The Vice-Chancellor, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Prof. John Obafunwa, has urged lecturers of the institution not to embark on their proposed strike, as efforts were being made to meet their demands.
Obafunwa made the appeal in an interview with journalists in Lagos in reaction to the ultimatum given to the LASU management by the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Obafunwa, according to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), said the going on strike was not the best way of resolving problems, as it would only do more harm to the university than good.
The LASU chapter of ASUU had on April 15 issued its management another 14-day ultimatum trade dispute.
It came after the expiration of an initial 21-day ultimatum on April 13.
The union had threatened to embark on a total strike at the expiration of the fresh ultimatum if its demands are not met.
Obafunwa, in reaction, appealed to the union to be considerate with the management as only three out of their 21 demands had not been met.
“This means that something has been done so far but there are due processes that must be followed before some of the demands are implemented,” he said.
According to the vice-chancellor, the implementation of the University Miscellaneous (Provision) Amendment Act of 2012 was ongoing and the management had written to the state government to fast track the process.
“Some issues are beyond the purview of the management because they must be backed by appropriate legislation, so it takes a process before it is implemented,” he said.
Obafunwa, however, said there was nothing like “no vacancy, no promotion policy’’ because the university had always declared vacancies.
“The no vacancy, no promotion policy was just a phrase coined to tarnish the university’s image; people should not say no vacancy, it is only a question of where the vacancies are located.
“In 2011/2012, we had about 117 vacancies for the academic staff and a lot of them benefited and in 2012/2013, we declared 256 vacancies,” he said.
The professor explained that the question of expunging page 59 of the 2006 condition of service would also take a process because a position paper must be forwarded to the council for approval.
“ASUU representatives would have made their position known during the review of the condition of service in 2006 by the former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Bamgboye,” he said
On claims by the lecturers that they were owed outstanding salary arrears, Obafunwa said he had approved N167,074,000 on Wednesday for the payment of the instalment due in April.
“The outstanding arrears were as a result of the salary increase approved by the Lagos State Government and backdated and LASU was asked to pay.
“I was supposed to benefit from the arrears before my assumption into office as VC and was asked to pay a sum of N2.2 billion for staff arrears.
“Management had to approach the government for assistance and they offered to pay 50 per cent of the money, which was N1.1 billion while the university sourced for fund to pay the balance.
“As agreed with the unions, the State Government and the university have been paying in installments,” he said.
The vice-chancellor also said the hike in fees was not enough reason to ground the school, as discussion was ongoing between the state government and the students on the issue.
“The state government has met the students’ representatives and the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) on the issue and asked them to submit a proposal which will be deliberated upon for consideration,” he said.
Obafunwa said that the fee hike was not responsible for the reduction in the influx of students into the institution as claimed.
“We could not advertise for admission into some courses because they were de- accredited by the National Universities Commission (NUC) when the JAMB form was on sale.
“It affected the number of students we admitted because by the time NUC accredited those courses, application was already completed,” he said.
Obafunwa urged the union to continue to engage in dialogue with the management and also submit a proposal to the State Government on issues bothering it, rather than opt for strike.
“ASUU should recall that we just reopened the university to enable the students complete the 2012/2013 academic session, while the 2013/2014 session for fresh student has just commenced,” he said.
The VC said such a strike would mar the good reputation the institution aimed to build.