Tai Solarin College of Education staff, Ogun govt at daggers drawn over non payment of salaries
Tai Solarin College of Education staff, Ogun govt at daggers drawn over non payment of salaries
By African Outlook Reporter
The staff of Tai Solarin College of education and Ogun State government may be headed for a collision course over the non-payment of staff's minimum wage and over three years in salary arrears.
Photo 1: Ogun State governor, Amosun
The staff who are being owed up to ten up uten months salaries penultimate week took to the streets to protest their demand but it seems help is not coming their way very soon as the state governor, Senator, Ibikunle Amosun, has stated that his administration would not resort to borrowing in order to clear the arrears of salaries owed by the previous administration.
Ogun State, home to the late sage politician, Chief Obafemi Awolowo popularly known for pioneering free universal primary education in Nigeria has become a bedrock of crisis as the new administration under Sen Amosun had engaged in constant battle royal with its predecessor, Olugbenga Daniel who was accused of looting the state to the ground.
"So many workers from virtually all the sectors were owed by the previous government and we have begun piecemeal payment of those arrears. Even a worse case was the pensioners that were owed for 29 months. But we have started paying these people within the limit of the resources available to us," Amosun was reported as saying.
The college staffers who have waited impatiently for three years however seem not to buy the excuse of the governor whom critics accused of planning to spend a whooping 22 billion Naira to set up 26 model schools in the state which will allegedly cater for children of the few elites in the state.
"Our argument is why proposing a multi-billion Naira projects to set up model schools when you cannot pay the existing workers in the state?" queried a staff who does not want his name in print because of a possible back-lash.
Photo 2: The commissioner of Education, Segun Odubela with the College provost Dr Abiodun Ojo, on his left.
Information available to African Outlook indicates that Staff of Tai Solarin College of Education, Omu-Ijebu are owed at least eight and half months unpaid salaries between October, 2010 and April 2011 and three months of half salaries (from May to July, 2011) besides the commencement of the new salary structures COMPACASS/CONTEDISS (which is presently thirty eight (38) months of arrears.
"Despite the non-payment of this emolument and its consequences on staff welfare, our members have remained committed, loyal and law-abiding as they discharge their duties conscientiously and diligently. As part of the demonstration of staff commitment towards the success of this administration, the union suspended its industrial action in June, 2011 as a mark of honor for the new government" A staff of the college of education who has inside knowledge of the crisis volunteered to African Outlook.
According to another source, Sen Amosun, at a stake-holders’ meeting held at the June 12 Cultural Centre, in Abeokuta, the state capital promised to "holistically" look into the plight of the college staff. "The government, after this promise, went on to pay staff half salaries for four consecutive months. Yet, the government action was taken in good faith by staff." the source added.
The source went further to say that the College in 1999 was rated by the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) as the best state-owned College of Education in Nigeria and the third best among all the Colleges of Education (both federal and states). "This landmark achievement would not have been achieved if the College was not viable." he explained.
Another source explained that the non-viability of the College was as a result of government deliberate policy of forceful transfer of service of 474 staff from the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijagun to the Tai Solarin College of Education (TASCE), Omu-Ijebu in October, 2008 against their wish in the guise of disarticulation leaving behind for the university the money spinning ventures (Degree Program in Affiliation with the University of Ibadan, Microfinance bank, Staff schools- nursery, primary and international secondary) of the College and structures hitherto acquired prior to its upgrading to University status in 2005.
According to source, the certificates of graduates of the University of Ibadan (UI) degree program, academic transcripts, confirmation of certificate and other academic records pertaining to the UI degree program initiated and diligently fought for by the college were still being issued by TASUED using TASCE letter-head papers.
"All these colossal losses have rendered the college insolvent. How then does government want the College relocated to a jungle with deficit infrastructures to be self-sustaining?" the source asked.
Photo 3: The protesting staff of the college
Giving further insight to the financial crisis of the college, the source recounted that shortly after the forceful transfer of service of 474 staff by the TASUED management to TASCE, Omu-Ijebu, the university that claimed to be overstaffed, employed over 400 staff to replace the ‘forcefully ejected’ college staff.
"This is a clear indication that the government action was targeted towards a punitive measure against staff moved to TASCE Omu-Ijebu, majority of whom were the founding members of the college who nurtured the institution to an enviable height only for them to be denied the opportunity of reaping the benefits of their labor. A thorough scrutiny of TASUED nominal roll prior to and after forceful transfer of service of 474 staff to TASCE Omu-Ijebu may be a good confirmation of this assertion." the source buttressed.
The source further explained that the management promised to pay all outstanding monetization arrears owed staff prior to the forceful transfer of service as contained in paragraph four of the letter of transfer of service from the University.
"Rather than fulfilling this obligation, the university management gave the college management a dud cheque meant for the payment of the second and third tranches of the said arrears. The fifty million Naira released out of the one hundred million Naira promised by the state government as part of the initial take-off grants was subsequently used to pay the arrears to staff by the management of the college when the university management was not forthcoming in order to douse staff's tension.
"With this situation and the college on a new site hardly developed and with no meaningful source of revenue, the college cannot be self-sustaining" the source lamented.
African Outlook also gathered that the staff are currently not satisfied with the re-appointment of the college provost, Dr Abiodun Ojo whom they accused of not being able to get anything for the college staff in four years since he was appointed to the post due to his alleged closeness to the former governor.
"The man takes delight in insulting staff who have issues with loans they obtain from banks as a result of nonpayment or irregular payment of salaries" another source told African Outlook wondering why he was re-appointed in the first place after-all his four-year term had already elapsed on August 31, 2012. "They should have left him go." he added.
On why the staff held the state commissioner for education, Mr Segun Odubela hostage during their last protest, the source told African Outlook that the staff were enraged with the commissioner because the staff union met with him a record 23 times, and laid all facts on the table for his intervention with the governor.
According to the staff, high level politicians in the state, including the Deputy Governor, Head of Service. Speaker of the House of Assembly, some House of Rep members were approached to appeal to the governor for intervention. All fell on deaf ears.
The staff added that while consultations were going on, the commissioner went on air to announce that all subventions owed by the past government had been paid by governor Amosun. This, the source said enraged the staff.
The source went further to explain that this was why on Wednesday, September 5 all official cars for principal officers were grounded and their offices locked up. Staffers, according to the source believed that principal officer were the only set of people benefiting from the neglect.
When the commissioner on September 5 came to the college, he was said to have been taken into a classroom with members of the College of Education Academic Staff Association, but other protesting staff chased all of them out of the room and this was said to have forced the commissioner to agree to address the entire staff of the college.
The staff members were said to have demanded explanation from the commissioner on how he came about the story that all their subvention had been paid. "Since he does not have any answer to that, the staff then read their demands to him.
Part of the staff's demand include, immediate implementation of the new minimum wage, immediate payment of the backlog of unpaid and half paid salary arrears adding up to 10 months, Immediate constitution of governing council and immediate payment of the 38 months backlog of salary arrears
The commissioner was also advised to sack the provost and the Registrar, Mr Tunji Kanimodo, who they alleged was planted by the previous government. They claimed the Registrar was brought from the ministry to be Registrar of the college in complete disregard to the law that stipulated 10 years experience in tertiary institution administration in order to qualify for the post he is occupying