This is a bit of a concern for me considering the fact that this is my alma mata. Three lecturers in the University of Calabar have lost their lives in the last three months and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) of the institution has blamed the unfortunate development on hunger, starvation, and poverty. Say what? Well, to the best of my knowledge this lecturers are on money. Apart from their monthly salaries, they make quite a lot from ‘egunje’ (sorry, but only my Nigerian audience can understand this. You can google it anyways if you so care.)
The chairman of ASUU, James Okpiliya, said the hardship facing academic and non-academic staff of the university was such that most staff can ill afford three square meals, let alone foot medical bills whenever knocked down by illness.
Speaking at the commendation service of a one-time chairman of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Cross River State chapter, Victor Onoyom Ita, Mr. Okpiliya said there was so much suffering in the academia that staff were dying in droves, and called for payment of better wages.
“Our members are going into extinction. How do we replace them in a situation of hunger, starvation, poverty, oblivion? We are dying everyday because of poor condition of service,” he said.
He revealed that despite the fact that the union has drawn the attention of the federal government to the deplorable teaching and learning conditions and the alleged inhuman environment which its members were subjected to, “surprisingly, they are calling us names such as a group of self seekers, rascals, among others”.
According to him, ASUU has been on the vanguard of repositioning the Nigerian university system for improved ranking among the universities in the world, but “the union will continue to carry on the struggle for the survival of the university system.”
The union leader said the struggle will continue to bring about improvement in the condition of service, increased salaries, funding of the universities with all the necessary facilities that will make teaching by lecturers and learning by the students conducive, as well as the issue of university autonomy.