The Kogi State Government has reacted to the seven days ultimatum given by the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, to the state governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello, to reopen the state university in Anyigba or face a mother of all protests in the state capital.
The association, in a statement issued yesterday by its National President, Tijani Shehu, threatened to pass a vote-of-no-confidence on the Bello administration even as it accused him of insensitivity to the plight of the students of the state-owned university, who have been at home for about three months now.
Reacting to the ultimatum by NANS, the Kogi Government on Sunday said the association spoke from an “uninformed” position, adding that it was ridiculous to insinuate that Governor Bello is not sensitive to the plight of the students at the state-owned university.
Kingsley Fanwo, the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, who said these in a statement issued on Sunday morning in Lokoja, listed different initiatives Bello has embarked on to solve the crises bedeviling tertiary education in the State since his assumption of office, including payment of four month’s salary arrears to lecturers of the Kogi University.
Fanwo, however, lamented that despite the gesture, the lecturers, who said they were embarking on strike because of nonpayment of their salary arrears, have not reciprocated the governor’s gesture by resuming work.
The statement reads in part: “Immediately after his inauguration, authorities of the various higher institutions in the State were the first to be invited for briefing by the Governor. He assured them of his determination to reposition tertiary education in the State, saying his New Direction agenda was built on the platform of education.
“The Academic Staff Union of University told the whole world that they were going on strike because of unpaid salary arrears owed by the previous government.
“But, out of commitment to the need to prioritize education, Governor Yahaya Bello has paid six months salaries to the university staff since assuming office on January 27, 2016; the latest being the four months salaries paid even as he awaited the final report of the staff verification exercise.
“The State Government negotiating team has continued to engage ASUU on the need to resolve the industrial dispute and reopen the university.
“If for any reason, it is expected that the students’ body would have directed its angst at the lecturers, who have not reciprocated the good gesture of government. Directing tirades at the government, despite its efforts, is the height of irresponsible activism and misplaced intervention.
“NANS should have been properly informed about the real reasons why salaries were delayed. Hundreds of millions of Kogi State resources had been going into ghost pockets. In a bid to block the corruption by a fiefdom, the Governor took the bull by the horn by directing a scientific and holistic staff verification exercise.
“Reports of the exercise have been mind-boggling. We expect the student body to commend the government for blocking the leakages, which have been depriving the students their bursary and improved facilities on campuses. Choosing to satisfy the destabilization intent of their sponsors instead of the interest of the students they represent is unfortunate, appalling and a clear aberration of the ideals of the founding fathers of the body.
“Since the completion of the staff verification exercise, salary payments have been ongoing as over 80% of the workforce have received their salaries.
“The present administration has restored credibility to the civil service, overseeing the ongoing Lokoja Township road project, ensured a cleaner environment through proactive measures and set the State on the path of progress.
“As a matter of emphasis, education remains the number one priority of government. It is the bulwark of our economic re-engineering and social reconstruction as well as the cultivation of minds that are ready to take on the world.
“Government is working hard to make state-owned tertiary institutions world class citadels of learning.
“We urge the National Association of Nigerian Students to imbibe the spirit of knowing the facts before accepting the merchandise of fallacies.
“The Governor Yahaya Bello administration will continue to work with men and women of goodwill to create a better, prosperous and respected Kogi State”.