By. Ben Ejuwa Ogbu
Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication
Benue State University, Makurdi.
I am pleased to make some clarifications on the on going ASUU-BSU strike action. Our ambition as a university is to be counted among the best 200 institutions of higher learning in the world. To realise this ambition, we need to necessarily engage high profile resource persons across the world with requisite training and exposure. It is these quality of personnel that can develop the capacity of students to acquire global competitive and comparative advantages. This is the only way that our products or graduates can be relevant in the labour market whether locally or internationally.
The process of engaging this category of manpower is different from the requirements for other sectors. In other words, it is not mere buying and selling in a common market. Indeed, to disengahs pregnant woman going for an abortion. Both the mother and the unborn baby will face equal risk. It is therefore, important to note that a university of good promise must necessarily function on sound intellectual foundation. I must confess that these human beings are usually difficult to source because of the high demands for them globally.
The fundamental requirement for attracting high profile scholars to a university is the nature of available incentives. These incentives also serve as energy stimulants for high productivity towards attainment of the predetermined goals of the university. This is where our situation in BSU present some dangerous problems. Let me do well to highlight some of the problems thus:
1. Absence of pension scheme upon retirement from the university after about 25 years of its existence. Many of our senior colleagues have retired into uncertainties and some have even died.
2. Absence of Health Insurance Scheme.
3. Heavy tax burdens. A situation whereby a professor in BSU pays monthly tax of about N60,000 against that of about N5000 (less than 10%) paid by professors in other universities in Nigeria.
4. Delays in payment of monthly salaries. We are aware that the BSU situation on this point is far better than other sectors. However, it should be noted that career progression in the university system is dependent on sound academic publications. Since we do not enjoy research grants like the case in other universities, we solely depend on our monthly salaries to meet both family and job requirements. Delay in salary payment to BSU lecturers therefore mean delay in career progression which is dangerous for both workers and the university system.
5. Non payment of outstanding earned academic allowances (EAA). A lecturer in BSU teaches and assesses students numbering over 1000 in most classes within regulation time. Outstanding allowances of such labour have remained unpaid for several years etc.
The above reality of the BSU situation which necessitated the strike action is not only pathetic but totally incapable of sustaining and attracting any academic staff of value to the institution. In fact, several scholars of unquestionable pedigrees have left the services of the university due to poor conditions of service and job insecurity. To make a joke of these issues is to seriously threaten the continuous existence of the university which has remained one of the very few surviving public institutions in the state.
I therefore, expect our leaders and government actors especially the Governor and Visitor to university to work out functional solutions to these problems rather than making inciting and inflammatory statements on the strike action at public meetings. This approach will certainly not help in solving the problems both now and in the future. Since posterity shall one day judge our actions and inactions especially in public affairs, let us continue to do the needful to escape possible unpleasant retributions. May God help us to solve these problems.