Lecturers protest over unpaid salary arrears

April 18, 1997

Lecturers at the University of Ibadan are threatening to withhold examination marks in a dispute over salaries they claim are owed after the end of last year's seven-month strike.

And Omoniye Adewoye, vice chancellor of the University of Ibadan, was embroiled in a second dispute - now resolved - over the selection of his two deputy vice chancellors, whose appointments were blocked by the university's council, which has consistently supported the military government of General Sani Abacha. Ironically it was General Abacha, as head of state and the university's visitor, who "grudgingly" approved Professor Adewoye's appointment after a 12-month delay.

Professor Adewoye was seen by some as a supporter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). But he has been refusing to pay two months' salary arrears arising from last year's strike, claiming that he had not been instructed by the federal education minister to pay up.

After a series of fruitless negotiations the union's general assembly decided, unanimously, not to submit the students' results.

"It is illegal and indeed immoral to withhold our salaries simply because we dared go on strike, after several appeals for dialogue, to save the university from total collapse," said Jimi Adeshina, senior lecturer in industrial relations in the university's sociology department and local chairman of ASUU.

The lecturers decided that they would, however, grade the exam papers, demanding that the arrears should be quickly paid into bank accounts. After establishing the arrears had been paid, they would instruct members to submit both the exam papers and results to the authorities.

In response to a threat by the students' union to disrupt the university's administration if the lecturers' demands were not met, heavily armed Nigerian mobile police, notoriously christened "kill and go", were stationed at the university's entrance and plain-clothes detectives patrolled the campus to forestall any hint of protest.

Reliable sources said that the vice chancellor was making frantic moves to pay the arrears to avoid a student demonstration with the potential of being reminiscent of those at the universities of Benin and Nsukka.

The second dispute began before last year's strike when the senate democratically elected two deputy vice chancellors. But the council, presided over by mathematician Iya Abubakar, ruled after the pay strike began that the deputy vice chancellors could only commence duty if they declared in writing that they were not on strike. The two told the council that they were solidly behind the action and the ideals championed by ASUU.

"In any case, there is no direct correlation between our appointment and the strike. We shall not accede to this sort of blackmail," warned one of the deputy vice chancellors. Council initially refused to ratify the election of the two deputies and instructed Professor Adewoye to conduct another election to fill the posts.

An angry professor of political science said: "It will amount to a loss of credibility and monumental disaster if 'we', as academics, derive undemocratic inspiration from the Nigerian soldiers whose penchant for annulling elections is insatiable."

The senate decided by a vast majority in a secret ballot to reject another election and reaffirmed their decision. Then the council unexpectedly ratified the election of the two deputy vice chancellors and instructed them to start work immediately.

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