By Dipo Olowookere
Governor of Oyo State, Mr Abiola Ajimobi and his Osun State counterpart, Mr Rauf Aregbesola, have lamented the non-resumption of academic activities at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, in spite of their spirited efforts to restore normalcy.
The owner-states governors bared their minds during the submission of the report of the Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN)-led visitation panel, set up over the crisis rocking the university, at the Governor’s Office, Ibadan, on Friday.
Also at the event were the Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the institution’s Governing Council, Prof. Wale Omole; Vice Chancellor, Prof. Adeniyi Gbadegesin, and others members of the governing council and the visitation panel.
The panel was set up in October, last year, to chart a fresh path forward for the institution, which had been thrown into crisis for more than eight months due to the industrial action embarked upon by its academic and non-academic staff.
Although the school was reopened by the management on January 27 following the injection of over half a billion naira by Oyo and Osun States, the institution’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) had refused to return to classes citing unresolved issues with the management.
Mr Ajimobi commended the panel for what he called a thorough and in-depth job done, assuring the panel of full implementation of the recommendations.
He, however, harped on the need for the collaboration of corporate bodies and individuals to set up a trust fund for the funding of the institution giving the pervading reality of paucity of funds in the country.
The Governor said, “Awolowo was a realist and he saw the need to finance education while alive. He also had the resources to apply to the vision then and we all benefitted from his gesture. Today, oil revenue, which is the mainstay of sustaining education funding through federal allocation, had dropped.
“Oyo State that used to get N5.2billion as monthly allocation now gets as low as N2.5billion and we have to pay salaries of workers and finance social infrastructure. How do we survive that without looking inward?
“The reality on the ground requires that we look at different ways of doing things. There is need for repositioning of the university, especially on the structure. The non-resumption of academic activities after our (governors) efforts is worrying.
“LAUTECH should be the flagship of the South-West. There is nothing wrong in the whole South-West states buying into the ownership, relying on the internally-generated revenue from the school alone cannot help.”
On his part, Mr Aregbesola said the whole crisis was regrettable, but inevitable having been allegedly brought about by a sharp drop in the states’ financial power, occasioned by the crash of petroleum price in the world market.
He disclosed that the next assignment would be to set up a Technical Implementation Committee that would draw up a white paper from the report of the visitation panel.
Mr Aregbesola said, “The whole situation is regrettable, but I’m of the opinion that the academic staff and students of the university are not unaware of the present financial challenges facing the states, which culminated from the drop in our monthly federal allocation.
“We are happy the panel has done a marvellous job and the next step is for the two states to put up a technical implementation committee that would work on a white paper from the visitation panel’s report.”
The chairman of the panel said the panacea to the crisis bedevilling the academic institution was the establishment of a trust fund and strategic funding by the owner-states governments in the form of subvention.
Mr Olanipekun said it was a well-known fact that throughout the world, funding of university education did not rest squarely on government, but with support from corporate individuals and bodies in the form of trust fund.
He said, “Government alone is incapable of funding university education. Talk of great universities all over the world, you will talk of Harvard. The budget of Harvard University is more than that of Nigeria.
“How did they come about this? It is through trust fund and we are also recommending same as a solution to the funding crisis of LAUTECH. Maybe Nigerian universities would start to learn from LAUTECH if our recommendations are implemented.
“But, we are recommending that for now the university need money; the immediate thing is for the university to reopen. It has been out of session for eight months.
“Therefore, we are recommending that for now, the university must be given some subvention for it to reopen in the short term and after that the implementation of the other steps and recommendations could be also followed.”
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