The lingering crisis between the University of Benin and Edo State Government over the ownership of some properties at the Government Reservation Area took a twist on Tuesday, with the Academic Staff Union of Universities accusing the state government of completely demolishing the said properties.
ASUU had in 2015 staged a protest over the demolition of the properties which it claimed belonged to the university, after the state government secured a court judgement to take over possession of the said properties ‘forthwith’.
However, the union at a press briefing in Benin, described the demolition which they alleged was carried out by the state Governor, Adams Oshiomhole, as condemnable, especially as the matter was still pending before the Court of Appeal.
The union also accused the governor of reneging on his promise to compensate the staff of the institution who suffered some losses as a result of the demolition, and “allow the court process to run its course” by completely destroying the structures.
ASUU, in a statement signed by its Zonal Coordinator, Dr. Anthony Monye-Emina, said, “To the surprise of the leadership of the union and the University of Benin community, news came about two weeks ago, and rightly so, that Mr. Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole has not only gone back on his words but taken his lawlessness and disrespect of the laws of the land to a bestial level.
“He directed the complete demolition of the remaining part of the structures when the Court of Appeal is yet to decide on the case. One cannot infer any reason for his recent action; as he acted unilaterally.
“This recent action is highly condemnable. It is the height of lawlessness and irresponsibility for one who swore to show respect for the rule of law and uphold the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
It noted that the action of the government was unacceptable as it served the reprehensible purpose of abusing and weakening the institutions of the land.
It said, “The Academic Staff Union of Universities find his action repulsive and an affront on orderliness and good conduct in the land. His action fall short of what is expected of a public officer. As a stakeholder in the university system in Nigeria, the union will not take kindly to this regrettable development unexpected of a public figure.”
But when contacted, the Commissioner for Information, Prince Kassim Afegbua, dismissed the position of the union, describing it as one derived from sheer “political sentiments” and “unreasonable.”
He said, “It is very unfortunate that members of ASUU, who ordinarily should be knowledgeable and schooled about the dynamics of government, can descend to the level of using gutter language to describe a popularly elected Governor of Edo State, saying ‘the governor has taken his lawlessness and disrespect of the laws of the land to a bestial level’. This damning conclusion is not only derived from sheer sentiments, unreasoned poor scholarship but also a product of intellectual inertia.”
Afegbua noted that the action of the state government was in order as it was in line with court judgements given in its favour, prior to a notice of appeal, which it got wind of “barely a week ago”.
The commissioner explained, “On the property matter, judgment was entered in favour of Edo State Government in December 2014. The University of Benin filed for stay of execution of the judgment at the Court of Appeal, and judgment was also given in favour of Edo State Government.
“Barely a week ago, we heard that they had filed notice of appeal at the Court of Appeal again. What is lawless about our action? Waiting for judgment to be given on their stay of execution thus far or what? Where is the lawlessness? As far as law is concerned, till date following the respective judgments, those buildings remain the property of Edo State Government.
On the new state university in Iyamo, Afegbua said, “It is grossly unfortunate that members of ASUU could complain about the new Edo State University, located at Iyamo, Edo State. This University was set up by law passed by the Edo State House of Assembly. If ASUU was against the establishment of the university, we expected them to raise their objections at the public hearing stage of the law making process and not now that the university has taken off.
He added, “Secondly, it is a policy of government to drive a knowledge-based society where people would derive the intellect, confidence and knowledge to understand the workings of government and the society they live in.
“Having invested heavily in Primary and Secondary education, built its hitherto decayed infrastructure coupled with a tuition-free system which we introduced, we felt as a government to add a brand new university to the list we have in the state to cater for the qualified youths who are roaming the streets for being unable to secure admission and get university education.
“If ASUU is now criticising our futuristic intention of promoting a knowledge-based society, then, that is too bad for the intellectual community. We expected ASUU to commend the Oshiomhole-led administration for breaking new grounds in the area of education instead of engaging in this blame game.
“We do not have any apology to render ASUU because very soon, when the gains of the university begin to roll in, ASUU branch of the new university would be reminded of this initial deliberate drawback by one of its own.”Source:PUNCH