Friday, 23 June 2017

LAUTECH CRISIS: Workers must be vigilant over proposed forensic audit by Ajimobi government

Press Statement

The Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, Oyo State Chapter warns the four existing workers’ unions (Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, Non-academic Staff Union, NASU, Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Universities, SSANU and National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT) in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomosho to be vigilant and watchful over the proposed forensic audit of LAUTECH by the Senator Ajimobi-led government of Oyo State. According to Prof. Niyi Olowofela, the state Commissioner of Education, the proposed forensic audit is one of the ways the government hopes to solve the funding issues of LAUTECH permanently.

It is a welcome development if truly the Ajimobi-led government has finally realised the need, after many months of insensitivity to the plight of LAUTECH workers and students, to permanently end the lingering crisis in LAUTECH. However, the SPN is suspicious of sincerity of the Oyo government, given how, through its commissioner of education; it has been so desperate and vociferous on the so called proposed forensic audit. This is especially when there is no empirical explanation as to how such an audit is intended to resolve the crisis of poor funding bedeviling LAUTECH. 

Therefore, a proposal of forensic audit in LAUTECH at this critical period when agitation among workers for the payment of their over 8 month salary arrears has paralysed the entire activities in the university requires a serious vigilance. This is very important because the past forensic audit specifically since the inception of Senator Ajimobi-led government in the state has often led to arbitrary dismissal and retrenchment of civil servants in the state. 

It must be recalled that it is the same KPMG, a private consultant firm, commissioned by the Oyo state government to carry out the proposed LAUTECH forensic audit that has always been in charge of various forensic audit civil servants in the state had undertaken at different occasions. Also worthy to note is the fact that the so-called forensic audit is often based on the pretence to purge the state civil service of ghost workers. Very similar to such an impression is the claim that the proposed LAUTECH forensic audit is meant to sanctify the University of a Tradition of corruption. Take for instance, is the allegation that the university administration operates over 79 different bank accounts.

 Also worthy to note, is the fact that Ajimobi-led government is known with the style of imposing forensic audit each time workers agitate for their legitimate entitlement. This is exactly what happened following the seven week strike embarked upon by Oyo State workers between June and July 2016 to demand the payment of their backlog of unpaid salaries. A forensic audit was imposed on the Oyo State civil servants under the pretence of the need to purge the system of ghost workers. But the exercise turned out to be a ploy through which hundreds of civil servants including medical doctors in the state were arbitrary dismissed on the basis of an allegation that their respective WAEC certificates are fake.

Following this development were letters sent from the WAEC office directly to the office of the Oyo State Head of Service that initial claim by the consultant firm that some WAEC certificates were fake was not true. In fact, it took this kind of official response from WAEC following efforts of the affected workers and a committee later set up by the State Chapter of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, to discover that the investigation allegedly carried out by the KPMG prior to its recommendation, did not go beyond the fact that it allegedly hacked into the database of WAEC such that any worker whose name was not found therein was assumed to have fake WAEC certificate. This implies that all civil servants who sat for WAEC before the advent of computerisation of result by WAEC were assumed to hold fake certificate.

Unfortunately, despite all of these revelations, the Oyo State government has upheld the dismissal of the affected civil servants, including those that were exonerated on the basis of letter from WAEC, on the basis of the so called recommendation of the KPMG. Worse still, this was done without any effort to provide the affected workers with avenue for fair hearing through which they can adequately defend themselves. The most disheartening is that other category of workers who are free of the KPMG indictment are continue to groan under backlog of salaries arrears ranging between 3 and 6months. 

It is in line with this background, that SPN urges the LAUTECH workers through their unions to learn from the past precedent and unanimously demand an explanation over how exactly the so-called forensic audit would solve the problem of funding as claimed by the commissioner. Most importantly is the need for the unions to deepen the resistance against the dubious plan by the state government to drag the unions into the encumbrances surrounding financial auditing by KPMG, especially when the locus of financial policy and repository of the financial documents of the LAUTECH are the university council and administration and not the workers in the university. 

Bamigboye Abiodun(Abbey Trotsky)
State Secretary, SPN

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