All is not well at the Edo State-owned Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma where the workers, both academic and non-academic, are protesting recent unpleasant developments in the university. On Tuesday, members of the local chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU) and their Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) counterparts, with the solidarity of their colleagues from the University of Benin, Delta State University (DELSU), Abraka, and Niger Delta University (NDU), Yenagoa protested the non- payment of their accumulated salaries, the new law passed by the state House of Assembly which gave sweeping powers to the state governor, as Visitor to AAU, to take over the running of the University, and the deployment of security operatives made up of policemen and vigilantes into the institution to maintain peace. The controversial bill was passed on Monday at the behest of the governor, and was assented to Monday night by Governor Godwin Obaseki.
Wearing branded T-shirts, and brandishing placards with various inscriptions, the workers were protesting the alleged payment of half salaries to them from March to November 2020, and the four months’ salary arrears this year. The protesters also used the occasion to celebrate the exit of the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Ignatius Onimawo, who formally handed over to the newly appointed Acting Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Benson Osadolor. There is however a strong indication that the University’s Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU may drag the governor to court over the new law being one of the issues that was on the front burner at the union’s congress on Tuesday. The union described the law as illegal and alien to the university environment. A source privy to the meeting posited that “The law is an illegal law because it was passed by minority members of the Assembly. We are certainly going to court to contest the legality or otherwise of the new law.
“The powers conferred on the governor by the law are alien to public University system. What the governor did was to annul the University Statute, using military fashion”.
ASUU also frowned at the appointment of an acting vice chancellor and other principal officers for the University, faulting the process. The magazine learnt that the national leadership of ASUU wrote to the governor through the AAU Governing Council six months to the expiration of their tenures, reminding the governor to set machinery in motion as required by law to appoint their replacements but the governor allegedly ignored the advice.
The inside source complained that “They are dragging ethnic politics into AAU, including the differences between (former governor Adams) Oshiomhole and Obaseki. But what we are concerned with is our welfare. For peace to reign, the Vice Chancellor ought to have been appointed from within the University, but if otherwise, due process should have been followed by advertising the position”.
The government had in a statement by the Secretary to the State Government, Osarodion Ogie, announced the dissolution of the institution’s Governing Council and announced Osadolor as the acting Vice Chancellor, with immediate effect.
Ogie said “the Fulbright Scholar, Prof. Osadolor is to immediately take over the administration of the institution towards revamping and repositioning it to become a forward-looking, innovative and technology-driven institution of higher learning.”
The statement reads: “In accordance with the Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Provisions Law 2021, the Edo State Government hereby announces the dissolution of the Governing Council of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma and appointment of Prof. Osarhieme Benson Osadolor as Acting Vice Chancellor of the institution.
“These directives take immediate effect. The Ambrose Alli University (Special Intervention Powers) Provisions Law 2021 empowers the Visitor of the University to intervene in the ongoing impasse at the institution in the interest of the school, students and the generality of Edo people.
“For some time now, the institution has been brought to its knees by mismanagement and maladministration forcing the students to remain at home, with the attendant adverse effect on their academic pursuits. This has also grounded activities in the university community, with the institution derailing from the vision of its founders”.
Osadolor, is a Professor of History at the University of Benin. He was trained at the University of Hamburg, Germany and University of Ibadan, Nigeria.