Otueke varsity where workers are more than students

2014-09-19
THE NATION Newspaper


Otuoke Federal University located at the hometown of President Goodluck Jonathan in Ogbia, Bayelsa State, may be one of the fastest-growing newly-established federal universities in Nigeria. It is also perhaps having its fairest share of crisis among its contemporaries.

The other day, students of the university trooped to the streets to protest hike in school fees questioning the leadership style of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Mobolaji Aluko. The students barricaded the gate of the institution and paralysed academic activities on campus as they demanded among other things for a downward review of the fees.

Not long ago, it was the turn of Otuoke, the host community. Youths from the community marched the streets and shut down the campus. They invaded examination halls and chased away students writing their papers. Though normalcy was later restored to the campus, all is still not well between the university and its host community.

The leader of the protest and Otuoke Youth President, Comrade John Godfrey, told the Niger Delta Report that the community was instrumental to the building of the institution, yet, it is not getting its dues.

“We donated a vast area of land free of charge for the take-off of the institution. The community conducted a launching where everybody from 18 years and above was compelled to donate money for the construction of the take-off temporary sites of both the administrative block, academic blocks and the hostels,” he recalled.

He noted that the community made the sacrifices hoping that the university after taking off would reciprocate the gesture.

He said: “But the reverse is the case. Today, the Otuoke community has suddenly become beggars. They have to go on their knees to the VC and registrar to demand employment and admission.”

He said the community would continue their agitation until its demands are met. According to him the university should consider Otuoke as part of the Federal Government by applying the principles of local content and federal character.

He said the community desired the university to give it the percentage of employment and admission due it without hesitation. “Otuoke has less than five per cent of employees in the levels zero to six categories which falls below the principle of local content.

“Otuoke has less than 0.5 per cent of senior staff. This is also against the principle of federal character,” he added.

He accused the VC and registrar of sharing all the key positions among themselves without considering the community, the local government and the state. Godfrey further claimed that since inception, the university has only been able to admit eight students from the community.

“Until now, the university has refused to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the host community. There is no person from the host community who is a member of the Governing Board.

“Despite the huge sum of money sent to the school, there is nothing on ground to show that the school is growing infrastructure wise,” he said.

Godfrey alleged that workers in the university were always underpaid, claiming that instead of N46,000 approved by the Senate for the least worker, the school pays only N24,000 monthly.

He also said the school was yet to pay the 28 days working allowances to the workers.

He added: “Students are also crying as a result of the outrageous school fees they pay. For instance, other schools ay N35,000 while Federal University, Otuoke pays N85,000 and N95,000 for Arts and Science students respectively.”

But, the VC said the university had never failed to engage the host community on employment and admission matters within the ambit of the law.

He said: “Community pressure will come up and we have handled them well. But we don’t want to be compelled and the academic activities of the students disrupted.

“It is not the protest by the youths that forced us to listen but the need to sustain our community relations policy and not to allow community and student clashes.”

Aluko explained that the institution has more members of staff on its payroll than the student population. There are 1,300 employees and a student population of 1,040, he said.

Of the number, he said the employed indigenes of various communities in the state are 760 people with Ogbia and Otuoke community having 350 and 150 persons respectively.

He further said the school had entered into an agreement with the community through the Paramount Ruler, Obanema of Otuoke.

He said: “We have agreed to engage the indigenes based on the increasing requirements of employment in the next few months. The names submitted for employment were done without required qualifications and we have asked them to attach to the names their qualification and we will conduct interview to affirm competence.

“We have informed them that we must be careful about fulfilling the Federal Character provision. It is possible we will increase our employment quota by 25 per cent due to our increasing needs but we must follow due process.

“And we have also insisted that the admission slots given to the community and others must be in compliance with the provision of the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB).”

 

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