By Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Port Harcourt zone, Rivers State, yesterday took on the federal government over its seeming inability to halt the suffering inflicted on Nigerians by the prolonged scarcity of petroleum products and incessant power shortages.
According to the ASUU leadership in the zone, despite the urgency of the problem, the federal government does not seem to have a roadmap to provide solution to the problems in both sectors.
The union which also decried the failure of the Bayelsa State Government to pay salaries of the Niger Delta University (NDU) workers since this year, demanded the immediate declaration of state of emergency in universities in the state.
According to the body, aside the inability of the state Governor, Mr. Seriake Dickson, to pay salaries, another area of concern is the decaying infrastructure in schools in the state, especially the NDU.
ASUU zonal Coordinator, Prof. Beke Sese, who spoke on several issues in Yenagoa, the state capital, noted that ‘prevarication’ and ‘unfulfilled promises’ have characterised the government’s handling of several critical sectors.
The academic union said it was regrettable that Nigerians have again been subjected to an excruciating bout of suffering occasioned by the fuel scarcity, poor electricity supply and increasing rise in prices goods.
‘’Today, we have a government that rides on the mantra of change, but offers absolutely no direction for deep fundamental change. If the situation continues, and the need arises for mass action, ASUU is willing and able to join forces with like-minded organisations to take action to compel our governments to do the right thing.
“Despite the urgency of the situation, the federal government has yet o articulate clear policies providing a pathway to sanity in the petroleum industry. Prevarication and unfulfilled promises have continued to be the order of the day.
‘’What Nigerians see at the moment appear to be ad hoc, stop-gap, short term measures which do not guarantee a total resolution of the crisis in the industry. It must be clear to our government that our country cannot afford this current level of importation. It will exhaust our foreign reserves in no time,” the union argued.
On the alleged neglect of education and unpaid salaries in Bayelsa State, ASUU contended that “no responsible government would treat the issue of non-payment of salaries and crumbling learning structures at the state-owned university with levity and nonchalance.”
Flanked by the NDU ASUU Chairman, Dr. Stanley Ogoun, his University of Port Harcourt counterpart, Dr. Austin Sadoh and Dr. Puyate Suobere of the Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Prof Sese described Dickson’s attitude to education as condemnable.
According to the union, since this year, the government has not paid the salaries of lecturers and other academic staff, noting that workers in the university are now unable to meet accommodation, feeding, medical and mobility needs.
The academic staff union decried the poor funding of state-owned universities in the zone, vowing not to let the hardship inflicted by the government on university workers continue unchallenged.
‘’ The Bayelsa State government must make genuine effort to come up with an infrastructural development plan and fund the NDU with a view to making the university rank among the best in the country.
‘’We hereby call on governments at all levels to declare a state of emergency in the education sector, especially the Bayelsa State government that had earlier made such pronouncements to match the declaration with appropriate action,” he said.
The union leaders noted that the needs-assessment carried out at the NDU revealed “lamentable deficiencies in infrastructure, including classrooms, laboratories, libraries and online resources, office buildings, students hostels and staff quarters.
“The present level of funding in the Niger Delta University is simply appalling. The staff/student ratio in several academic departments is far below levels recommended by the NUC. Research grants are almost non-existent. It is beyond doubt that the university is one of the least funded in the world.”
Sese, who coordinated the media chat, also noted that the union was vehemently opposed to the withdrawal of funding for university staff schools by both the federal and state governments.
ASUU affirmed that the withdrawal of financial support would lead to industrial crisis in the various universities, noting that the body would resist the decision by every lawful means.
In his remark, the NDU ASUU Chairperson, Ogoun, argued that if the state government house was still running, there’s no need why the university workers should be deprived of their source of livelihood.
‘’This government has not done a single project in NDU. They said they constructed a link road and it is for our sake. All ongoing projects are being done by TETFUND. If they say there’s no money, why is the government house still running?” He queried.