The lecturers of the Bayelsa State-owned Niger Delta University, Amassoma, have began an indefinite strike over their four months unpaid salaries owed them and non-academic staff of the university since January 2016 by the State Government.
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities, Port Harcourt Zone, Prof. Beke Sese, who is also a lecturer in the university, said the decision to proceed on, what he described as work-to-rule action, was taken on Thursday afternoon.
He said the academic staff union had to embark on the strike when all entreaties to the state government for their salaries to be paid were not successful.
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. Whenever they come, before they give permission to the branch to embark on an action, they will carry out a comprehensive assessment of the situation and then determine if the strike is inevitable or can be averted.
“Then, they even made efforts to see if they could resolve the situation. But all that the deputy governor said was that we could go and that the government can only pay our salaries when the economy improves.
“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, we are buying fuel for more than N200 per litre. You cannot imagine the hardship our 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 tools. 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 lecturer said their plan was to meet with the governor, Seriake Dickson, but was told that he was not available, so they had to meet with the deputy governor.
He lamented that no clear explanation was given for the governor’s absence, noting that the union learnt that Dickson had travelled abroad.
He stated that the congress found the governor’s action despicable and funny, wondering what manner of leader would travel when workers were languishing because of unpaid salaries.
“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 we could 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. 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.”