By Gabriel Dike
Certainly, this is not the best of time for the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Lagos State University (LASU) branch as the union is again enmeshed in another crisis following allegation by Concerned ASUU-LASU members over the mismanagement of N168 million in the last five by the current and immediate past exco.
Just four weeks ago, the same concerned lecturers petitioned the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lanre Fagbohun on the continued operation of the union’s account by the dismissed chairman, Dr. Isaac Oyewunmi and demanded stoppage of check-off dues to the union.
The crisis ASUU-LASU date back to December 2014 when a faction of the union, made up of some of the concerned ASUU-LASU members purportedly sacked the chairman, Dr. Adekunle Idris and his exco while Mr. Ayodele Asokere was installed as interim chairman. But the move failed.
Another major face-off resurfaced in October 2014 resulting in the suspension of 22 members. They were accused of lecturing while the union was on a local strike. The decision was ratified by the national body.
While the concerned ASUU-LASU members say there is no crisis in the institution or in the union, the executive of ASUU-LASU insisted otherwise, arguing that the university management and the other group wanted to take over the union after the dismissal of the chairman and the vice while efforts were on to deal with the remaining three exco and take over the union.
On Tuesday, February 12, 2019, the concerned ASUU-LASU members made up of former chairmen, secretaries, professors and deans, addressed newsmen at the Faculty of Education and alleged mismanagement of funds by the present and immediate past exco of the union.
Members of the concerned lecturers include Prof. Adeleke Fakoya, Prof. Biodun Akinpelu, Prof. Kabir Akinyemi, former dean, Students Affairs, Prof. Babatunde Yusuf, Prof. Kayode Taiwo, Prof Elias Wahab, former ASUU-LASU chairman and current Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, Prof Sola Fosudo, Dr. Jamiu Oluwatoki, former ASUU-LASU chairman, Dr. Pius Akhimien, Dr. Tajudeen Olumoko, Omo-Oba Adebukunola Adedoyin, Dr. Sylvester Idowu and Dr. Ibrahim Olateju.
Spokesperson for the concerned members of ASUU-LASU and immediate past Dean, Faculty of Arts, Prof Fakoya said the exco did not presented an audited financial account to members in the last five years, adding ‘’With over 700 academic staff who pay an average of N4, 000 each monthly, this means that the present and immediate past ASUU-LASU exco members have about N168million to account for.’’
‘’From the colossal amount of money mentioned above, it is suspected that the present and the immediate past ASUU-LASU exco may be unwilling to surrender the administration of the union in order to conceal their mismanagement of the ASUU-LASU funds’’, he explained.
He urged the national body to visit LASU to objectively address certain salient issues that can cause a disintegration of the branch, adding ‘’the tenure of this present ASUU-LASU exco lapsed in March 2018-about one year ago. Yet, they’re unwilling to allow for an election of a new exco to take over the affairs of our union.’’
‘’We recognise the enormous significance of a union as influential as ASUU in a country like Nigeria. Thus, we hope to stand by our union at all times. However, we refuse to allow a deceitful and pretentious few to cause the destruction of a system working for the growth of all the stakeholders in the university.’’
On the sacked chairman and his vice, Prof Fakoya insisted that the duo were dismissed for misconduct by the Governing Council in September 2017 and described as unacceptable the position of the present ASUU-LASU exco that Dr. Isaac Oyewunmi remains the chairman and still operator the account of the union. He revealed that Oyewunmi and Dr. Adebowale Adeyemi-Suenu were being paid N50, 000 monthly from the union’s check-off dues.
Said he: ‘’For the purpose of clarification and emphasis, Dr. Oyewunmi was dismissed not for any union activities but for acts he committed in 2012, about four years before becoming ASUU-LASU chairman. Thus, it is a shame that the remnants of the present ASUU-LASU exco members persistently bring up his dismissal to create chaos and distraction in LASU.
‘’We trust, therefore that the national body of ASUU will visit our university and meet all stakeholders among ASUU-LASU members, to discuss the survival of the branch.’’
A member of the group, Mr. Adedoyin disclosed that there is nothing like stipends for members allegedly sacked, stressing that ASUU-LASU exco decided to pay Dr. Oyewunmi and Adeyemi-Suenu N50, 000 for 10 months and eight months respectively. He denied that the management was not the one sponsoring the group.
On his part Dr. Oluwatoki confirmed they petitioned the management to suspend ASUU-LASU check-off dues because they discovered that Dr. Oyewunmi was still operating the union’s account as at January 2019 and debunked the insinuations that the present exco started the agitation for the payment of Earned Academic Allowance (EAA).
Prof Akinyemi said now that the national strike has been suspended, he believe the national body will look into their case because ASUU national does not tolerate fraud and ruled out any plan to float a parallel body.
Prof Yusuf said the past chairmen wrote ASUU national in 2018 informing them of the situation in LASU and the letter was ignored and hinged the problem on the immediate past chairman who he accused of introducing divide and rule approach during his tenure.
Prof Fosudo disclosed that ASUU-LASU wrote a petition against the current VC, not to be conferred with the Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) without the knowledge of the congress. He said the interest of the group is for the general welfare of all ASUU-LASU members.
ASUU-LASU EXCO REACTIONS
Defending the allegations, ASUU-LASU Secretary, Dr. Tony Dansu, and the Treasurer, Dr. Oluwakemi Aboderin-Sonibare described the claim as frivolous, adding that the union has not realised such amount in the last five years while they also denied that members pay N4, 000 monthly as check-off dues.
Dr. Dansu revealed that what members pay as check-off dues varies with the highest being professors, which he noted is not up to N4,000 per month. He said from the monthly ASUU-LASU check-off dues, the national body takes 61 per cent and the branch keeps 31 per cent to run the secretariat, pay salaries/leave allowance of four staff, welfare of members as well as travel expenses to meetings.
The Treasurer, Dr. Aboderin-Sonibare further disclosed that the 31 per cent meant for the branch is also shared into two: 61 per cent goes to running of the office and 31 per cent is left for welfare of members, stressing that the suspended former chairmen and secretaries and some members of the concerned ASUU-LASU are aware about the sharing formular but wants to discredit the current exco.
She said as the exchequer of the union, there is no mismanagement of funds by the current or immediate past exco and added that audit of every branch account is done by the national body which also at the end of every year send an external auditor to look into the finances of the each branch.
Dansu noted: “ASUU-LASU like other branches does not have control over its finances. The national body monitors the funds even after collecting their 61 per cent. ASUU-LASU does not have such money in its account. In the last five year, we have not made up to N168million from check-off dues. The allegation is frivolous and unfounded. Every quarter, the national body audit’s our account.’’
Despite the denial by the concerned ASUU-LASU members, Dr. Dansu alleged that it is the university management that is sponsoring them, adding ‘’they thought after the sack of our chairman and his vice, it will weaken the union but it didn’t work and later they came after the remaining three exco.
‘’If any ASUU member have issues with the union, they are expected to take their grievances to the national body and not the university management. What brought up the current agitation by the concerned lecturers is the demand by the union for the payment of EAA which LASU academic staff are yet to be paid since 2009. LASU lecturers remain the only university in the South West that has not being paid EAA. It is when the union started the agitation that they came up with the allegation.’’
According to him, when a branch is facing crisis, the national body can not call for election until the crisis is over, stating that Prof Akinyemi, who is one of the concerned lecturers, acted for five years during a crisis in LASU and also cited the case of the UNILORIN crisis, that the chairman stayed in office for 14 years until the Supreme Court ruled in their favour before the national body called for election.
On stipends paid to Dr. Oyewunmi and Dr. Adeyemi-Suenu, ASUU-LASU scribe said the practice is not new in ASUU as several branches with similar cases paid their members monthly stipends until the end of the case . He said it is not the first time in LASU stipends were paid to some members having issues and cited during Prof John Obafunwa led administration, 22 members with regularisation issues were paid stipends until 21 were reabsorbed and also the UNILORIN 49 received stipends from the union.
IMMEDIATE PAST CHAIMAN REACTIONS
The immediate past ASUU-LASU chairperson, Dr. Adekunle Idris debunked the allegation of mismanagement of N168million and observed that it is not possible with the way the national body monitors the finances of every branches and also denied that it used the welfare funds to bribe some members.
His words: ‘’It is not possible to mismanage such huge amount of money without the national body investigating the branch. We don’t have any audit query from national about our finances and no branch will be allowed to attend NEC if their account is not in order. We have welfare fund and when our members apply, we approve. The concerned lecturers know that anything above N50, 000 must be taken to the congress for approval.’’
Dr. Idris, who was the ASUU-LASU chairman from 2013 to 2016, said he left the union better than he met it, saying that he left N28, 603,840.38million in the account of the union: Wema Bank main acount-N16, 186,122.89million, Wema Bank welfare-N7, 417,717.49million and First Bank-N7, 918,156.63million.
ASUU-LASU CHECK-OFF DUES FOR THREE MONTHS
Investigations carried out by The Education Report revealed that for three months: October, November and December 2018 check-off dues, the highest amount paid by a lecturer is N3, 423.08 and this include the vice chancellor, two of his deputies and other professors while the lowest is N741 by graduate assistant in the three campuses of Ojo, Epe and LASUCOM and the union has a membership strenthen of not less than 650.
In October, ASUU-LASU made N928, 802.05 from check-off dues in Ojo and Epe campuses with membership strengthen of 486 while in LASUCOM it collected N280, 892.34 from 133 members, making a total of N1, 209,694.84million and of this amount, 61 per cent went to the union main account to run the secretariat and 31 per cent for welfare of members.
In November, the highest paid check-off dues was N3, 423.08 and the lowest was N638.97 from 487 academic staff in Ojo and Epe campuses, totalling N950, 437.13. LASUCOM with 139 members contributed N291, 924.43, bringing the total to N1, 242,361.56million out of which 61 per cent went to the running of the secretariat and 31 per cent for members welfare.
Again, for December, the highest paid check-off dues was N3, 423.08 by several professors and the lowest was N741.32 by graduate assistant. Ojo and Epe with 493 members contributed N942, 102.72 and LASUCOM with 144 academic staff made N300, 407.69, totaling N1, 242,510.41million.
Analysis of December 2018 check-off dues and what accrued to the secretariat out of N1, 242, 501.69million, is N757, 931.35. The salary of the four staff was N216,524, leave allowance N108,244, impress account for office N10,000, Internet service N10,000 and the amount incurred for meetings varies but in December 2018, it was N60,000, the total expenses for the month was N404,768.