The leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has asked the National Executive Council (NEC) of the Academic Staff Union of Universities led by Professor Emmanuel Osodeke to retrace its steps “as the union has derailed and is fast losing its steam and the support of students and indeed Nigerians”.
In a recent statement in Abuja, Vice President, National Association of Nigerian Students, Comrade Victor Ezenagu, said the students were unhappy with developments at Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike, where some lecturers were reported to have been involved in extorting money from students to check their results, cash for grades, and sex for grades. The students said the allegation, which they have confirmed to be true, is most unfortunate considering that Osodeke, who is the ASUU President, happened to come from that university, and nothing has been done to address the situation, to serve as a deterrent.
Ezenagu recalled the recent crisis allegedly caused by ASUU at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), when the union asked the Vice Chancellor, Professor Nnenna Oti, to resign over unfounded allegations. He noted that all those issues coupled with the prolonged strike by ASUU had contributed to the union losing the support and sympathy of Nigerians.
The Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Professor Nnenna Oti, had a strong support from the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, concerning the demand by the Academic Staff Union of Universities that she resigns from office. The Owerri Zone of the Academic Union had at a recent meeting demanded the resignation of Oti over allegations of corrupt practices and anti-union activities. At a Press Conference, union members from Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Imo State University, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umuahia and Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, NANS asked ASUU to rescind its threat to Professor Oti or face the anger of students.
According to the students’ union, the FUTO Vice Chancellor was innocent of the allegations and had no reason to resign her appointment. The union accused ASUU of being behind the instability in Nigerian universities.
Addressing the media in Abuja, Comrade Victor Ezenagu noted that ASUU had deviated from its core mandate, and called for its proscription by the Federal Government. The statement read: “It has become expedient to address the unbecoming attitude of the leadership of Academic Staff Union of Universities. The latest is the provocative call by the Zonal leaders of ASUU for the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Technology Owerri to resign her position over alleged corruption. We feel concerned to react to the ASUU demand because the Vice Chancellor of FUTO, Professor Nnena Oti, is a mentor to many of us, particularly, our female folks. We were shocked when we read about the ASUU demand in most national dailies about the woman who has personified integrity, honesty and transparency. Sequel to this, NANS has been able to carry out investigation by interacting with both students and staff of the institution.
“Although we were not able to have any discussion with members of FUTO Management as they said part of the issue we wanted to inquire about was already in court, our finding showed that the allegations against the Vice Chancellor were not only unfounded, but also malicious and wicked. Testimonial evidences garnered by NANS point to the fact that the action of the ASUU leaders was a mere political vendetta.”
NANS asserted that the alleged attack on Professor Oti was because of her gender, as well as transparency in the discharge of her duties as Vice Chancellor. “Those who lost to her during the Vice Chancellorship contest as well as those who could not use her to achieve their ungodly aims during the national assignment resulted to using ASUU to grind their axe with her, thus making the university ungovernable,” they alleged.
“We, the National Association of Nigerian Students, wish to draw the attention of ASUU in particular and the public in general, that those fighting the Vice Chancellor of FUTO by proxy are obviously threatening peace and tranquility in the university. We are already informed that the disturbance is aimed at causing industrial action at the university so as to bring her to disrepute at the expense of students’ learning. It should be well noted that all industrial disputes have major side effects on students who suffer untold hardship during and after such disputes.”
NANS listed the sins of ASUU to include waste of students’ precious time, amounting to the students spending longer years in the university and waste of resources, as student end up paying more school fees.
“Professor Oti is adored by Nigerian students, especially FUTO students, for her firmness and straightforwardness in handling the Abia Governorship election in June 2023. Who will bell the cat? It certainly cannot be ASUU under the failed leadership of Professor Emmanuel Osodeke’s NEC. The earlier the Union retraces its steps, the better for its members. NANS will soon declare Professor Emmanuel Osodeke, who led ASUU, a persona non grata if the happenings in his school continue unabated,” Victor said.
Part of the statement read: “ASUU is obviously witnessing her most unpopular time ever. Before now, ASUU was among the most popular unions in the country. At some point, it was even difficult to tell which of the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) and ASUU was an affiliate of the other. As it stands now, the Union has been relegated to the background among the list of formidable Trade Unions in the country. No thanks to the man currently steering the wheels. From 1980 to1981, it was this Union that successfully resisted the Shehu Shagari government’s attempt to usurp the privilege of the university council, and in 1986, the Supreme Court gave a judgement in its favour. This same ASUU helped the National Medical Association (NMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) to fight and defeat the Buhari-Idiagbon government in 1985.”
In a related development, the Federal Ministry of Education has said the implementation of the Student Loan scheme is expected to start in the 2023/2024 academic session. This was disclosed during a hearing with the House of Representatives Committee on Students Loans by its Permanent Secretary, David Adejo.
The Students Loan Act was signed, and the Permanent Secretary denied rumours that this led to price increases at various federal colleges around the country. He said that in order to ensure that the loans plan begins in earnest by next month, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has mandated that the essential work be finished on the parameters for its implementation. Adejo said that the President had formed a committee to coordinate efforts, with his chief of staff serving as its chairman and other members chosen from, among others, the Federal Ministry of Education, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Budget Office of the Federation and the Federal Ministry of Finance.