ASUU Knocks Okowa Over Position on Strike, Alleged Proliferation of State Varsities

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For distancing the Delta State government, and the state-owned Delta State University, DELSU, from the ongoing strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, the President of the Union, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, has challenged Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa to, with effect from this year, reject monies from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund. TETFund was set up by the federal government in 2011 to arrest the decay and the deterioration in infrastructure in public universities due to years of neglect and paucity of funds.

Okowa, had last month, at the swearing-in of the presidents and members of the governing councils of the three newly established universities in the state, stated that the ASUU strike had no bearing with his state, adding that “we are not in dispute with any staff union in any of the tertiary institutions”. According to him, “The issues raised by ASUU at national level do not pertain to us in Delta as the allowances they are asking for are already being enjoyed by staff of our tertiary institutions”. Disagreeing with the position of ASUU that there is unhealthy proliferation of state universities in the country, the governor defended his establishment of three new universities. According to him, “Establishing colleges is on the concurrent list and as a state, we do so when the need arises. In our case, it is to fill the gap created by shortage of space and increase access to university education by our qualified youths”.

But joining issues with the governor, the ASUU President described his statement as “very laughable”. Speaking Wednesday on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily, Prof. Osodeke alleged that DELSU lecturers are complaining bitterly because they are being treated badly. He also alleged that the university has no pension scheme for its workers. He dared the governor to showcase government-owned projects in the university outside the ones provided by TETFund.

“Go to Delta State University; 90 percent of the projects in Delta State University since the past 20 years, are built by funds from TETFund, a product of ASUU struggle. I want the Delta State government to say with effect from this year, we don’t want to have access to TETFund money. Most of the projects built in the past two years are from revitalisation fund in the Delta State University. How many projects have the state government funded in that university in the past 23 years? All the funds for the new projects, training of their staff, do come from TETFund, a project of ASUU and NEEDS Assessment Fund. That is it. Let him visit Delta State University and look at the inscriptions on the new buildings there. Are they bearing the Delta State government?

“Two, a university in Egypt has more than 500,000 students – one university. Delta State University, they don’t have more than 12,000 students, and you are building three new ones when you cannot fund the only one you have for political reasons. From Asaba to Agbor is 65 kilometres; Agbor to DELSU, 55 kilometres. Within a distance of 100 kilometres, you are having three state universities – University of Education, University of whatever, whatever…”.

The number one lecturer in the country argued that instead of spending money on paying vice chancellors, pro-chancellors, governing councils, registrars, bursars, and what have you “you can spend that money to increase the admission, the space in Delta State University. It’s simple”.

And asked if the lecturers were complaining about their welfare in terms of salaries, Prof. Osodeke said “Let me answer your question very well. What is welfare? Is welfare about salaries alone? … A lecturer needs an office; a lecturer needs a laboratory where he can do his work, a lecturer needs to be funded to do his Masters and PhD. Those are welfare; salary is just part of it. And Delta State is implementing the salary we negotiated with government. If we didn’t negotiate that, will he be paying that to his workers?

“The lecturers in Delta State University are complaining bitterly because they are being maltreated. They have no pension scheme; and you’re talking about welfare. What’s the name of their pension scheme? They are being strangled”.

Neither the state commissioner for Education, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, nor his information counterpart, Charles Aniagwu, could be reached for their reactions as they did not pick their calls nor responded to sms and Whatshapp messages sent to them as of the time of filing this report.

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