By Denis Orji
Members of the National Association of Academic Technologists (NAAT), Michael Okpara University Umudike chapter, have threatened to embark on strike following what they described as maladministration and insensitivity of the vice Chancellor, Professor Francis Otunta towards the welfare of the staff of the institution.
Addressing newsmen at a press conference held in Umuahia, the Abia State capital, on Monday, the branch chairman, Ime Michael Okon, flanked by the Secretary, Obasi Richard, reeled out their plights in the University, which included alleged delayed in promotion, staff victimization and non-payment of members’ arrears.
He explained that the Union issued seven working days’ notice beginning from 7th of February 2020 to embark on an indefinite strike, lamenting that never at any point in the life of the institution had the staff and students of the university faced such maladministration and wickedness
The Union chairman posited, “It is with great displeasure that I speak to the press over what we will better refer to as insensitive, ill-treatment and hardiness of heart of the management and Governing council of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike Abia State against the welfare of staff of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike Abia State especially to the members of the National Association of Academic Technologists [NAAT] MOUAU Abia State branch.
“This University is now known for everything inhuman, everything negativity, everything abnormality. As I speak with you our grievances are many: from delayed promotion appraisal of which its arrears is not paid, to staff victimization etc”.
“Suffice it to state that the National Association of Academic Technologists NAAT at the National level in 2009 entered into agreement with Federal Government of Nigeria [FGN], and the Government graciously approved the payment of ₦360,000.00 per annum (that is ₦30,000.00 monthly) as Occupational Hazard Allowance [OHA] due to the hazardous jobs done by members of NAAT in the Laboratories.
“In February 2011, the 3rd Vice Chancellor of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike Abia State, Prof Ikenna Onyido [fas] implemented this agreement between NAAT and the FGN and paid arrears to 2009 and same continued running as part of the salary of members till five months before the end of the administration of the 4th Vice Chancellor Prof. Hilary Odo Edeoga precisely in November 2015, when the allowance was quarantined from our salaries without reasons or any memorandum for explanation wheresoever till this day. Let me remind you that other universities borrowed a leaf from Umudike by coming here to take our pay slip samples and theirs were implemented with arrears and they are still enjoying it till this day while Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike Abia State that set the pace suddenly reneged”.
Continued, he said, “As a law abiding and peace loving union on campus, we have written memo upon memo over one case among many, restoration of the Occupational Hazard Allowance, we’ve taken this case to Alternative Dispute Resolution Center [ARDC] chaired by the wife of the Vice Chancellor on campus Barr. Mrs Bertha Nnenna Otunta, we have lobbied and also sought for the intervention the Governing Council led by H.E Alhaji Mohammed Zayyana, it might surprise you that all these failed as the University management led by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Francis Ogbonnaya Otunta sat on this Allowance, and we have no other option than our resolve to approach the Industrial Arbitration Panel of which it’s notice has been communicated to the management on the 22nd of January,2020 with a three weeks grace period for the management to restore this allowance and commence payment of its arrears.
“To add salt to injury, this insensitive Government led by the controversial Professor of mathematics directed the Bursar Mr. Joseph Kalu Fca, to send a political reply without time or even form of commitment hence this press conference.
“As a union, the only thing that will make us accept this letter and rescind in our proposed action is that the management should tell us when and how this money will paid between today the 7th of February, to the next 7days 14th February 2020, failure to tow such path of commitment, the union will direct her members to commence chains of actions of civil disobedience lined up against the management of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike Abia State not minding it’s consequences if actually there is any, for our members has run out of patience, we hardly believe them again, in September 2019 we sent delegates to see the Vice Chancellor and he after a long deliberation agreed to do something and till now nothing”.