Kogi state government has expressed displeasure over the storming protest staged by the students of Kogi State University and National Association of Nigerian Students [NANS] on Thursday in Lokoja.
In a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Petra Akinti Onyegbule, the government described the move by the students to ground business activities and stopping of travellers in the state’s capital as ‘ill-advised and unjustifiable’.
She continued: “It is with great sadness that I received news that students of Kogi State University have been demonstrating today, and have reportedly blocked major roads as they demand a resolution to the impasse between the Kogi State Government and their lecturers.
“In a piece I did some time last week, among other issues, I tried to shed light on the current situation involving the university’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the state government, as I felt it important that our dear students fully understand the issues surrounding the ongoing industrial action by their lecturers.
“Government has shown sincerity and willingness to see that the industrial action by the university lecturers is called off by no less a deed than by offsetting four months salary arrears out of the five months owed them, compared to three months many other groups of civil servants are getting.
“In all, government has met with ASUU more than five times, more than seven meetings with student bodies are on record, and Governor Yahaya Bello has been to the university campus twice, all in a bid to display sincerity of purpose, and to ensure an amicable solution is reached, and quickly too.
“And at the moment, a committee headed by the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, and with membership comprising representatives of both ASUU and government is working to ensure academic activities resume in the university in the soonest possible time.
“It is worthy of note that the main grouse of the lecturers cannot be too far from Governor Yahaya Bello’s unfavourable disposition to lecturers’ demand that he honours a most inconsiderate agreement they claim to have entered with the immediate past government exempting them from remitting PAYE to the state from their income.
“Are the students aware of this situation? If yes, I do not want to believe they can possibly be in support of their lecturers’ demands. How can the academia (of all groups of people) legitimately demand that government fulfils its obligations to them, then curiously go on to demand that government waives their own obligations to her? What government in these times can afford to do without income tax from its citizens?
“For all intents and purposes, this demonstration is very ill-advised, as government is being unfairly pilloried on this issue. The rank and file of the students are clearly misguided, and unfortunately so. For one, their student union president was on radio, demanding that the governor apologises to ASUU. The obvious insult aside, it’s the incredulity of that position that bothers me more.
“An apology by the governor? In the face of all that has happened, and is still happening? The continued strike as lecturers make ridiculous demands is without empathy for how negatively students are affected. ASUU’s demands are all about themselves, in the midst of decaying infrastructure at the university, despite zero transparency and accountability by administrators on the day-to-day running of the institution.
“To make matters worse, federal highways are currently barricaded by demonstrating students. And with Kogi being a strategic link state connecting several states of the country and different regions, the scale of discomfort to innocent road users can only be imagined.
“I want to use this opportunity to appeal to our students to dispassionately appraise the issues and retrace their steps, because their current action is neither rational nor justified. The government they have in place is not inaccessible, nor is it insincere. If students want their voices to be heard, which should be the case, there are more civil ways to achieve that.
“More importantly, if only they will look hard enough, government’s genuine intent and actions towards a sensible resolution to the situation is very discernible. Governor Yahaya Bello means well, and his actions is evidence enough. Especially as regards ASUU, KSU Chapter.
“If there is anything students of the university should be protesting against at this point in time, it should be about how their school is being (mis)run. I hope they will be properly guided going forward, and pick their battles wisely. The enemy is closer to them than they think,” he concluded.