Ade Arikawe is the General Secretary of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, (ASUP) Rufus Giwa Polytechnic chapter. In this interview with the National Monitor , he speaks on the crisis rocking the institution which led to his sack and that of ASUP Chairman, Mr Oluwadare Ijawoye. AYODELE ESAN brings the excerpts.
Q: There was this crisis in your institution, what is the Genesis of this crisis?
The Genesis of the crisis is in different dimensions but the beginning of it all was when some amount of money was given to us for accreditation, about N100 Million and out of the N100 Million, it was only N75 Million that was released by the council, we went over that, but at the end of the day we let it go.
Then the second time was when one of us was kidnapped and killed. Another one was kidnapped on a Saturday preceeding the Monday we supposed to start examination. Because one of us was kidnapped, we said okay let us pray for the quick release of that our member . This is because we didn’t see much of action from the management, so we said we need to organise prayers so that the guy will not be killed. We assembled at the gate and we had prayers for his quick release and to our utmost surprise at the end of that week we received a query that we distrupted examination process.
Q: Who issued the query?
It was the management. The management acted on the instructions of the council. At that period, we were supposed to embark on strike, a national strike but we refused to embark on strike because we wanted the session to end . Even the penalty for not joining the strike was added to our own bill. But all we got from that one was a query. We were querried and we answered the query. I was issued with a penalty which was a strong warning. My Chairman received a last warning and others were asked to write letters of apology. So we said that we have not done anything wrong . So those who were supposed to write the letters of apology did not write the letters. Essentially because of intervention of so many people and so many organisations and the intervention of the Chairman, the chairman asked the Acting Rector to withdraw all those querries and warnings from our files. It took him a long time to obey the instructions of the council chairman but at a point in time, he did that. The queries and other things were withdrawn from our files and letters were issued to that effect.
After then, the accreditation we were supposed to do, we did it and the results was almost 100 per cent. At that time we didn’t complained about the N75 Million that was given, members of the ASUP gave their utmost support for the success of the accreditation and it was highly successfull. Now there was employment as regards the accreditation and the employment was massive. You see since 2017 we have not had our promotions, we were denied our promotions all because there was no money to support the promotion exercise. Because there was no money we were not given our deserved promotions. And during that accreditation they went and employed part time staff to the extent that the king of Isuada was employed meaning that the king was earning salaries from two sides, as a traditional ruler and as a staff of Rufus Giwa Polytechnic. We complained about this because they said there was no money to do promotion but they were employing. The way I know they do accreditation is that when there is shortfall in any area what is done is that they look within to get staff to support the accreditation but in this case they said they employed part time staff and they employed so many , about 250 were employed to the extent that even a king was employed. So we complained about that.
Then at a point in time we discovered that the composition of the governing council was not having an academic so we had a meeting, a Congress and the Congress said that we should inform the Governor about it and we informed the Governor but it didn’t go well with the council members, they thought we were trying to tell the governor that we don’t want them. But what we were saying was that, we want an academic to be a member so that, that academic will know the problem we were going through and will understand what we are doing as an insider. That was why we requested for an academic. Apart from that, the promotion has not been done for a while just because there was no money, now those they employed amount to additional burden on the system.
Q: We also learnt that there was a petition to the effect that about N68 Million were spent on the purchase of cars?
Yes , that is where I am going to. We now discovered that cars entered into the system. There is no principal officer that doesn’t have a car attached to him. The Rector for instance will have about four cars attached to him. So we don’t know why they would go as far as buying Tokunbo cars. I have never seen Government buying Tokunbo cars, I have never seen that.They said they bought those cars at N7.5 Million each if you go to the market and priced those cars one is N4 Million. We have to cry out because these are the resources of the institution. They said they bought a car of N18 Million for the Acting Rector, somebody who was in acting capacity. And to the best of our knowledge we heard that N28 Million was transferred into the personal account of the council chairman. That they wanted to buy a Jeep for him at N28 Million with our financial situation. Tokunbo car for that matter , N28 Million but as I am speaking with you that car has not been brought to the school, we have not seen it . They said the money was transferred to the vendor’s account. Who is the vendor? Did they passed it through the normal process? The major point here is that the council has an approval limit of N14.999 Million so the have exceeded that capacity. They supposed to present it before a tenders board, there was no tenders board , the procedure was not followed, these are the issues
So we have to write the Commissioner. Then there were three vacant positions in the school – Registrar, Poly Librarian and Rector, they made adverts for two, and then the Commissioner said they should made adverts for the three positions. In the first adverts they made, in which two positions were advertised, the position of the Registrar was streamlined in such a way that it would favour the then registrar because he was the only one that would have been qualified for that but as a result of our complaints, the Commissioner asked them to go and do another adverts for the three positions. So they did it . The NBTE has a position and the position is that anybody going for the position of Rector must not be more than 59 years as at the time of application, but our Rector is claiming 63. So let us look at that critically, the NBTE says anybody going for that position must not be more than 59 years at the time of application but at the time of application he was 63. Now they removed that from the advert. Now let’s look at another angle , our law, the law that established us said the retirement age for staff was 60 years, as of three years ago, he should have been retired. They just passed that law that says the retirement age should be 65. The law was just passed in September this year, so he should have been retired three years ago. These are our cries.
Q: We also learnt that Mr Ijawoye, the ASUP Chairman was sacked.
It wasn’t only him, two of us.It was Ijawoye, the Chairman and myself, the Secretary of ASUP that were sacked.
Q: So what are you people doing on that ?
The point is let me tell you about that, when we wrote to the Commissioner, it was that time they realised that it was our efforts that made the Commissioner to ask them to go and re – advertise . So when they saw it, they asked the Police to arrest us . We were arrested and detained at the Police station, ‘ A’ Division . That’s the Area Command. They asked us to write our statement which we did. Since they said they were investigating the matter, we asked them what and what we should do at the police station . As I am talking to you they ran away from the police station. They ran away and we were there. It was when we were at the police station that we learnt that we have been suspended and we were asked to come and collect our letters. We were suspended without trial. No panel was set up and we were suspended. We only heard that we have been sacked, dismissed but we haven’t seen any letter to that effect. They suspended us without any process, we are civil servants for God’s sake. And we are not junior staff in that institution for them not to know what they’re doing. The institution is situated in Owo, the governor is from Owo, all we are fighting for is that, that school should be alive. Recently NBTE wrote to us and told us that they would disaccredit the school. They wrote to the School, the management instead of taking active measures, they said it was the union that wrote to the NBTE. No it was a lie . They told the governor that during the time we were supposed to write exam that we didn’t write, that we went to classrooms and tore papers which was a lie. I don’t know how the management would be lying against its children. We invite them for investigation, they should investigate the matter. That we tore papers in the exam Hall is a lie.
Q: What steps are you taking now to reverse the alleged sack of you and the chairman?
The point is this, we have visited the court and we are in court and the court gave an injunction because the union was suspended by the management and the council. We went to the court for the court to determine whether they have that right or not . The court gave an injunction that as far as the case is before the court , the status quo should remain. But to our surprise , it was after they were served that injunction that we were suspended and sacked. So we don’t have any place to run to. Since they said they have the backing of the governor, they have the backing off everybody,we don’t have anywhere to run to than the court.
Q: Have you approach the court now on this issue of sack?
Of course we need to consult our lawyers. We need to carry our lawyers along in every situation.
Let me tell you, we have not for once been invited by the management.
Q: What steps are your members taking presently?
The members cannot do anything because we have reported the matter to the national body and it would take appropriate steps at the right time.
Our concern is that the institution must remain alive, maintain her glory and rank among the best in Nigeria in terms of academic and administrative prowess.