When will LAUTECH come out of the woods?
Repeatedly, the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, jointly owned by the governments of Oyo and Osun States, has been held under various crises, chiefly underfunding. These various crises have continuously threatened the existence of the establishment. In this piece, TUNDE OGUNESAN, OLUWOLE IGE and WALE AKINSELURE examine the history of the crises and steps taken to resolve them.
For many years, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Ogbomoso has been embroiled in several kinds of crisis, which threaten the continued existence of the institution. The crisis bedeviling the institution has been epitomized by intermittent industrial actions, strong-worded open letters by stakeholders, setting up of panels, motions of urgent public importance by legislators, summons of stakeholders by legislators of the Houses of Assembly of the two owner states of Oyo and Osun. The crisis facing the institution was on May 15 brought on the front burner once again when the students shut out candidates posted to school to sit for this year’s Universities Tertiary Matriculations Examinations. The students’ action was to call attention of the two owner state governments and Nigerians generally to the suspension of lectures by their lecturers until they are paid their outstanding salaries of about eight months.
Primarily, the contentious issue remains poor funding of the institution by the two owner state governments, with different stakeholders making cases for the termination of agreement that bound the two states as being jointly responsible for the running of the university. On several occasions, stakeholders have called to determine the fate of the 3,000 agonizing staff and 25,000 distressed students. The worsening crisis of confidence in the agreement and the declining fortunes of an institution once adjudged the best state-owned university in Nigeria does question the tenets of the LAUTECH partnership agreement.
LAUTECH was established on April 23, 1990 through an edict promulgated by the then military government of the old Oyo State. The framers of that agreement, which retained the university as a joint property of the two states, apparently wanted to continue the brotherhood which existed between the two contiguous states which were hitherto very consequential areas of the then Western Region. The framers also apparently wanted to make it a test case of the age-old unity that existed among the areas now known as Oyo and Osun states.
The partnership agreement began to get new flavours when Rashidi Ladoja as Oyo state governor sought to create a medical school for the university at Yemetu, Ibadan, Oyo state capital, which he said would be an outreach. The National University Commission (NUC) had to whip Oyo State into line when it made moves to make its Ogbomoso medical school an adjunct of LAUTECH, in contravention of its (NUC’s) rules. The signal of a partnership being seared emerged when the Osun state university was created in 2006, while the Alao Akala government of Oyo state in 2010 also built a massive medical school of the university in Ogbomoso, despite the existence of a medical university of LAUTECH in Osogbo. Furthermore, Alao Akala had then written the Olagunsoye Oyinlola government of Osun state, intimating it of the Oyo Assembly’s resolution to sever its relationship with Osun on jointly owning the university. Osun state had in 2010 sued the Oyo state government for unilaterally appointing a Vice-Chancellor and taking decision on the appointments of principal officers, finances, fixed and floating assets of the university without its concurrence and express permission.
The Supreme Court in its March 22, 2012 judgment however upheld the joint ownership of LAUTECH by both Oyo and Osun states.
A failed experiment
An advocate for sole ownership, The Soun of Ogbomoso, Oba Oladunni Oyewumi Ajagungbade, in a September 2016 open letter entitled, “LAUTECH Joint Ownership, A Failed Experiment: A Case For Sole Ownership”, observed that the joint ownership has become synonymous with incessant closure, underfunding and growth retardation such that the two owner states shortchange each other with reckless impunity. The monarch described the LAUTECH’s joint ownership as a monumental aberration and a so -called “model,” that had utterly fallen apart whereby the display of administrative “big egos” had taken centre stage and has become intractably untamable. He therefore called for a reversion of its ownership to its parent state of Oyo to be accompanied by equitable sharing of assets and liabilities. In the same vein, the Oyo House of Assembly demanded a review of the Memorandum of Understanding affirming joint ownership of LAUTECH by Oyo and Osun state governments.
The Assembly deliberating at its September 22, 2016 plenary on a motion, anchored by Honourable Wumi Oladeji of Ogbomoso North constituency, entitled: “Reviewing the Joint Ownership of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology: A State Towards Sole Ownership by Oyo State Government”, argued that sole ownership of the university had become imperative to save the institution from total collapse.
On the other hand, the Osun House of Assembly insisted that there was no going back on the joint ownership of LAUTECH by its state and Oyo. Chairman, Osun House Committee on Education, Folorunso Bamisayemi at a House of Assembly session in Osogbo, in September 2016 had maintained that the attempt by Oyo to disengage Osun from the joint ownership of the institution, following allegation of the state’s failure to pay its counterpart funding, amounted to a betrayal of the spirit of communal relationship that gave birth to the joint ownership.
It will be recalled that the institution was shut for eight months until it was reopened in February 2017 upon the injection of N584 million by the two owner state governments to clear two months out the backlog of salaries. The crisis, at that time, had assumed a violent dimension when thugs invaded LAUTECH attacking staff and purportedly asking Osun indigenes of the institution to vacate. On several occasions, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had embarked on the industrial actions calling on the two owner state governments to clearly state a plan of sustainable funding pattern or framework for the university. Chairman, ASUU, Dr Biodun Olaniran had called on the owners of the institution showed clear commitment to settlement of arrears of sundry allowances, adding that Internally Generated Revenue could not be a substitute for proper funding of the institution. Currently, the union has began offering skeletal services by invoking the “No pay, No work” principle, threatening another strike action if the accumulated salaries arrears of seven and a half months, is not cleared. Among other problems identified as facing the institution is the question of using Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the university meant for the payment of gratuity, pension of retirees and developmental projects in the university to defray the payment of staff salaries.
Any hope in sight?
At the peak of the last strike, Vice Chancellor of LAUTECH, Professor Adeniyi Gbadegesin stated that LAUTECH required regular subvention to offset its average monthly wage bill of N360 million and could not be self-sustaining. Gbadegesin noted that the management got to a breaking point before the strike after paying salaries from IGR for 18months.
He said that the Osun state government owed N5.327 billion while Oyo government was indebted to the tune of N1.833 billion. “If we receive subvention regularly, we put in about N80million every month from our IGR. LAUTECH is a public university so there is no way the institution will be self-sustaining. As a public university, we depend on subvention from the owners of the university. For us to perform our role as a public university, we need regular subvention,” Gbadegesin said.
However, the two owner state governments are keen on LAUTECH been self-sustaining and running on Internally Generated Revenue rather than depending on subventions. This informed the setting up of a visitation panel head by Chief Wole Olanipekun to advance ways on how the institution could be better run. Olanipekun had noted that the institution required some subventions while the issue of an archaic finance system and overstaffing had to be addressed. He solicited for a trust fund from which LAUTECH could get fund for its running. The Olanipekun’s panel report had provided recommendations on structure, law establishing the university, modus, academic calendar, university council, revenue generation ventures, students’ fees, ASUU, NASU and other unions.
Commenting after receiving the Olanipekun panel report, Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State had decried that funding as the basic limiting factor in the management of LAUTECH. While bemoaning that the state government provided subventions to the tune of about N3 billion yearly, Ajimobi said the owner governments were examining templates of institutions being run without subventions.
However, the two owner state governments are optimistic that the lingering crisis in LAUTECH will cease once the audit panel currently auditing the personnel and finances of the institution submits its report. This two owner state governments of Oyo and Osun have avowed their resolve to abide by the recommendations of the audit firm mandated to audit the personnel and finances of the institution.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun state speaking at a public function had noted that the recommendations offered by the auditing firm after the financial and staff audit would provide a lasting solution to the institution’s challenges. “We engaged an international audit firm to know why LAUTECH can’t run within its own resource base. The University should be able to fend for itself. We are pained that the school is challenged. My appeal to the management, academia, students is to exercise some patience. We will soon get out of the challenges we have with LAUTECH. We are quite conscious of the difficulties we are facing. When we are done with the audit, we will come up with a lasting solution,” Aregbesola said.
In the same vein, Oyo Commissioner of Education, Science and Technology, Professor Adeniyi Olowofela asserted the resolve of the two owner state governments to abide by the recommendations of the audit firm to be ready in the next two weeks.
Olowofela said the two governments sought a permanent solution to the crisis in LAUTECH through the report of the audit committee, urging the school’s unions to shelve any planned industrial action.
“For the two owner state governments to make informed decision on how to fund LAUTECH, if necessary, it is important to know its income, expenditure, internally generated revenue and work force. This is so that there will be minimal funding yet LAUTECH will increase its IGR.”
“And government has appointed an audit firm to inform us on how best to manage LAUTECH.”
“LAUTECH has been in existence for about 20 years and Oyo and Osun has jointly managed the institution. All sort of difficulties come up whenever states face financial challenges. It is good that Oyo state house of assembly is deliberating on this issue but they have to meet with their Osun counterpart because of the umbilical cord that ties the two states together on the issue of LAUTECH. Any decision has to be jointly made.
“We are closer to the solution than we are before. After darkness comes glorious light. This is just a temporary situation that we will overcome.”
“I guarantee that once the audit report is out, whatever the auditor recommends will be abided by the two state governments. So, I appeal to the unions to give peace a chance. LAUTECH will not die. LAUTECH will come out of this present quagmire stronger and better,” Olowofela said.
Stemming from the shutting of UTME candidates by LAUTECH students, the House of Representatives deliberating on a motion sponsored by Hononourable Olusegun Dokun has also resolved to wade into the crisis. The House of Representatives had noted that the action of the students of the University was borne out of long standing disagreement between the government of Oyo and Osun States over ownership and management of the University, a situation that has led to perpetual suspension of academic activities at the institution and put the future of the students and others who depend on the institution for sustenance at great jeopardy. Observers are keen on the extent to which the two state governments will implement the recommendations of the audit firm and the white paper from the Olanipekun panel report, when released.
Osun State governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, who spoke to the Nigeria Tribune through his director, Bureau of Communication and Strategy, Mr Semiu Okanlanwon on Sunday stated that “we are looking at the crisis rocking LAUTECH holistically. The owner states, Osun and Oyo have commissioned a private audit firm to carry out a thorough audit of the revenues accruable to the university, its expenditure and the number of academic and non academic staff working in the institution. The report of this audit firm, which would be submitted in some days’ time would give us a clear understanding of what is really wrong with the university.
“We want to ascertain what is amiss with the management of the institution. Osun State government stopped giving financial subvention to Osun State University (UNIOSUN), Osogbo, about three years ago and the university has been able to run on its own within the strings of income they generate.
“The difference between the tuition fees paid by students in UNIOSUN, a university with about 12,000 population and LAUTECH students is about N5,000. And LAUTECH has a population of over 30,000. If UNIOSUN could run independently without funds from Osun government, then what is wrong with LAUTECH with over 30,000 students population.”
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