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News of the Mass Layoffs at AAU Ekpoma Sets Off Riots , Confusion in the University Community

The crisis afflicting the Edo State-owned Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma, has gotten worse as word has it that Mr. Godwin Obaseki, the Executive Governor of Edo State and a visitor to the university, has allegedly ordered the immediate dismissal of an unspecified number of university employees due to the university’s recently completed fruitless staff biometrics verification exercise.

According to the report, the staff who are allegedly accused of disobedience and refusing to participate in the biometrics verification exercise, the staff who participated in the exercise but were denied printouts, and the employees who took part in the recently suspended strike of ASUU, NASU, and other unions are among the affected workers in the alleged gale of sack.

The Special Intervention Team (SIT) of the University which disclosed this at a meeting of the SIT/Principal Officers of the University and all staff of the University on the state of affairs of the University on Thursday, 12th January, 2023 at Ekpoma was said to have announced that all the workers in this category are no longer staff of the University

It was gathered that Mr. Austin Osakue, a member of the SIT, who presided over the alleged rowdy and tension-soaked meeting, revealed that the SIT has directed the issuance of sack letters to the affected staff.

He was said to have specifically disclosed that all staff with alleged multiple ages or conflicting affidavits of age declaration will be sent to the University’s Staff Disciplinary Committee without further delay.

Mr. Osakue who was said to have read the riot act to all staff of the University also threatened tough measures in the following weeks in the University, just as he was also said to have insisted that the meeting was not met to “massage the ego of anybody”,

Mr. Osakue allegedly vowed that certain category of staff whom he described as “agents of darkness” would be sent parking from the University in the coming weeks.

He was also alleged to have hinted that the State Government has no intension to review upward the present paltry 41 million naira monthly subvention to the University and disclosed SIT’s plan to hike school fees payable by students in the university to enable the university run without government monthly subvention.

According to him, the University’s College of Medicine and Faculty of Law have been identified by SIT as “centres of excellence” where students would pay school fees of more than N2 million per academic session with effect from next academic session.

Report further had it that workers who attended the meeting expressed shock over the attitude, character and behavior of Mr. Osakue who was said to have stood in for the Chairman of SIT at the meeting.

They described attitude of Mr. Osakue as a flagrant display of ignorance, coarseness, tyranny, oppression and suppression.

Reports also have it that many staff were not allowed to air their views on the critical issues or make suggestions on how to resolve the problems. Rather, Mr. Osakue allegedly embarked on bullying, intimidation and humiliation of staff, including Professors that attended the meeting. The reports said that the meeting ended abruptly and in fiasco as a result of workers reaction to the outburst of Mr. Osakue.

The workers described Mr. Osakue claims that SIT was on top of the problem of unpaid salaries in the university as a hoax, alleging that the vast majority of workers have not been paid salaries for several months.

Investigation revealed that no fewer than 350 staff of the university have had their salaries stopped on the arbitrary order or directive of the University’s SIT without any form of query or existing disciplinary action against the affected staff.

It was also discovered that no specific reason or explanation has been offered to the affected individual staff for the sudden stoppage of their salaries since January, 2022 and till date this category of staff are being owed 12 months salaries.

It was revealed that during the meeting, SIT did not sympathize with workers denied salaries by the University Administration for twelve (12) months or showed any commitment towards resolving the matter justly and amicably.

Rather, Mr. Osakue was said to have stated that the state Government has terminated the appointments of staff who participated in the recently suspended university unions strike and/or biometrics verification exercise issues.

Mr. Osakue allegedly described the issues of unpaid salaries and biometrics verification exercise as “no go areas” at the meeting against the expectation of workers that the meeting was designed to resolve the myriad problems and issue bedeviling the smooth administration, industrial harmony and progress of the University.

The Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, which is one of the first state universities in Nigeria, has been drowning in avoidable crises allegedly caused by the attitude, policies and actions by authorities saddled with the responsibility of managing the university.

In addition to the visible aberration in the administrative structure of the university causing the institution to take the form of a rudderless ship, the deliberate refusal and failure of the University Administration to pay the salaries of the vast majority of staff of the University for twelve (12) months (January 2022 – December 2022) for no justifiable reasons has provoked uneasiness in the University.

The University’s indebtedness of unremitted check-off dues and sundry deductions to the various staff unions and workers’ cooperative bodies in the University is in millions of naira.

Investigation also revealed that the pain, anger, hunger and demoralization of workers and the administrative profligacy in the University have placed the University on the precipice of total collapse.

Many stakeholders and concerned persons have expressed fear that if the university is allowed to remain in the hands of the SIT, the University will metamorphose to a glorified high school.

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