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War of Words: You are Being Uncharitable, Delta Govt Lambasts ASUU President - TELL Magazine

War of Words: You are Being Uncharitable, Delta Govt Lambasts ASUU President

….Advises ASUU to use Delta to negotiate with the federal government

The Delta State government has lampooned the National President of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Professor Emmanuel Osodeke for his outburst against the governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, over his comment that the state government had no issues with its lecturers. Okowa, had in March, stated at the swearing-in of the presidents and members of the governing councils of three newly established universities in the state, that the government was not in dispute with any staff union in any of its tertiary institutions. He also disagreed with the ASUU President over his claim of proliferation of state universities in the country.

According to the governor, “The issues raised by ASUU at national level do not pertain to us in Delta as the allowances they are asking for are already being enjoyed by staff of our tertiary institutions”. Defending his establishment of three new universities, Governor Okowa said “Establishing colleges is on the concurrent list and as a state, we do so when the need arises. In our case, it is to fill the gap created by shortage of space, and increase access to university education by our qualified youths”.

But upbraiding the governor on Wednesday when he fielded questions on Sunrise Daily, a breakfast programme on Channels Television, Prof. Osodeke challenged him to, with effect from this year reject monies from the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, TETFund, alleging that apart from the projects built with the interventionist funds, the government had no projects in the state-owned university. Osodeke, professor of soil science at the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State, also accused the government of neglecting the welfare of its lecturers, alleging that they “are complaining bitterly because they are being treated badly”. He further alleged that the university has no pension scheme for its workers, and dared the governor to showcase government-owned projects in the university outside the ones provided by TETFund.

However, firing back at the ASUU president, the state commissioner for Higher Education, Prof. Patrick Muoboghare, in an interview with TELL on Thursday, debunked all the claims by the Union.

Thrashing issues raised by ASUU president one after the other, the enraged commissioner said “As for saying there are no projects in Delta State University, visitors to DELSU applaud the Delta State government for the infrastructural development going on there, and there is no state in this country that spends the kind of salaries subventions that Delta State government spends in Delta State University, Abraka, I mean no state. You cannot compare the infrastructure in Federal University, Umudike where the ASUU President teaches, with infrastructure in Delta State University, Abraka.

“So, if all the structures in Delta State University are by TETFund, is TETFund dead in Umudike? And after TETFund has established the structures, are they maintained? Does TETFund maintain them?” Muoboghare contended that “TETFund is not doing any of our universities a favour; it’s a right because that money comes from the people. All this noise about TETFund; TETFund is our money. Ordinarily, Delta State should retain two percent tax that is collected in Delta State for its own institutions; but we get far less than we contribute. Or have they forgotten that?”

On the issue of welfare, Prof. Muoboghare chided that “The National President of ASUU who is from the Michael Okpara University, Umudike, knows very well that professors in Delta State University, Abraka, are far better paid than professors from his own federal university. Then two, the national president knows that staff of Delta State University are very comfortable with their pension scheme. They don’t have to join their IPPS scheme or whatever it is called – the ASUU pensions administrators; no. They are well-paid; they receive their pension. They receive their gratuity from the Delta State government because as we speak, they are still on the old pension scheme. The one he’s on is indeterminate.

“There are lecturers who retired from Umudike; they run between Umudike and their village, and Abuja to get paid some pittance. That is the truth. They complain to us; they wonder what is happening in Delta State”. He said Prof. Osodeke should be factual enough to mention those who have retired from Delta State University that are not getting their pension and who did not get gratuity after being processed. “He should mention one. He does not have the facts and he should have found out from the vice chancellor and the bursar before talking”.

According to the professor of human kinetics and health education, “One of the reasons my national president from Umudike is on strike is that his earned allowances are not being paid; sometimes, even if they are paid, once in six months. In Delta State, it is paid every month.

The commissioner insisted that “There is no state that pays the earned academic allowances that Delta State pays… A professor at the bar in Delta State University has a gross pay of N633,000 per month, and the gross pay of the nearest federal university professor at the bar is about N560,000 per month. Quote me. Some say they do not even earn up to that, but I just want to be magnanimous to say they earn up to that.

“Is there any state university that pays above ₦400 million per month as salaries? And we pay far above – approximately ₦500 million per month as salaries in one of the universities. The new ones, the range is between ₦198 and ₦220 million per month for each of them. So, DELSU is better funded than any of the federal universities. Let each person answer his father’s name. You are in Umudike; face your governing council. Face your proprietor”.

Justifying the establishment of three new universities by the state government, the commissioner explained that “Delta State has about 500 public secondary schools and more than that number of private secondary schools. We must make provisions for the children graduating from these schools if we are responsible. And we saw that the one university we have could not cope. DELSU was already bursting at the seams and yet very brilliant children could not get admission to read medicine, to read engineering, or any of the environmental sciences”.

Puncturing the argument that one university in Egypt has about 500,000 students’ population, and with less than 12,000 students in DELSU the government was establishing three new universities in one fell swoop, a visibly irritated Muoboghare queried “why has Umudike not admitted 500,000 students? That a university in Egypt has population of 500,000; is that an argument? And then Delta State should have students’ population of over 500,000 before they think of another one? Why didn’t the government of Nigeria wait until the University of Ibadan had 500,000 students before establishing Lagos? Why didn’t they wait before establishing almost 50 other federal universities? I will be very happy the day I get to Umudike and see that the students’ population is 500,000. That will be fantastic. Umudike that was established over 10 years before DELSU was established does not have 100,000 students and you said we should have 500,000 before the government could think of establishing more universities for Deltans. We do not reason like that in Delta State. When we have challenges in Delta, we confront them, and we have confronted this one very squarely.

“And I’m happy to tell you that these new universities are matriculating each about 2,000 students each. Where would they have gone to? Onitsha market?”

Further lambasting the ASUU President, Muoboghare said “The shocker to my national president is that the Dennis Osadebe University in Asaba which is newly created, has staff earning better than his own old federal university. I dare say a professor in any of the four state universities in Delta State, earns better than a professor in Umudike where my national president comes from. And they are talking. They cannot challenge these things. Funny enough, he’s a Deltan; he should come and see what’s happening here.

“These are the same people who say private universities should not exist; the private sector is this and that. Yet, the TETFund he’s talking about is funded by the private sector! On the one hand, private sector should die; on the other hand, private sector should fund you. They should face the federal government that has refused to sign agreement and leave us alone in Delta State”.

The commissioner noted that as soon as Delta State established three universities, Lagos State established two “as if learning from Delta. Yet one of the chairmen of ASUU in one of the institutions in Lagos was making noise. Two months after his noise-making, Lagos State, right where he was operating, established two more universities. If anyone is attacking institutions in Delta State, he’s just being unfair; he’s just being uncharitable”.

Taunting the ASUU President, Prof. Muoboghare said “I agree with the national president of ASUU that federal universities are shambolic; in fact, they are finished. They are living on old glory. He should fight for them. The federal government should do the needful just as we are doing the needful in Delta State. But in fighting your proprietor, don’t drag the ones here that have very normal relationship with their proprietor.

“There is a neighbouring university with more than the students’ population of Delta State University. The monthly salary subvention of that university was reduced from ₦250 million to ₦50 million per month. They are unable to pay salaries because at a point no million was going there at all. Yet, you left that university. Go to Benin and negotiate with Governor Obaseki who is the governor and proprietor of that university. The point I am making is there are different proprietors for God’s sake.

“By the time they now agree to increase salaries of professors to maybe ₦1 million or whatever, federal government will release money to the federal universities. They won’t release to state universities. That’s when you start afresh. And the federal universities will not go on strike because state universities are unable to pay. We saw this long ago.

“So why should we escort you? You are unable to fight your battle, then, we escort you. What about when we are fighting our battles with our proprietors or visitors, who will escort us? Ekpoma is in deep shit right now; nobody is thinking of that. Rather than ASUU discussing with the visitor to Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, they are busy running to (Dr. Chris ) Ngige ( minister of Employment and Productivity); they are busy running to (Mr. Adamu) Adamu, minister for Education. These ones cannot help you.

“I think what ASUU needs to do with the Delta State Government is to appreciate what the government is doing for tertiary education in Nigeria and use Delta State as an example for other states to follow. ASUU should use Delta State to negotiate with the federal government, proprietor of all federal universities. Come to Delta State and learn how it is doing it”.

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