For months now, thousands of students of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, have been at home. The school’s academic session has been on and off for almost two years — the university last graduated students in 2015.
LAUTECH, jointly owned by Oyo and Osun states, has suffered lack of funding in the past years, and this time, members of the academic staff have refused to go to class. The fate of the students, lies on how and when the school gets adequately funded and the demands of their teachers met.
NO PAY, NO WORK
No work, no pay, the government would use to serve a threat to protesting workers. It is, however, the other way round now as members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of LAUTECH insist they won’t resume teaching until they are duly sorted.
In February 2017, Oyo and Osun states released N584m to clear two months of the backlog of salaries owed academic staff. This prompted the staff to call off the 7-month-old strike it embarked on in September 2016, and the union renewed its negotiations with the two state governments. The lecturers, after a short while, went back on strike when both state governments seemed not to be forthcoming.
“Our Union, after signing an MoU with the administration on behalf of governing council suspended our strike action in February 2017,” Biodun Olaniran, chairman of ASUU, LAUTECH chapter, said.
He explained that LAUTECH had been thrown into crippling financial crisis for over two years. This, he attributed o government’s refusal to meet its funding obligations to the institution. The spirit and content of the MoU, the union claimed, has been substantially breached, stressing that accumulation of arrears of unpaid salaries has continued unabated. “Staff members have continued to endure hardship and various financial embarrassments due to non-payment of salaries,” Olaniran lamented.
“Our union, therefore, is left with no option but to invoke the provisions of No Pay No work,” declared the union chair.
ALUMNI TO THE RESCUE
Perhaps it is ASUU’s call on members of the public— to prevail on the governments of Oyo and Osun to live up to their responsibility, however— that nudged a group of the school’s alumni into launching a campaign to fund their alma mater.
“The two owner states have been unable to solve this problem and I am seriously concerned,” Bayo Adeyinka, an alumnus and lead initiator of #FundLAUTECH, stated in an introductory speech calling for donations.
“We can no longer fold our hands. That is why I am stepping forward with other former graduates of the institution with this crowd-funding approach.”
Adeyinka noted that the school’s academic inactiveness has made thousands miss scholarship and job opportunities because they are unable to collect their transcripts and reference letters. “The opportunities missed can’t be quantified in naira and kobo,” he said.
In a telephone conversation with TheCable, Adeyinka narrated the story of an alumnus who was on the mandated probation in his workplace and was eventually suspended because he was unable to provide his academic reference from LAUTECH.
Emphasising the need for urgent reopening of the school, Adeyinka complained about the growing rate of crime and how female students were taking to prostitution.
“The local economy is dead,” he said. “Think of hotels, restaurants, Okada riders, petty traders and other micro enterprises that depend on the university to survive. There’s been no electricity on LAUTECH campus for three weeks now. IBEDC has cut off supply because of the inability to pay bills.”
Adeyinka was quick to relate the #FundLAUTECH initiative to the school’s 1989 launching ceremony where a total sum of N19m was realised in cash and pledges. “On that day, the chief launcher, late MKO Abiola donated the sum of N2, 050, 000,” he said.
LAUTECH lecturers are being owed total outstanding salaries of N7b, and setting this as the ultimate goal, Adeyinka with his team wants to raise N1b in 90 days. “I assure you of absolute transparency as representatives of ASUU, SSANU, alumni and myself will manage this initiative,” Adeyinka said.
Inibehe Effiong, Lagos lawyer and rights activist, said there is nothing wrong if some individuals decide to give funding support to a government-owned school.
“It is by way of assistance for the institution, and it is legal,” Effiong told TheCable. “In civilised countries, people even allot part of their shares to fund public universities. It is allowed by law, provided that the fund so raised will go to the council of the university, as they (donors) cannot on their own begin to determine how that fund should be spent.”
Notable persons had since moved in to #FundLAUTECH.
On Wednesday, June 21, Rasheed Ladoja, a former governor of Oyo state made an instant donation of N2m when the #FundLAUTECH team visited him in Ibadan.
Receiving the team, Ladoja– who said, when he was a governor, he wanted to make LAUTECH ‘number one’ in Nigeria– pledged to further #FundLAUTECH with his monthly pension of ‘N644,589.15’ over the next six months.
Earlier on Monday, Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the ooni of Ife donated N500, 000 when the team made a call at his palace in Ile-Ife.
As of 12 noon on Friday, June 23, N1,429, 500. 00 had been raised, making 0.14% of their target since the campaign started on Monday, June 12.
NO, IT’S NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO FUND LAUTECH
Since it began, #FundLAUTECH campaign has been trailed by a mixed reaction from other alumni of the school.
“For how long would individuals be canvassed to be donating to fund LAUTECH staff salary in the name of palliative or short-term solution?” asked Muyiwa Ayodele, a computer science graduate of the university.
Ayodele, who claimed to have spoken with some graduates of the institution in the diaspora, said their resolve would be for the alumni body to compel LAUTECH management to open its book for audit. “I gathered that the last time LAUTECH’s accounts were audited was far back 2012,” he said. Ayodele added that the school management that operates about 97 accounts does not have a functioning accounting system.
“I gathered that the last time LAUTECH’s accounts were audited was far back 2012,” he said, adding that the school management that allegedly operates about 97 accounts does not have a functioning accounting system.
“When the state governments got stranded and couldn’t pay salaries, did we see #FundOsun hash-tag to raise fund for the government institutions? The states opened their books and got bail-out funds from the federal government under certain conditions.”
Instead of calling on individuals to donate, Ayodele urged the alumni to mount pressure, campaign on all the parties involved, so they could do the needful.
Weighing in, Oluwasegun Akande explained that the alumni should not be looking at a short-term solution.
“Have we asked how long it will take to perform a forensic audit on LAUTECH, invoices and staff?” he asked.
He, however, pointed that the real short term deal is one that follows the right, ethical procedure of audit, restructuring, financial intervention and a fresh, standard and sustainable blueprint that places LAUTECH on a self-fund pedestal to follow going forward.
When it became widespread, however, that ASUU had disallowed the state governments from auditing the school management’s books, Biodun Olaniran and Toyin Abegunrin, the union’s chair and secretary in a joint statement debunked this.
“Our union is not opposed to the exercise,” the statement read. “It should not be used as an excuse to justify holding on to salaries of our members for eight months. Let the government fulfill its obligation as even recommended by its own visitation panel, then whatever auditing exercise they want to carry out can continue.”
The union has vowed not to stand in the way of accountability and transparency, and at the same time, allow its members to be subjected to humiliation of economic deprivation.
NO ONE IS SINCERE, #FUNDLAUTECH IS A MERE MEDIA CONCEPT
Oluremi Omowaiye, an alumnus and former staff of LAUTECH believes that parties involved in running the school are not sincere.
Reacting to the #FundLAUTECH initiative on his Facebook page, Omowaiye who is currently the commissioner for science and technology in Osun state— a co-owner of LAUTECH, wrote, “the federal government has pumped billions of naira lately into LAUTECH in the name of NEEDS assessment largely for research but we should ask ourselves, what research output has been turned out?”
He explained that the university and its two teaching hospitals gulp about N900m monthly as salaries, at the time most states in Nigeria are financially crippled.
“Around 2013, the three tiers of government were sharing about N1t monthly, but now in 2017, the tiers of government are struggling to share about N300b, yet our recurrent expenditure gets larger because of salaries that get increasing,” Omowiaye attempted an excuse for the non-payment of lecturers’ salaries.
Stating the fact that the two state governments can’t continue to fund LAUTECH and most of their institutions, he advised that LAUTECH starts self-funding itself.
“If UNIOSUN has been able to survive without subvention from the state government for over two years, why can’t LAUTECH?”
Laying his conclusion on #FundLAUTECH, Omowaiye described the initiative as a mere media concept. “LAUTECH monthly salary is N390m and I can bet it that they can’t raise N10m,” he wrote.
In all of these, however, Ropo Egbeleke, a former student union leader and co-initiator of #FundLAUTECH wouldn’t stop asking; “what exactly can we do in the shortest time to get these stranded students back to school?”