By Ushang Ewa
There is currently unease among staff in the Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH) following the announcement of management that the Varsity’s 3rd convocation ceremony will hold on November 25, 2017.
The institution has gone almost a decade without a convocation ceremony and senate members of the varsity were puzzled when they learnt the Chairman of the National Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party, Senator Ahmed Markafi, Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson are to be awarded honorary doctorate degrees at the event.
“Senate members were not aware of the selection process. Normally, nominees are supposed to be sent to us to screen, vet and then approve but this was not the case,” said a Head of Department who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They are allegations that the Vice Chancellor, Professor Anthony Owan-Enoh and the Chairman of the Governing Council, Emil Inyang set aside their differences and planned the convocation without recourse to due process with questions bordering on the characters of those selected.
CrossRiverWatch gathered that the Ford Edge SUV purchased by Professor Owan-Enoh for Mr. Inyang which he had earlier rejected and was parked at the security post has been moved after the duo reconciled.
“They resolved their differences and we don’t care about that but this will end up ridiculing the institution.
“ASUU went on a solidarity strike because of its members in the Bayelsa state owned University who were owed months of salaries and you want to honor Seriake Dickson, the man who owes these salaries?” The University Don queried.
A senior management staff added that: “Amaechi is occupying a public office, and see what we are doing, awarding him a honorary doctorate degree which is against the Keffi declaration.”
The convocation is not the only challenge plaguing the institution as staff are yet to receive October salaries as at the morning of Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
The VC is said to have informed the Senate that the Governor, Senator Ben Ayade had promised to take over salary payments and instructed the accountant general to take note of that.
Mr. Ayade had promised to increase the monthly subvention to the Varsity from NGN169 million to NGN200 million in October 2016 but management sources say that is yet to be implemented. And, at a meeting with Mr. Ayade, the school management claimed that its wage bill every month stood at a whooping NGN215 million.
The state however kept to their promise and paid NGN215 million 2 weeks ago and last week, September salaries were paid.
But, a staff in the Bursary department, Anthony Daniels (not actual name) said there is another challenge as the VC and Mr. Inyang had between August and September employed over 100 teaching and non teaching staff mainly of Etung and Biase extraction and there are fears that the NGN215 million may not be enough but staff are not willing to hear a thing.
“This is like De javu! when salaries bill was about NGN127 million, Imoke (former Governor Liyel) upped the subvention to NGN169 million where he said he wants to see projects next time he visits which was not the case. But, the former VC employed people and the wage bill increased to over NGN170 million where it was until this management now told Ayade that NGN215 million is what is needed as wage bill so staff do not want to hear that it is not enough, let the VC use the IGR and school fees to run the school and do other things,” Daniels said.
In the academics, a staff in the Faculty of Science told CrossRiverWatch that the academic Calendar is yet to be revised after the resumption of activities following the 5 weeks strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities nationwide.
“Senate was supposed to revise the academic calendar as the strike affected the old one but since resumption, my HOD is saying that it has not even being discussed,” said Bassey Ojong (not actual name).
The staff added that: “We are only hearing from students that examination will start by November 5 or so,” and when asked if the staff was aware of the Convocation, the staff replied: “I have never seen where convocation was been done during examination.”
Earned Academic Allowances And Economic Rent
And, the staff having heard about the NGN215 million wage bill been footed by the state are now asking for the payment of Earned Academic Allowances owed them while those resident in the staff quarters are asking for the refund of the economic rent approved by the former visitor of the Varsity.
“We are now asking the management to tell us how it plans to pay EAA (Earned Academic Allowances) owed with monies generated through IGR and School fees paid by students and also when former Governor Imoke had asked what was obtainable in other institutions, we said that estate valuers usually value the houses and subsidized rates are being paid by those resident there.
“This was done and was approved but it took 10 months before it was implemented. A governors directive? 10 months and we are asking for that money back,” said Mr. Ojong who added that the borehole which the VC had promised them when they had demonstrated is yet to be drilled.
Strike, Botched Meeting And Management’s Ploy
Meanwhile, the Varsity’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities resumed its indefinite strike on Thursday, November 9, 2017 after its congress on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at the ETF Hall in the Calabar campus of the Varsity.
Members told CrossRiverWatch that the VC had lobbied for the postponement of the congress as a Senate Meeting and a meeting with all staff was billed for Thursday, which was expected to address the issues raised earlier in this report.
However, sources close to the VC said the lobby failed woefully which left him dejected as at the morning of Wednesday, November 8.
ASUU Seeks Audience With Ayade To Prevent CRUTECH Collapse
And, following the resumption of the indefinite strike earlier suspended on May 6, 2015, ASUU CRUTECH in its first strike bulletin said that following the inability of the management to keep to its promises, it was pertinent the union meets with Governor Ayade to prevent the varsity from collapsing.
The Bulletin read: “It is on record, that ASUU CRUTECH has done everything within her power, including forfeiture of some entitlements, amounting to huge sums of money, in order to ensure that CRUTECH survives for the benefits of our students and the State. Finally, it has become imperative that we meet with the Visitor, discuss CRUTECH, to avert its impending collapse.
The union said it has written several letters seeking to meet with Ayade which have not been responded to and despite the National Executive Council of the union also writing to Mr. Ayade on August 19, 2017, he is yet to acknowledge nor respond to the letter.
The union said its expanded executive council met with the institution’s management in August 26, 2016 and to further strengthen the agreement reached, the National Executive Council of the union visited the institution on September 23, 2016 where; The Governing council promised to implement the resolutions with deadlines provided.” The union however, regretted that; “Deadlines have long lapsed and key aspects of the resolutions are not met.”
Some of the outstanding issues raised by ASUU CRUTECH include: inadequate funding of the institution for infrastructural development, non-implementation/payment of EAA and arrears; non remittance of check off dues and ASUU cooperative society deductions, non-payment of arrears of teaching practice allowances, economic rent and promotion arrears; failure to grant tax rebate to CRUTECH staff; Non-payment of 1% local government deductions to the university; amendment of the University law in line with the University Miscellaneous Amendment ACT to reflect the proper tenures of the Registrar, Bursar and University Librarian; Non-remittance of National Housing Fund deductions; Insecurity and encroachment on University land and Infringement on CRUTECH autonomy.
The bulletin signed by the Branch Chairperson, Dr. Emmanuel Ettah also warned that any member who violates the strike rules which summarily entails the non-performance of the duties of academic staff.
Vice Chancellor Keeps Mum
And, the VC despite several efforts to reach him, has kept mum, as two calls to his known MTN line on Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday were not taken.
Also, 3 messages to the same line were neither acknowledged nor responded to.