Academic and administrative activities were disrupted for the third day running at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, as the workers’ protest currently rocking the institution took a dramatic turn leading to the aggrieved staff members dumping a coffin at the main gate of the university on the Benin-Auchi Road in the early hours of Wednesday.
With inscriptions such as “Odiase, Adagbonyin, Osakue Must Go”, “SIT Stop Deceiving Edo Government and People”, “Enough of Impunity, Intimidation and Arbitrary Policies Decisions in AAU, Ekpoma,” “Save Workers Cooperative Societies Restore Check Offs,” “Stop Slave Labour in AAU Ekpoma” among others, the livid workers formed a ring around the coffin.
Some of the protesting workers, both academic and non-teaching laid siege at the university’s main gate in protest against non-payment of salaries, maladministration, intimidation, and victimisation of workers in the University by the Acting Vice Chancellor of the university, Prof. Sonnie Adagbonyin.
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The coffin, literally announcing the demise of the trio of the acting Vice Chancellor, Prof. Sonnie Adagbonyin, the acting Registrar, Mr. Ambrose Odiase, and a member of the Special Intervention Team (SIT), Mr. Austin Osakue caused panic in the university community.
The protesters who sang solidarity songs accused and slammed Prof. Adagbonyin and Osakue for feeding the state government and the public with blatant lies that things are going well in the university.
They castigated the vice chancellor for selective payment of salary, victimisation, and oppression of staff members of the state-owned tertiary Institution.
It was gathered that a substantial number of workers (academic and non-teaching) have not been paid salaries for 13 months while some are being owed 7 to 10 months.
The spontaneous protest which broke out in the earlier honours of Monday, February 20, 2023, has attracted the attention of the Iruekpen division of the Nigeria Police, leading to a running battle between the protesting workers and the police.
During Tuesday’s demonstration, the spokesperson of the workers, Prof. Eunice Omozejele wailed that many of her colleagues have died suddenly as a result of a lack of money to pay for their medical bills.
Prof. Omozejele insisted that the Special Intervention Team (SIT) which was set up by Governor Godwin Obaseki to exercise the full functions of the Governing Council of the school is alien to the university system.
The spokesperson who queried the academic qualifications of the head of the SIT, accused the body of cherry-picking the workers to pay and those to be left out for no justifiable reason.
Prof. Adagbonyin and Mr. Odiase could not be easily reached for their reactions while Mr. Osakue did not answer several calls on his mobile phone.