Workers restless over coming of MAUSTECH and OGUN STATE POLY

In September, two new institutions will take off in Ogun State. The Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH) will take off in Abeokuta; the Ogun State Polytechnic in Ipokia. The birth of these institutions is giving workers of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, who have a stake in both the jitters report KOFOWOROLA BELO-OSAGIE and ERNEST NWOKOLO.

Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH), Abeokuta, a product of the recent upgrade of Ogun State’s premier polytechnic, the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY), is yet to commence operation, but a crisis appears to have started.

Even at conception by Governor Ibikunle Amosun, many questioned the propriety of having another state university when the existing two are reeling under the weight of underfunding and inadequate staffing.

Critics anchored their misgivings on an earlier decision of Amosun, who shortly after his election as governor for the first term in 2011, moved to scrap the thriving Tai Solarin University of Education (TSAUED), Ijagun, and fused it into the Education faculty of the troubled Olabisi Onabanjo University (OOU), Ago-Iwoye.

The pioneer education varsity in the state – nay the country – was established in January, 2005 by the former Governor Gbenga Daniel-led administration, ostensibly to train high-level manpower – teachers and school administrators, among others.

Amosun almost succeeded in his move to merge TASUED with the OOU. His argument was that the state’s finances were too lean to accommodate proliferation of state-owned tertiary institutions and that the university had also veered from its core mandate of offering teaching or education-based programmes.

However, following stout opposition and criticisms by the academic staff of the university, students and members of the public particularly, the Ijebu people who host the instituion, the Governor dropped the idea.

So, when on March 13, Amosun, who had hitherto canvassed paucity of fund as the overriding reason for scraping TASUED, signed a law changing the 38-year old Moshood Abiola Polytechnic to Moshood Abiola University of Science and Technology (MAUSTECH) coupled with its subsequent approval by the National Universities Commission (NUC) earlier this month, stakeholders were surprised.

Workers’ worries

The workers of the institution in particular are worried about the speed of the transition (the new university and polytechnic are to take off in September) and its implication on their jobs. While the technical committee mid-wifing the birth of the university and polytechnic said the workers would not lose their jobs, they are not convinced it will not happen.

On July 12, members of the MAPOLY chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) went on strike to protest allegations that the technical committee, headed by Prof Peter Okebukola, a former Executive Secretary, NUC, allegedly sacked all 250 workers of the institution and directed them to reapply.

Okebukola denied the allegation about the strike. In response to the issue in an email to The Nation, Okebukola restated that none of the workers would lose their jobs. On the contrary, he said the creation of MAUSTECH and Ogun Poly in Ipokia would create new jobs.

He said: “This is to refute in its entirety the report that the Technical Committee on the newly-established Moshood Abiola University, Abeokuta (MAUSTECH) has ordered the sack of over 250 staff of the Moshood Abiola Polytechnic (MAPOLY).
It is in complete contrast to the position of the Committee that no member of staff will suffer job loss as a consequence of the upgrading of MAPOLY to MAUSTECH and the establishment of Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia as the successor of MAPOLY. Indeed, the Technical Committee has no power to sack anybody.

“We held a meeting with all staff at the beginning of our assignment and conveyed our position on job security. This position has been re-echoed in subsequent meetings with staff unions. It is curious that some persons have taken undue liberty of misinforming the general public with the spread of such fake news.

“It should delight all staff that the establishment of two institutions from MAPOLY will open new job opportunities rather than shrink the workforce. We urge all staff to be vigilant and shun misinformation that may be peddled in some quarters.”

When contacted, ASUP Chairman, Kola Abiola, told The Nation on Tuesday that the union’s strike was suspended, not because of the reassurances of the committee but the promise of Governor Amosun that no one would be sacked. 
He said the committee did not meet with the workers to resolve the strike.

“We did not meet with the committee; we went to the Governor and the intervention of the governor made us call off the strike. 
This is the second week afterwards and we have not heard from the committee. The governor debunked the allegation; he said he did not send them to do what they are doing.

“We want to give the Governor a benefit of the doubt that there would be no sack. We are waiting for the modalities on transiting to the new university to come out,” he said.

Despite the governor’s assurance, Abiola expressed concerns about the situation on ground lending credence to coming crisis when the institutions are to resume in September.

While the new university would take off with the facilities of the MAPOLY, which has five schools consisting of 27 Departments, 3-in-1 1,000-seater hall housing the School of Communication and Information Technology and central store for academic materials and other equipment, Abiola said the new polytechnic has no facilities yet.

He said: “Presently, there are 27 departments in MAPOLY with accreditation from the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). The NBTE only gives accreditation for programmes after inspecting physical facilities. 
In Ipokia, where the Ogun State Polytechnic is to start in September, there is no structure on ground.

“There are concerns that lecturers could lose their jobs. Nobody has come to tell us what are the courses accredited in the Ogun State Polytechnic. 
For instance, if I don’t want to stay in the university and I want to go to the polytechnic, I don’t know whether my course has accreditation in the new polytechnic, what happens to me?

“Today (Tuesday), Dr Ebenezer Nkom (a member of the committee) said on OGTV that the new polytechnic will admit ND and HND students in September. 
The whole of the polytechnic is to start in a model school in Idiroko. The Governor said they will start from Idiroko and move to Ipokia after three months. But there is nothing on ground there now and they say they will finish building in three months.”

The ASUP Chairman also complained that the lecturers had not been told the modalities to be considered to be absorbed into the new university by the technical committee, which he accused of having a different position from the governor.

“Nobody has communicated with us. We don’t know the modalities. All we are hearing is from the television and radio,” he lamented.

On the contrary, Okebukola said the committee will work with the workers’ unions.

He said: “We will actively engage the unions and other stakeholders so that the two institutions take-off this academic session. It will be a win-win situation for all. It needs to be stated that the Technical Committee has delivered on its mandate as “midwife” having successfully delivered a set of twins- MAUSTECH and Ogun State Polytechnic, Ipokia. By our mandate, we are to hand over to the Councils of these two institutions as soon as they are inaugurated so that these organs can take on their roles as assigned by the laws of the two institutions.”

However, he said talks have not happened because the union has not allowed the committee to meet on campus. He said this was delaying setting modalities for transfer of services to the new institutions.

He said: “The Committee is yet to meet to set any criteria since it was barred from entering the campus. We plan to work with staff through their unions to reach mutual agreement on these criteria.

“It is curious that some people are crafting incorrect information about such criteria and misinforming the public. For sure, all stakeholders in the discussion will be guided by the minimum standards specified by the regulatory authorities, making adjustments for our local peculiarities in these early days.”

Abiola also doubts the capacity of the two institutions to absorb all the workers in September.

“They are saying no one will lose their jobs. But with what is on ground, people will lose their jobs. When the university starts, it will admit only 500 students or at most 1,500 students if they use influence. Take the cleaners, how many will they need to clean the university for 500 students? If they are sent to Idiroko, they will be more than enough to clean the place.

“This government has less than one year to functionally work. Another government will come and declare the workers redundant,” he said.

Zonal Coordinator of ASUP, Zone C in charge of South West, Olawale Adetunji, who argued that the government and the Committee have not put the rights of the other stakeholders in their decision, assured that whatever legitimate steps taken by the lecturers would be backed by the National body.

While workers are pessimistic, members of MAPOLY alumni association and the students are not. The Director of Media and Publicity of National Association Nigerian Students (NANS) Ogun State axis, Olasunkanmi Akinlotan, said the students hailed the upgrade and appreciated the state for the initiative but said that NANS would not accept whatever that would affect the students negatively.

Olasunkanmi, a final year student of Mass Communication in MAPOLY, said the current students would complete their National Diploma (ND) and Higher National Diploma (HND) programmes. He also said the academic staff were assured of job security.

“The Transition Committee has assured that no staff will be sacked and that all staff will have chose either to lecture in the university or in the polytechnic in line with the NUC standards,” he said.

The National Secretary, Alumni Association of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Mr Goke Ishola, told The Nation that the body welcomed the transformation of the institution to a university as a sign of good things.

Goke said the fear of job loss being entertained by ASUP was unfounded, saying the apprehension was driven by “rumours and fear of change.”

Goke noted that even though all stakeholders may not have been carried along, the said directive given to the lecturers by the Transition Committee to resign and reply into MAUSTEC was normal and in order.

Benefit to students

A student, Ifedayo Ogunyemi, also studying Mass Communication, said he was glad the university status would improve the acceptability of the institution’s products in the labour market and make it easier for them to do conversion programmes to get their first degrees.

“Students are very happy because of the dichotomy between HND and BSc. I believe when I finish my HND I will be able to return and convert it to BSc. It means our four years in school will not be just for HND but BSc,” he said.

Like Ifedayo hopes would happen, Okebukola said current MAPOLY students would get the opportunity to apply to the new university to do their degree programmes.

“Current students of MAPOLY are to look out for internal advertisement on admission and qualifying criteria so they can take advantage of being among the foundation students of MAUSTECH,” he said.

Surviving the recession

With the poor economy and limited government funding, Okebukola said the committee has worked out a 10-year plan for MAUSTECH to weather the economic recession.

He said: “In the Academic Brief of the university, we have projected a 10-year income and expenditure plan which has factored in survival strategies in the time of scarcity. We are anticipating some injection of funds from the Ogun State Government to be supported by other funding sources. 
Being a new university, its funding needs are not expected to be gargantuan in the early days. Over the next several years, we anticipate that the managers of the university (Council and Management) will be creative and innovative in fundraising.” 

Focus of the new university

To stand out, Okebukola said MAUSTECH will exploit science and technology programmes to the benefit of the state.

“Being a university of science and technology, it will steer its programmes at the cutting-edge of these disciplines in its service to Ogun State, Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world.
Source: Thenationonlineng