Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi
By Christopher Isiguzo, Toba Suleiman, Seriki Adinoyi, Mohammed Aminu and Tunde Sanni
Academic activities in several universities across the country were grounded Thursday as members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on a one-day warning strike to press home their demand for the appointment of a fresh vice-chancellor for the Rivers State University of Science and Technology (RSUST), Port Harcourt.
The strike marred the 69th inaugural lecture of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), as members of the union boycotted the event in deference to the strike order by the national body of the union.
Chairman, UNN chapter of ASUU, Aloysius Okolie, who gave reasons for the action, said it was in compliance with the ASUU national body's directive that all members should stay at home yesterday.
ASUU had declared the one-day strike in solidarity with members of its RSUST chapter who had been on strike over an alleged subversion of laws at the university by Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi.
“The union monitoring team is already at work to fish out erring members," Okolie said.
He said that ASUU national body would be forced to take further action if after the one-day strike, the governing council and the governor fail to obey the laws of the university and follow due process in the appointment of the RSUST vice-chancellor.
He said: “The National Assembly has a law signed by President Goodluck Jonathan that VCs should spend only a single tenure of five years and we wonder why RSUST will be an exception.
“The acting VC, Prof. Barikeme Fakae, has no business in RSUST, since he had exhausted his five-year tenure. Appointing him for a second term amounts to an illegality.”
And in Ekiti State, ASUU members in the state-owned university also joined the one-day solidarity strike. They blamed Amaechi and the Chairman of the RSUST Governing Council, Justice Adolphus Karibi Whyte, for violating the law in the reappointment of Fakae.
Addressing a press conference in Ado-Ekiti, ASUU Chairman, Ekiti State University (EKSU) chapter, Dr. Ayan Adeleke, called on the Inspector General of Police (IG), Mohammed Abubakar, to investigate the alleged brutalisation of ASUU members by some policemen and students on August 15.
He described the reappointment of Fakae, in acting capacity, as irrational, despite his poor performance, adding that having come fourth among the four professors interviewed for the job by the Governing Council, he should not have been considered.
He said that it amounted to the outright subjugation of the university’s autonomy to have reappointed him. Justifying ASUU’s action, Adeleke pointed out that the Rivers State government announced Fakae’s reappointment through the Secretary to the State Government instead of allowing the Governing Council of the university to do so.
According to him, the reasons adduced by Justice Karibi-Whyte for Fakae’s reappointment was vague and violated the law that established the institution, noting that such justification had further debased the university system in the country.
“Prof Fakae’s foot soldiers are all out on a campaign of calumny against the leadership of ASUU in RSUST. On daily basis, they harass and intimidate our members who are unwilling to fall for their cheap blackmail,” Adeleke said.
Also in Jos, the University of Jos branch of ASUU protested the alleged imposition of Fakae on RSUST. The Chairman Unijos chapter of ASUU, Dr. Pam Yakubu, while addressing the press at the union’s secretariat, reiterated the point that the appointment of Fakae fell short of due process and due diligence. He decried the arbitrary and uncoordinated manner in which the VC governed the university, which caused hiccup sessions all through his tenure.
“On the basis of these, the government, the governing council, and unions, alongside the VC agreed that upon the expiration of his tenure he would not return. This gentlemanly agreement was aimed at achieving the greater good of the institution. But it is now being breached.
“The breach of the agreement started from allowing Fakae to participate in the interview. The deliberate attempt to politicise the process of appointing a VC within the university without recourse to due and diligent process has grave implications for our agreement and especially the provision of university autonomy which our union has pursued so far,” he added.
He said the union would not give up on the matter until the right thing is done.
The story was not different in Sokoto, where ASUU members in Usmanu Dan Fodio University condemned the imposition of Fakae on RSUST. Local ASUU Chairman, Dr. Lawali Abubakar, described as illegal the reappointment of Fakae. He recalled how Amaechi had persuaded the lecturers at the time, to accept Fakae’s appointment, promising that his tenure would not be renewed.
According to him, the recent renewal breaches the understanding the ASUU members had with Amaechi. “What we are witnessing at RSUST is the peak of arbitrariness and should be condemned by law-abiding citizens," Abubakar said.
He urged members of ASUU in RSUST to remain steadfast, assuring them that the union would do everything to ensure their rights to freedom of expression and lawful assembly.
Similarly, at the University of Ibadan, teaching and learning were suspended, as lecturers shunned classrooms.
While speaking on the level of compliance, Chairman of the ASUU University of Ibadan chapter, Dr. Segun Ajiboye, said members complied fully. He described the incident at the RSUST as an injustice which could not be allowed to stand so as not to be copied in other universities.
The ASUU chief called on the president to prevail on Amaechi to obey the rule of law and decency in the governance of RSUST.