The lecturers of the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University, Amassoma, have proceeded on an indefinite strike over their four months unpaid salaries.
The Bayelsa State Government is owing the lecturers and non-academic staff of the university since January 2016.
Shedding light on the industrial action on Friday, an NDU lecturer and Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Port Harcourt Zone, Prof. Beke Sese, said the decision to proceed on what he described as work-to-rule action was taken on Thursday by 3.30 pm.
He said the academic union embarked on strike when all entreaties to the state government for their salaries to be paid fell on deaf ears.
Sese said, “Yes, the work to rule action was ratified by the National Executive Council of ASUU. The national visitation team came to the university and spent three days and we met with the deputy governor, John Jonah.
“They also met with the Vice Chancellor and the congress. When they come like this, before they give permission to the branch to embark on an action, they will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the situation and then ensure that strike is inevitable or can be averted.
“And then they even make effort to see if they can resolve the situation. All that they did. But all the deputy governor said was that we could go and that the government can only pay our salaries when the economy improves.
“And the question is these are people that have been working for four months without salaries and look at the circumstance of the Niger Delta University where more than 90 per cent of the lecturers and non academic staff live in Yenagoa, about 90 kilometres from Amassoma without salaries.
“Worst of all, at a time when most of the period, we are buying fuel for more than N200 per litre, this matter becomes unbearable. You cannot imagine the hardship members have been going through.
” In spite of all these, we continued even when there was so much agitation by members that we should down tool. We took so many things into consideration – the students, the children, among others. But now, where we got to is the end of the road because we just can’t continue.”
The don said when they met the deputy governor even though it was the Governor, Seriake Dickson, they wanted to meet, they were told the governor was not around.
He lamented that no clear explanation was given for the governor’s absence, noting that they got wind that he (Dickson) travelled abroad.
He stated that the congress found that action of the Governor despicable and funny, wondering what manner of a prson would travel when workers were languishing because of unpaid salaries.
He added, “After all our discussions, we met with our team. The vice president of ASUU met with the deputy governor and asked him pointedly what commitment, what could we take to the congress. The deputy governor said, he too was not sleeping and that there was no money. He simply said, ‘we will pay your salaries when the economy improves, just like that.’
“And when the vice president gave the message to Congress, people were angry. It is not like we are going on strike, it is more of passive noncompliance (PNC). Because the issues are very very clear. It is like work to rule, the conditions are not conducive for us to work. So, whenever the condition is conducive for us to work, we will come back and continue. It is very straightforward, no complication.”
Sese also said there was also an issue of some categories of staff – graduate assistants, contract and sabbatical workers engaged legitimately in 2013 that the state government had refused to pay a dime up till now.
He said the graduate assistants are the future of the university, stressing that every university needs sabbatical staff because that is the whole essence of a university – to get staff anywhere to augment what thet have.
He said despite the hue and cry by the government that the salaries of staff in the university were high, the NDU as it is right now is grossly understaffed.
He also berated successive governments in the state for not doing anything to sustain the university, addinv that the NDU was suffering from acute neglect.
Sese stated, “At the NDU, what you see is acute neglect. If you go to the university, there is no one single structure built by the Bayelsa State Government in the past 16 years. It is very ridiculous and everybody is complaining that there is no fund. It is just a matter of will, once the will is there, there is a way.
“The decision to go on work-to-rule was effectively taken yesterday (Thursday) by 3.30pm.