30,000 students can’t pay their bills.
On his part, leader of the group and a former chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, in the defunct Bendel State, Olu Aderibigbe, hailed the governor for increasing the minimum wage from N30, 000 to N40, 000.