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Onungwe Obe in Yenagoa
The Port Harcourt Zone of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) yesterday vowed that its members would not be cowed into returning to work despite the various antics the federal government adopted to blackmail them.
The leadership of the union in the zone, which addressed a press conference in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, said that rather than show commitment to the implementation of the previous agreements it reached with the union on the funding of public universities in the country, the federal government was using the refusal of ASUU members to enroll in the flawed Integrated Payroll and Personal Information System (IPPIS) to blackmail lecturers to return to the classroom.
Present at the press conference held at the Yenagoa campus of the Niger Delta University were the Coordinator of ASUU in Port Harcourt Zone, Comrade Uzo Onyebiama; the Chairperson of Federal University, Otuoke branch, Mr. Emmanuel Akpan; the Chairperson of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Endurance Joseph; the Chairperson of the Niger Delta University branch, Mr. Kingdom Tonbara; and the Chairperson of the University of Port Harcourt branch, Mr. Austen Sado, who all signed the text of the press conference.
While calling on parents and students to support ASUU in the struggle to redeem the university system, the union vowed that, “We remain in this struggle until all the issues in contention are adequately addressed.”
They lamented that it was unfortunate that the federal government was trying to use the seizure of their salaries as a weapon to weaken their struggle for the betterment of the universities.
They alleged that the IPPIS introduced by government has eroded the autonomy of the universities and placed the powers of the Governing Councils on the Accountant General of the Federation.
The union challenged the Accountant General of the Federation to publish the names of the 60,000 allegedly fished out as ghost workers since the start of the implementation of IPPIS and show evidence of the recovery of funds paid to them and the prosecution of the purported ghost workers.
“Our union has very deep worries and concern about the future of our universities and our youths. This concern is expressed in the union’s unequivocal rejection of IPPIS, which the federal government is blindly peddling about as the panacea for corruption in our universities,” the text of the press conference said.
They wondered why the federal government has failed to appoint Visitation Panels to the universities since 2015, when the President assumed office, adding that it is visitation panels that usually investigate cases of corruption in the universities and make recommendations to the visitor.
They lamented that since 2009 when their salaries were renegotiated, nothing new has been added to their salaries despite rising inflation and devaluation of the naira.
“The salaries we earn now cannot take us halfway home,” they said.
They warned against the indiscriminate establishment of universities by state governments, which they said have shown lack of capacity to fund existing ones.