Esan Okpa Initiative (EOI), a socio-cultural nonpartisan organization floated to promote the interests of Esan people, has asked the Edo State Government to immediately reconsider the recently announced plan to make Ambrose Alli University (AAU), Ekpoma a multi-campus institution, arguing that it is not only a ploy to balkanize the institution and render it prostrate but also to undermine the Esan economy.
Querying the rationale for a multi-campus system which is more expensive, complex and arduous to run, at a time when the university is reeling from acute underfunding by government, Esan Okpa says, “the plan reeks more of a political design to undermine and make mincemeat of the over 40 year old institution founded by Prof Ambrose Alli as Governor of defunct Bendel State.”
“We are particularly disturbed that close to 40 per cent of AAU’s funding and its attendant multiplier effect, which has been instrumental to shoring up the economic activities in Esanland in the last 40 years would be affected. We shudder to think of the consequences on the University immediate environment if about 40 per cent of the current academic and administrative staff and students population of the University are made to relocate elsewhere. The implications for other socio services aligned to staff and students will be equally grave.
“It is surely a policy which has the potential of making fiddlesticks of the Esan economy and the sustenance of the people located in the Edo central senatorial district. That the Obaseki administration can give vent to this policy at a time of heightened insecurity in Nigeria which is a product of the country’s economic downturn is seriously troubling.
“It is intriguing that a government that has grossly underfunded AAU in the last few years has suddenly found recourse to a multi-campus system that is more expensive and arduous to run.
“We are not persuaded that this policy is not being driven by an attempt to render the university into shreds and put the Esan economy on the wane,” the group notes in a statement released in Benin City by its President, Rt Hon Mathew Egbadon and Public Relations Officer, Mr Tony Iyare.
Continuing further, Esan Okpa explains: “Acting under the veil that some university’s principal officers and their hirelings were fiddling with a basket of funds, the government in early 2020 reduced AAU’s monthly subvention from N250 million to a paltry N41 million, making the university unable to pay salaries and other emoluments and also remit check off dues to house unions.
“As at the last count, we have it on good authority, the university is owing its staff 2 month salaries with check off dues unremitted to the unions for 16 months. There is also shortage of funds to meet overheads talk less of engaging in capital developments and funding research which are critical for it to thrive.
“It is regrettable that apart from some new faculties built with funds from TETFUND, the Obaseki government since its advent has not embarked on any significant capital projects save furnishing the new administrative block completed by the past administration,” it notes.
Governor Godwin Obaseki announced last Friday that two campuses of the university would be relocated to Oredo Local Government Area and Owan Federal Constituency. The Oredo campus according to him, will focus on Technology and Engineering while Owan campus will be for Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Coming after the earlier creation of two campuses for the College of Education, Igueben in Abudu and Afuze, Esan Okpa see these moves as some surreptitious plan to dismember Alli’s legacies.
“Just like the earlier pattern of the administration of Governor Adams Oshiomhole which toyed with the idea of moving the College of Medicine to Edo North, the government also needs to take a cue from previous attempts to relocate the Faculty of Law and the Faculty of Agriculture which faltered.
Also calling for the halt of “the shenanigans of mindless serial intervention” in the affairs of AAU, Esan Okpa decries the attempt to use an innocuous Special Intervention Team (SIT), largely composed by political jobbers, to run AAU daily affairs which is completely unknown to the university system.
“The SIT members who now run the affairs of the university in place of the Vice Chancellor and the university Senate, have become a drain on the lean purse of the university, merry drawing fat sitting allowances.
“Since the setting up of a Visitation Panel in the sunset of the reign of Prof Ignatius Onimhawo as Vice Chancellor in October 2020, the university has been enmeshed in endless biometric exercises. No white paper had also been released on the report of the Visitation Panel almost a year after it concluded its work.
“We are deeply worried that AAU is being run by an innocuous SIT which is strange to the university system since the Governing Council was dissolved. That it’s members are drawing fat sitting allowances impinging on the lean purse of the university further compounds the crisis.
“We also fear that the acrimony arising from the increasing subversion of the university system is capable of stoking intra campus conflicts among the different stakeholders and the students population in the University. This is not healthy for a sustainable and conducive academic environment to thrive.
“We therefore call for the setting up of the Governing Council to properly run the university so that it can set the stage for the appointment of a substantive Vice Chancellor and also heal the wounds that have been generated by the subversion of the university system,” the group maintains.