Painfully, it is no longer news that academic activities have been paralysed since last Wednesday (9th November 2017) in the Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), as result of the on-going strike action embarked upon by the University’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
According to that Union’s official bulletin released on that fateful day, the strike action arose because of the following reasons:
Inadequate funding of the University for infrastructural development.
Non – implementation/payment of Earned Academic Allowances (EAA) and the arrears.
Non – remittance of check off dues and ASUU Cooperative Society deductions.
Non – payment of arrears of Teaching Practice Allowance, Economic Rent and Promotion arrears.
Failure to grant tax Rebate to CRUTECH staff.
Non -payment of 1% Local Government deductions to the University.
Amendment of the University law in line with the miscellaneous Amendment Act to reflect the proper tenures of the Registrar, Bursar and the University Librarian.
Non – remittance of National Housing Fund deductions.
Insecurity and encroachment on University Land.
Infringement of CRUTECH autonomy.
That bulletin recalls that “ASUU, CRUTECH has written series of letters, seeking audience with the Visitor, Cross River University of Technology, Gov. Ben Ayade, to address the issues bedevilling CRUTECH. Surprisingly, none of these letters were responded to, nor any official invitation extended to the Union for a meeting.”
The bulletin further submits that the Union’s Congress “was left with no other option than to resume its strike action earlier suspended on May 6, 2015. For the avoidance of doubt, the strike is total, comprehensive and indefinite, with effect from 12.01 am, November 9, 2017.”
Pandemonium was let loose in the Calabar campus of the University last Wednesday, as soon as news of that resolution spread among students. Angry students protested and forcibly locked in staff of the University, members of the Governing Council as well as representatives of the State Ministry of Education who were in a meeting of the Governing Council, for several hours. After calm was restored, the University’s Vice Chancellor, Prof Owan Enoh, reportedly assured the students that normal academic activities would resume on Tuesday, November 14th, 2017. The Vice Chancellor reportedly stated that a meeting between the State Governor, Ben Ayade and representatives of the Union was slated for this past Tuesday, after which ASUU’s strike would be suspended. However, no such meeting held, according to reliable sources. CRUTECH’s branch of ASUU I also gathered, did not receive any documented invitation to that purported meeting; the reason why the strike action continues.
An obvious implication of this unfortunate development is that students of CRUTECH have been left in a state of uncertainty, contrary to the assuring words of the University’s Vice Chancellor. It also implies that the students are not receiving what they expect from the University’s Management. Ironically, this scenario of broken promises reflects a similar scenario of government’s several unfulfilled promises to ASUU. The Union has been embarking on several strike actions since 2009, because of government’s failure to adhere to the terms of an agreement that was signed that year. The last national strike action lasted from August 14th 2017 to September 18th 2017. When distrust reigns as it has been reigning between government and ASUU, studies suffer and development gets retarded, as it is in this case.
I make no direct case for ASUU and cannot describe her as a strike obsessed Union because the brunt of the present decay in Nigeria’s education sector has been mostly borne by ASUU. See, a visit to the Calabar Campus of the Cross River University of Technology on normal lecture days shows students receiving lectures in congested classrooms. Most of those classrooms lack utilities as basic as a public address systems that should ideally aid audibility during lectures. Also, the Ogoja campus of CRUTECH still wears the look of the secondary school whose site it inherited, when the University was established in 2002.
Although most courses in CRUTECH have received accreditation by the National Universities Commission (NUC), the University was ranked 76th in NUC’s 2017 ranking of Universities in Nigeria. Certainly, this unenviable position is not what the University’s founding fathers hoped for, when CRUTECH was conceived. There is therefore need for constant and sincere dialogue between members of ASUU and the government of Cross River State. Dialogue breeds understanding and engenders trust.
When the impasse in CRUTECH is resolved, it would clearly be beneficial to all if the barriers of mistrust and disrespect that have so far been erected during the current strike action, are consciously taken down. Students need to trust and respect their lecturers and Vice Chancellor. Lecturers need to trust and respect the University’s Management and the government of Cross River State, respectively. The government of Cross River State needs to fulfil its promises to CRUTECH. All stakeholders in that University need to act with integrity. When this is done, CRUTECH would surely earn respect and ascend enviable heights in the ladder of Nigeria’s best Universities.
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