By John Shiaondo, Makurdi
No Respite for BSU Students as Govt, ASUU Feud Continues
The strike action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Benue State university BSU, chapter has continued to linger despite effort by government and stakeholders to end the industrial action.
Governor Samuel Ortom, had recently, while addressing students of the university who had marched to government house to demand explanations, assured the students that the striking lecturers may call off the strike after the meeting scheduled to take place last Friday.
However, DAILY ASSET gathered that the meeting, which lasted for several hours between Benue state government official delegation, led by Secretary to the State Government (SSG) Prof. Tony Ijohor SAN, and ASUU, ended in deadlock as the union insisted they can no longer trust promises from a government that once reneged on an agreement that was done in
confidence and respect.
ASUU, BSU had two months ago embarked on the strike action to press for Domestication of the National Health Insurance Scheme NHIS for their staff, contributory pension scheme and review of relevant BSU laws to put things in correct and clearer perspectives.
Other demands by the ASUU include, accumulated leave days which staff have neither enjoyed nor are monetized, what they described as obnoxious tax deductions as PAYE which they say is higher than any other university nationwide and payment of accumulated Earned Academic Allowance, EAA arrears of which have accumulated for 56 months.
Following the industrial action the Benue state Governor, Samuel Ortom had set a committee headed by the Secretary to the State Government Professor Tony Ijoho SAN to work with the striking ASUU members to resolve the matter for the students to return to school.
Several meetings between the Government officials and ASUU yielded little result as the union insisted on full implementation of their demands before they will call of the strike.
The situation generated controversies as there were allegations in some quarters that the strike may have been sponsored by members of the opposition People’s Democratic Party PDP to discredit the Ortom’s administration.
It was even alleged that Governor Ortom had given N65 million to some top lecturers through Mkor Aondoana in order to influence them to stop the ongoing strike.
The strike also forced the student of the State University who have been at home for more than two months to stage a protest to the Benue People’s
House to demand from the governor Ortom to know why they had to remain at home for that long.
The protesting students led by the SUG President, Dooga Tersoo Samuel, told the governor that they were tired of staying at home, informing that the prolonged strike action may result to cancellation of a whole academic session.
“The prolonged industrial action is creating additional burden on our parents who will have to renew our rents, provide fresh food stuff and even school fees if the session is cancelled.
“We have met with the school management, ASUU, other stakeholders and now you, to plead that our plight should be considered and the school should be reopened for us to continue with our studies,” he said.
Addressing the Students Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom had said he had done everything possible to make ASUU call off the strike to no avail.
He expressed worry over the attitude of the ASUU members who he said has shown total disregard for his office by consistently turning down his
appeals even as he has put them on first line charge in everything including payment of salaries.
“I have set a committee headed by the SSG who is also their member to find out ways we can resolve this issue, but I am surprise at the behaviour of
the lecturers who have shown total disregard to our efforts.
“For the two years I have been here as governor, I have put them on first line charge and I am paying them both the Earned Academic Allowance and salary so I have not owed them a kobo.
“They had agreed that we should pay them two months and I have paid them.
“I thought they would call off the strike last week but they didn’t.
“I only inherited the problems they are now pushing for resolution from my predecessor and have so far treated them very well, so if they are reasonable they should understand things with me and return to class,” he said
Commenting SSG, Prof. Ijoho said, messages were already circulated for a meeting last Friday, 30th July assuring that the meeting might come out positive and the strike would be called off.
But after a prolonged meeting held last Friday the union said following negotiations, government has directed BSU management to work out ways of
solving 5 demands, which in principles they accepted but rejected the proposal that only 2 months arrears of EAA would be paid while the rest will come as funds become available.
The ASUU, BSU chairman, Prof. David Ikoni in a statement commended the government but, said similar agreement earlier made in 2015 by the government was not respected.
“Though it may appear that Government has tried by addressing 5 out of 6 demands, it is only in principle since this same Government entered into an agreement to pay arrears of EAA in six tranches in 2015 but reneged 2 years after without apology or at least an explanation in writing.
“ASUU has shown enough magnanimity by accepting those proposal in the interest of the students and of the system but insists that at least one tranche of EAA must be paid.”